The Arthritis Foundation Announces Upcoming Retirement of President and CEO Ann M. Palmer

Palmer, who has over four decades of nonprofit leadership, plans to retire at the end of January 2022.

ATLANTA, September 20, 2021 — The Arthritis Foundation today announced the upcoming retirement of Ann M. Palmer, President and CEO. Palmer, who has been with the Foundation in this role since 2013, will retire effective January 31, 2022. A national search has been planned for her successor. 

Palmer, a forward-thinking executive with over four decades of leadership experience in the nonprofit space, has ushered the Foundation through a period of tremendous strategic change — with a vested interest in helping arthritis patients live their best life. Prior to joining the Foundation, Palmer held leadership roles with the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. 

“Over the past eight years, Ann transformed the Arthritis Foundation into a mission-driven organization that collaborates directly with people whose lives are affected by arthritis,” said Frank Longobardi, Chair of the Arthritis Foundation’s Board of Directors. “The patient’s voice is at the heart of her agenda, and she’s inspired thousands of volunteers across the country to join the fight for a cure.” 

A primary accomplishment of Palmer’s involved restructuring the organization — spearheading its transition from a federated to a volunteer-led entity with a consolidated structure. She was also the guiding force behind shaping the Foundation’s strategic approach to mission delivery, with a focus on impacting arthritis patients and caregivers through pathways to a cure and a better quality of life. Under her leadership, the Foundation also solidified its commitment to the juvenile arthritis community and scientific research. The organization invested $80 million in research during Palmer's tenure. 

During her term, the Foundation formalized its longstanding relationship with Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA). The Foundation and CARRA collaborate scientifically and clinically to plan research aimed at improving outcomes in pediatric rheumatic diseases. Among the Foundation’s greatest contributions is connecting patients and their families to this work. “Patient engagement in research is crucial to tackling the complex obstacles that hundreds of thousands of families face each and every day,” said Palmer, who was awarded the inaugural CARRA President’s Award in 2021. 

Building community is a through line of Ann’s leadership of the Foundation. Palmer’s commitment to expanding the range of connection points that provide help and support to people with all types of arthritis led the Foundation to join forces with Arthritis Introspective in 2016. This move strengthened the Foundation’s position as a leader in bringing the arthritis community together through a nationwide network of peer-led, local support groups, now called Live Yes! Connect Groups

Palmer’s vision also served as the catalyst for several patient-centered research initiatives, including the Foundation’s ongoing Live Yes! INSIGHTS study. Launched in 2018, the study represents one of the nation’s largest, most comprehensive collections of data from people with arthritis ever conducted. Findings from the Live Yes! INSIGHTS study have been highlighted annually in the Mandate for Action and the How it Hurts report in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The Foundation also underwent a re-brand under Palmer’s leadership. As a “Champion of Yes,” the organization lives by its mission and purpose of helping people with arthritis live their best lives so they can say “YES” to doing the things they love.

“For Ann, and for the entire organization, the re-brand was about much more than marketing,” said Longobardi. “It was about doing the right thing by putting the patient, many of whom are Foundation volunteers, first. And that’s been her life’s work.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Palmer led the organization through a virtual pivot, creating new opportunities for volunteers and patients across the country to find connection at a time they needed it most. For example, its virtual JA Conference and JA Camps proved to be an overwhelming success and allowed children and families to learn, interact and make memories. Fundraising and programming also turned virtual to provide continuous support and resources for the over 54 million U.S. adults and 300,000 children living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. 

Palmer’s legacy also includes a long-term pain initiative, with a multi-pronged approach to boldly pursuing a cure for arthritis through advancing scientific research, policy reform and providing healthy lifestyle resources and pain management support.  

“Each day, I have been so inspired by patients, caregivers and families who have persevered through painful daily obstacles — and in the most challenging of times,” said Palmer. “Having a career that makes a direct impact on the lives of people battling chronic disease has been the biggest gift of all.” 


About the Arthritis Foundation: 
The Arthritis Foundation is fighting for all people who live with arthritis. As a Champion of Yes, it's the Arthritis Foundation's mission to turn the obstacles arthritis causes into opportunities. The Arthritis Foundation champions life-changing solutions and medical advancements, and it also provides ways for people to connect, break down barriers in health care and join the fight for a cure — uniting hearts, minds and resources to change the future of arthritis. To join the fight to cure arthritis, visit