Of all rheumatic diseases, systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs) – which include systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis, polymyositis, dermatomyositis and the systemic vasculitides – are associated with the highest morbidity, mortality and cost. Given their rarity and that all SARDs share mechanisms of induction, pathogenesis, treatment and complications, studying SARDs as a group rather than as individual diseases is both logical and feasible.
The overarching aim of Dr. Avina-Zubieta’s research is to improve the life of people living with SARDs. He will do this by assessing the disease burden of SARDs and developing strategies to prevent SARDs and their associated complications, while also developing tools to help both patients and health care providers better manage SARDs.
The availability of population-based health databases in British Columbia offer cost-effective opportunities to longitudinally study health outcomes in SARDs. Dr. Avina-Zubieta will use these databases to: conduct an assessment of the economic and disease burden of SARDs in order to identify their collective importance as a public health problem in BC; examine health risks facing individuals with SARDs compared to individuals without SARDs and the potential role of treatment to decrease these risks; identify potential risk factors for the development of SARDs, such as smoking, hormones and certain medications (e.g., statins); and mentor trainees and other personnel in a high quality research environment.
Overall, the research program will contribute to enhancing the quality of life of those living with SARDS.