After spending more than 20 years as a rheumatologist treating children with juvenile arthritis (JA), Dr. Laura Schanberg, co-chief of Duke University’s department of pediatric rheumatology and chair-elect of the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA), finds inspiration for advancing JA treatments in the personal connections made with patients and their families over the years.
One of four JA researchers to receive an Arthritis Foundation Innovative Research Grant (IRG) in 2012, Dr. Schanberg’s current research focuses on helping children and their families monitor and manage the daily pain associated with the disease. To that end, Dr. Schanberg and her team – Mark Connelly, a child psychologist who specializes in pediatric pain management at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City; Karen Gil, a child psychologist and the dean of arts and sciences at the University of North Carolina; Karen Anthony, child psychologist in private practice; and Maggie Bromberg, a child psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – have developed a smartphone application that may one day allow JA patients to better cope with their pain and the emotional distress associated with the disease.
“Despite the best therapies, children with JA continue to experience pain. However, pain treatment is often overlooked,” says Dr. Schanberg. “In addition, disease severity or activity levels do not fully explain the pain reported by kids with JA. Coping has been shown to be an important factor in pain complaints. Unfortunately, teaching pain-coping skills requires expertise that is often not readily available because of location or cost. Our research aims to develop a smartphone application that can teach children and adolescents how and when to use various pain-coping techniques to feel better.”
Dr. Schanberg’s team hopes their research can be used to teach children skills to treat pain episodes and emotional distress, ultimately leading to an affordable, effective treatment that complements traditional medicine to optimize pain management.
An active clinical researcher, Dr. Schanberg received her first research grant from the Arthritis Foundation, and is proud to be a 2012 IRG recipient. “The Arthritis Foundation helps foster arthritis research, advocating on a national level to enhance arthritis research, and putting the human face on arthritis research,” Dr. Schanberg explains. “The Foundation is a valuable liaison between the research community and the patients and families suffering from this and other rheumatic diseases.”