Researcher's experience with rheumatoid arthritis inspires new study

A Sudbury researcher’s experience with rheumatoid arthritis has inspired her to study what access to care looks like for patients in northern Ontario.

The Arthritis Society says about 300,000 Canadians have rheumatoid arthritis

A smiling woman with a lake in the background.
Sudbury researcher Nancy Lightfoot was referred to a rheumatologist in southern Ontario when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She has started a qualitative study to find out what care for people with the diseases looks like in northern Ontario. (Submitted by Nancy Lightfoot)

A Sudbury researcher's experience with rheumatoid arthritis has inspired her to study what access to care looks like for patients in northern Ontario.

Nancy Lightfoot, a professor at both NOSM University and Laurentian University's School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, has launched a new qualitative study on rheumatoid arthritis. 

"We're talking with people about their experiences with it," Lightfoot said.

"How it was like to access care, what types of medications that they take and their experiences interacting with family physicians, pharmacists and rheumatologists in northeastern and northwestern Ontario."

The Arthritis Society says rheumatoid arthritis "is an inflammatory disease that can affect multiple joints in the body." The society says about 300,000 Canadians have the disease.

Lightfoot said she started to feel joint pain about three years ago and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Her family doctor referred her to a rheumatologist in southern Ontario. 

"For a while my information was lost and I didn't get that first appointment with the rheumatologist for quite some time, which made me wonder about, well, what's happening for others?" she said.

While she said she has got great care from southern Ontario – once she connected with a physician – she added northern Ontario needs more rheumatologists.

NOSM said last year that northern Ontario was short 325 doctors, including 166 specialists. 

For her research project, Lightfoot said she and her colleagues, including co-researcher Dr. David Marsh, will interview patients, physicians and pharmacists in northern Ontario about their experiences with rheumatoid arthritis. 

The goal is to paint a picture of what care looks like in the region, and where there could be room for improvement.

"It's their experience with patients with rheumatoid arthritis and what suggestions that they have, for others and for other health care providers who treat and support and manage these patients," Lightfoot said.

With files from Martha Dillman


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