UNC basketball legend and Thurston Arthritis Research Center join forces to raise awareness for osteoarthritis

UNC Basketball legend, Lennie Rosenbluth, and his wife Dianne, will join Leigh Callahan, PhD, director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance at UNC's Thurston Arthritis Research Center to raise awareness for osteoarthritis.

UNC basketball legend and Thurston Arthritis Research Center join forces to raise awareness for osteoarthritis click to enlarge Lennie and Dianne Rosenbluth

During a breakfast featuring updates for the season from UNC head basketball Coach Roy Williams, a chance meeting between a basketball legend and arthritis researchers set in motion a series of events that will help raise awareness for osteoarthritis.

Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine, director of Epidemiology and Outcomes Research at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, and Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH, Joseph P. Archie Eminent Professor of Medicine, director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, met UNC basketball legend Lennie Rosenbluth and his wife, Dianne.  They quickly realized they had a shared passion, and a golden opportunity, for helping people with arthritis.

 College basketball fans will remember Lennie from his award-winning years on the UNC men’s basketball team. Most notably, he led the 1957 team to a 32-0 season and UNC’s first NCAA national championship. He has since been listed among the “100 Greatest College Basketball Players of All Time." Later in 1957, Lennie joined the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors as a first-round draft pick. After retiring from basketball, he enjoyed many years as a high school teacher and basketball coach.

Lennie has developed knee osteoarthritis, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. It has, however, ignited in him a desire to help others who have this disease.

Dianne, who also has osteoarthritis, shares many interests with Lennie, including an unbridled passion for basketball (and football), cheering on the Tar Heels year after year. Born in Charlotte, she moved to Chapel Hill to attend UNC and like Lennie, spent much of her professional career as a teacher.  Now these two former teachers will have an opportunity to teach others about a condition that affects 27 million people in the US.

Coincidentally, the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA), which is managed by the Thurston Arthritis Research Center under the direction of Callahan, was searching for a spokesperson. Callahan immediately recognized that Lennie and Dianne were ideal candidates and, along with the OAAA Steering Committee, invited them to become Honorary Co-Chairs and de-facto arthritis spokespersons.

Lennie and Dianne bring an interesting perspective to the OAAA, given their individual and shared experiences living with this chronic, degenerative joint disease. They will be joining the OAAA in various efforts to raise awareness for osteoarthritis and the work of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center.  In addition, they will help to proactively encourage individuals with OA to engage in proven strategies for minimizing disease progression, such as physical activity, weight management and self-management.  Dianne has already joined TARC rheumatologist Amanda Nelson’s efforts with Walk with A Doc every third Saturday at the UNC Wellness Center at Meadowmont. And, Lennie is interested in promoting the OAAA’s ACL injury prevention brochures and other efforts.  They both plan to contribute to a blog this spring.