Saluting Dr. Mileka Gilbert 

February is Black History Month, a celebration of achievements by leaders in the Black community. An annual theme is chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which was established in 1915 and launched Black History Month to bring to the public’s attention important developments that merit emphasis. 

The theme for 2022 focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other health activists throughout the African diaspora — the worldwide collection of communities descended from native Africans, predominantly in the Americas. 

One such leader is Dr. Mileka Gilbert, who is part of the Arthritis Foundation’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) & Workforce Development Committee, helping shape DEI practices to benefit patients. Her story is part of a series about health care leaders from the Black community. Also meet Dr. Kurt Blake and Dr. Ashira Blazer 


A person smiling for the cameraDescription automatically generated with low confidence

Mileka Gilbert, MD, PhD, grew up in Mississippi and moved with her family to Maryland when she was in middle school. A sports enthusiast, she played basketball in high school and spent time as a student athletic trainer during college, working with physical therapists and trainers to treat and rehabilitate injuries incurred by varsity sports athletes. It was her interest in sports that drew her to a career in medicine.

“I was curious about bones and joints and how your body moves,” she explains. “When I decided to go to medical school, I eventually chose rheumatology, which was the perfect blend of all my intellectual interests.”

Dr. Gilbert earned her MD and PhD in microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina, then completed pediatric training at the Virginia Commonwealth University Heath System. In 2015, after finishing her fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Gilbert began practicing pediatric rheumatology in the Charleston, South Carolina, area, with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Today, Dr. Gilbert sees children with arthritis and related pediatric rheumatic diseases, including lupus, scleroderma, dermatomyositis and vasculitis. She is especially interested in advancing lupus research and improving health outcomes through quality improvement initiatives.

Dr. Gilbert says these chronic illnesses usually require long-term treatments with medications. “Together, the family and I decide what is the best medication for the patient’s diagnosis. But also, what medication might be most feasible for the patient’s and family’s situation.”

She believes that working with groups in medical centers across the country brings great opportunities for patients to participate in research studies. “These studies help us improve outcomes in patients. What you get from us at MUSC is not just our expertise, but also shared expertise from other rheumatologists. That’s how we’re changing what’s possible for patients.”

A group of people smilingDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

Besides participating in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run and Walk to Cure Arthritis fundraising events in her area — along with the MUSC team of other physicians and their patients and families, as well as MUSC fellows in rheumatology training — Dr. Gilbert recently joined the Arthritis Foundation’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) & Workforce Development Committee. Here, she contributes to discussions about ways to close gaps faced by people in marginalized communities. The Arthritis Foundation recently awarded nearly $400,000 in DEI fellowship grants to help improve health outcomes and address disparities among patients with rheumatic diseases, especially those in underserved communities. 

“I’ve always had an interest in learning about how people of diverse backgrounds and cultures can live and work together,” Dr. Gilbert says. “The more ideas and perspectives you have at the table, the greater opportunity there is to solve these complicated problems in the delivery of care.”

She continues: “One problem we have, particularly in rheumatology, is the lack of diversity within our workforce. I’m happy to be part of the Arthritis Foundation’s efforts to come up with ideas to increase workforce diversity and recruit people from different backgrounds to our field.

“Rheumatology is a growing field but is also changing very rapidly. An important task we have is getting this new information and new medicines out there to those who are most in need, not only by providing access to care but also figuring out which therapies are most appropriate to our patients and their families. The only way to know that is to get people from different backgrounds and experiences together to help think about what that’s like for patients of different cultures.”

As technology continues to grow, so will the understanding of how rheumatic disease processes work, Dr. Gilbert concludes, which will lead to more specific, targeted therapies.

“We must understand our patients and their families by having very open conversations about what they need,” she says. “Most health care actually occurs outside the physician office, so we have to do a better job as providers to understand their home life, work life and school life — and what works best for them in their own self-care.”



Saluting Dr. Kurt Blake

Saluting Dr. Ashira Blazer

I Want to Contribute
I Need Help
  • Donate


    Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.

  • Volunteer


    Join us and become a Champion of Yes. There are many volunteer opportunities available.

  • Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Take part to be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis.

  • Partner


    Proud Partners of the Arthritis Foundation make an annual commitment to directly support the Foundation’s mission.


Ways to Give

Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life. Whether it is supporting cutting-edge research, 24/7 access to one-on-one support, resources and tools for daily living, and more, your gift will be life-changing.

Make a Donation

Help millions of people live with less pain and fund groundbreaking research to discover a cure for this devastating disease. Please, make your urgently-needed donation to the Arthritis Foundation now!

Become a Member

Become an Arthritis Foundation member today for just $20 and you'll receive access to helpful tools..... and more. 

Make a Honor or Memorial Gift

Honor a loved one with a meaningful donation to the Arthritis Foundation. We'll send a handwritten card to the honoree or their family notifying them of your thoughtful gift.

Gift Planning

I want information on ways to remember the AF in my will, trust or other financial planning vehicles.


Volunteer Opportunities

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We can only achieve these goals with your help. Strong, outspoken and engaged volunteers will help us conquer arthritis. By getting involved, you become a leader in our organization and help make a difference in the lives of millions. Join us and become a Champion of Yes.

Become a Volunteer

More About Volunteering


Give Just 10 Minutes.

Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

Your shared experiences will help:

- Lead to more effective treatments and outcomes
- Develop programs to meet the needs of you and your community
- Shape a powerful agenda that fights for you

Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

How are you changing the future?

By sharing your experience, you’re showing decision-makers the realities of living with arthritis, paving the way for change. You’re helping break down barriers to care, inform research and create resources that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own.

Get Started


Meet Our Partners

As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability. Join us today and help lead the way as a Champion of Yes.


Our Trailblazers are committed partners ready to lead the way, take action and fight for everyday victories. They contribute $2,000,000 to $2,749,000


Our Visionary partners help us plan for a future that includes a cure for arthritis. These inspired and inventive champions have contributed $1,500,00 to $1,999,999.


Our Pioneers are always ready to explore and find new weapons in the fight against arthritis. They contribute $1,000,000 to $1,499,999.


Our Pacesetters ensure that we can chart the course for a cure for those who live with arthritis. They contribute $500,000 to $999,000.


Our Signature partners make their mark by helping us identify new and meaningful resources for people with arthritis. They contribute $250,000 to $499,999.


Our Supporting partners are active champions who provide encouragement and assistance to the arthritis community. They contribute $100,000 to $249,999.