New center to study arthritis outcomes

by Dana Meyer, UNMC orthopaedic surgery | May 24, 2006

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A gift from Ruth and Bill Scott has made possible the new Center for Outcomes Research.
UNMC will establish a new center to better understand the epidemiology of arthritis and to better analyze the determinants which predict outcomes for arthritis sufferers.

The center, which would be called the Ruth and Bill Scott Center for Outcomes Research, will go before the University of Nebraska Board of Regents later this year to gain formal designation as a center. It is expected to open this fall and be located on the third floor of Poynter Hall.

Three studies with potentially huge implications for the public will initially be undertaken by the center, which was made possible by a major gift by Omaha philanthropists Ruth and Bill Scott.

"After watching three generations of our families suffer from arthritis, this project really piqued our interest," Ruth Scott said. "Hopefully, future generations will profit from this research study."

The center will be under the direction of Kevin Garvin, M.D., professor and chair of orthopaedic surgery, and James O'Dell, M.D., professor of internal medicine and chief of the rheumatology and immunology section. It will allow the two physicians to create what is believed to be the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind relating to arthritis epidemiology.

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Kevin Garvin, M.D.
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James O'Dell, M.D.
Researchers in the Ruth and Bill Scott Center for Outcomes Research will be examining surgical outcomes in arthritis patients undergoing total joint replacements. Total joint replacement of the knee and hip are increasingly used treatments for patients with end stage joint disease secondary to arthritis. Each year, approximately 120,000 patients undergo total hip replacement and an additional 270,000 undergo total knee replacement in the U.S.

Using a large national database, the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database through the Veterans Affairs hospitals, UNMC researchers will explore determinants of poor surgical outcomes among U.S. veterans with arthritis undergoing joint replacement. Findings from this study will guide the development of future interventions aimed at improving surgical outcomes in arthritis sufferers, Dr. Garvin said.

In a second database study, UNMC investigators plan to examine the potential association of statins (commonly used cholesterol-lowering drugs) with the development of arthritis. Results of preliminary reports have been somewhat contradictory suggesting that the use of these lipid-lowering drugs is associated with both an increased and decreased risk of developing arthritis.

Using a large national medical database, researchers hope to examine the association of these agents with common forms of arthritis. Given the increasing prevalence of arthritis in the U.S., coupled with an increased use of lipid-lowering drugs, these findings may have important public health implications, Dr. O'Dell said.

A third study, led by UNMC orthopaedic surgeons Drs. Edward Fehringer and Amy Cannella, will examine the frequency and impact of chronic rotator cuff tears in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers will be recruiting UNMC and Omaha VA patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The patients will be examined using state-of-the-art imaging techniques including dynamic ultrasound. Findings from this study will allow researchers to better quantify the contribution of shoulder problems to poor outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis, a condition associated with substantial work-related disability.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that arthritis impacts the daily lives of more than 40 million Americans, including more than 500,000 Nebraskans. The annual cost of treating arthritis in the U.S. is nearly $64 billion. For Nebraska, this translates into annual costs of more than $320 million.

"The generosity of Ruth and Bill Scott will allow us to embark on research that is critical to the field of arthritis," Dr. Garvin said. "In addition, this research will hopefully allow us to offer improved treatments to the countless numbers of arthritis sufferers we see each year. We can not thank them enough for this opportunity."

A plaque in recognition of the Scotts' generous donation is currently being added to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery's Wall of Honor, which permanently recognizes individuals and organizations who have given $100,000 or more to the department.

"Ruth and Bill Scott's vision and generosity will not only ensure ongoing collaborative efforts between rheumatology and orthopaedics," Dr. O'Dell said, "but it also will be the catalyst that will allow us to begin building the infrastructure for what we believe will be one of the largest arthritis outcome centers in the United States."

This marks the third major gift the Scotts have made to the medical center. In 2003, their contribution to the Durham Research Center established the Ruth and Bill Scott Neuroscience Research Laboratories located on the third floor. Earlier this year, they made the largest gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation in support of a new education building at UNMC. Instead of having the building named in their own honor, the Scotts requested that it be named the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education in honor of Michael Sorrell, M.D., a legendary UNMC physician.

"Through their incredible support, Ruth and Bill Scott are allowing the medical center to do things that will impact the quality of health care in Nebraska for generations to come," said Harold M. Maurer, M.D., UNMC chancellor. "They are true visionaries who are making a difference. We are eternally grateful to them."

Ruth and Bill Scott are both graduates of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Bill Scott is a former vice president of Berkshire Hathaway. Ruth Scott is a bridge instructor and founder of the Omaha Bridge Studio.