The Living Healthy With Arthritis Conference will feature keynote speaker former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, center, flanked above by, from left, Ann Pardo, Canyon Ranch; Eric P. Gall and Jeffrey R. Lisse, both of the UA Arthritis Center; and J. Michael Siemens, Canyon Ranch.

Derek Jobst

As a doctor to the nation, you never turn in your stethoscope.

Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006, continues to relish opportunities to provide public health education such as a keynote speech at the upcoming University of Arizona Arthritis Center’s 2014 Living Healthy With Arthritis Conference.

“To protect, promote and advance the health, safety and security of the United States is the job description, and once a surgeon general, always a surgeon general. You continue to function as such in the community, nation and world, and opportunities such as this conference give hope to lots of people who are suffering with the pain of arthritis every day. I look forward to delivering some helpful information that can make their lives better,” Carmona said.

Like the UA Arthritis Center itself, Carmona takes a comprehensive approach to treatment of chronic diseases such as arthritis.

His speech, “Obesity: From Arthritis to Zoonoses, the Most Potent Accelerator of Chronic Disease,” will focus on the integration of science and traditional medicine with moderate exercise, maintenance of a proportional weight/height ratio, and physical and mental stress management strategies for those living with arthritis.

He also emphasizes “food literacy” and the importance of eating foods that are low in trans fats and high in omega-three fatty acids — flax seed, fish, fowl, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean cuts of beef — in order to minimize inflammation throughout the body associated with many chronic diseases, including arthritis, heart disease and stroke.

“I will focus on ways we can make our lives healthier and more pain-free by the actions we take and the choices we make. This is more of a holistic/integrative approach, and these are actions that individuals can take to assist in relieving their disease burden. … There are lots of recommendations even healthy people should be looking at every day,” said Carmona, who promotes individual empowerment and prevention to optimize health and well-being as vice chairman of Canyon Ranch and president of the nonprofit Canyon Ranch Institute.

Canyon Ranch has been a longtime supporter of education and outreach at the UA Arthritis Center, which provides a multidisciplinary facility for bench-to-bedside research with a range of specialists not only in rheumatology, orthopedic surgery and geriatrics, but also fields such as immunology, medical imaging and pharmacology.

The specialists work together to better identify the causes of many of the more than 100 forms of arthritis and develop improved technologies for diagnosing, measuring and treating the disease.

Regarding treatment and possible prevention, the center is also exploring innovative resources in psychoneuroimmunobiology, integrative medicine, epidemiology, public health, exercise physiology, nutritional sciences, podiatry, biomechanics and other disciplines.

The spirit of collaboration was particularly appealing to UA Arthritis Center Director Dr. Kent Kwoh, who joined the center in July and is the former director of clinical research for the University of Pittsburgh Arthritis Institute.

Kwoh is particularly interested in prevention and early prediction and diagnosis of arthritis, and is conducting research that focuses on identification of biomarkers — most notably MRI imaging biomarkers — to monitor the development and/or progression of osteoarthritis.

“The CDC estimates that one in three adults has some form of arthritis, and the prevalence is higher in Arizona given the older population. The most common form is osteoarthritis, a disease of the entire joint. It is one of the leading causes of disability in the elderly, and its incidence will grow exponentially in the future with our aging population and with the obesity epidemic. That is why this year’s program is particularly relevant,” Kwoh said of the conference.

Kwoh believes that while genetics and environmental components are also involved, prevention of joint injury and prevention of obesity may help decrease the risk of arthritis. For those living with the disease, minimizing its impact is not only possible but essential.

“Through treatment, prevention, patient-care efforts and community outreach we try to help people to realize they can have quality of life with arthritis,” he said.

“These all go hand-in-hand, and we have been fortunate as a center to have a long history of supporters in the community that help to amplify our efforts.”

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at