Leigh Callahan, PhD, Now President Elect of United States Bone & Joint Initiative
After 20 years of involvement with the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine, associate director, Thurston Arthritis Research Center, and director, Osteoarthritis Action Alliance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, became the organization’s president elect in June 2020 and will assume the reins as president in June 2021. We spoke with Dr. Callahan recently about her new responsibilities and the evolving focus of the organization as the pandemic continues.
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Dr. Callahan accepted the position of president elect for two reasons. The first was her long-time commitment and history with USBJI, having served on the USBJI’s Burden of Illness Task Force and the World Health Organization’s Burden of Musculoskeletal Disease Working Group. She has also represented the Arthritis Foundation and the Rheumatology Research Foundation on the USBJI Board of Directors at various points in the past.
The second compelling reason for accepting the new role is that she enjoys working with alliances, which has been a strong suit throughout her career. For example, as director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, she’s seen organizational partnerships grow to more than 130 organizations, including those with universities, faith-based entities, parks and recreation departments, YMCAs, and professional societies, such as the ACR.
Working with alliances offers “a unique opportunity to communicate with a more comprehensive voice and to have a broader impact than if you’re speaking with just one hat on,” she says.
Her years with the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center have taught her that it’s possible to “move the needle forward” in terms of musculoskeletal diseases.
Moving the needle forward has become more complex due to the coronavirus pandemic, she acknowledges, but emphasizes the USBJI’s recognized ability to be nimble and fluid offers many opportunities for growth.
The Young Investigators Initiative, like other domains of the USBJI, has gone virtual, and Dr. Callahan reports the 2020 spring and fall virtual Young Investigators meetings went well. She is also working to expand the Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States (BMUS), which she labels one of “the crown jewels” of the USBJI, now in its fourth edition.
USBJI is also the U.S. national action network of the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health (GMUSC), an international collaborative movement sanctioned by the United Nations/World Health Organization.
Dr. Callahan is dedicated to expanding national work and efforts to remain connected to global endeavors. Honored to be in the position of president elect, Dr. Callahan is hopeful and enthusiastic regarding the future expansion of the initiative.