Leigh F. Callahan, PhD – Director

Dr. Leigh Callahan is the Director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA).  She is also an epidemiologist and outcomes researcher who, for more than 30 years has worked in musculoskeletal outcomes research. Her research has focused on predictors of outcomes and quality of life in individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), patient reported outcomes and measurement, physical activity and arthritis, social determinants and health outcomes, health literacy, and complementary and alternative medicine use in rheumatic diseases. She is the Associate Director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, as well as Director of its Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center, titled “Mitigating the Public Health Impact of OA”.

Kirsten R. Ambrose, MS, CCRC – Program Manager

Ms. Ambrose is Program Manager for the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Thurston Arthritis Research Center.  She has a Masters of Science in Exercise Science and more than 15 years of experience as a Clinical Research Coordinator managing clinical trials, grant proposal development and strategic planning for several multidisciplinary research teams including the UNC Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, the Center for Pain Research and Innovation at the UNC School of Dentistry and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan. She has also provided consulting in writing, editing and project management for various academic, pharmaceutical, and biotech startup organizations.

Mary Alpeter, PhD – AAEBI*  Program Manager

Mary is a Research Scientist at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UNC-Chapel Hill and Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC). She has over 30 years of experience working with national, state and community partners to design, implement and/or evaluate health promotion interventions for adults and older adults. Dr. Altpeter has served as Principal Investigator, co-investigator or consultant on numerous community-based health promotion research projects focusing on such topics as physical activity, arthritis, fall prevention and dementia caregiving. She provides expertise in creating delivery networks for arthritis-appropriate, evidence-based interventions including chronic disease self-management education (CDSME) and Walk with Ease (WWE), and sustainable systems of funding.

* AAEBI = Arthritis-Appropriate, Evidence-Based Intervention
weisner-2751bwSerena Weisner, MS – AAEBI  Program Assistant

Serena Weisner is a Gerontologist dedicated to helping communities and organizations support healthy aging through evidence-based programs and services. She has had the opportunity to work as a Senior Program Associate for the National Council on Aging, a Project Director for the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services, and the Principal Program Specialist for Health and Aging at the Atlanta Regional Commission.  Along the way, she has secured and managed millions of dollars in federal and private funding, as well as established processes, procedures and strategic plans that have continued to be used by her successors.

alnapier_2.jpgAllison Napier, CHES – Program Assistant

Allison comes to OAAA with knowledge and expertise in health behavior, program management, and health communications. After graduating with a degree in Health Promotion from the University of Georgia, Allison served in AmeriCorps at the College of Charleston Center for Civic Engagement. In this role, she developed partnerships, led educational activities around social justice and coordinated campus-wide community service events. Most recently, Allison was a public health associate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the New Orleans Health Department, where she gained experience in community outreach and education, partnership development, and program management.  She is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Health degree at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Haley Hudson, BS – Public Health Associate

Haley is a participant in the CDC’s Public Health Associate Program (PHAP). The Public Health Associate Program is a competitive two-year, paid training program for recent graduates. Associates work in local, state, tribal health departments as well as NGOs. She is a recent graduate from Fort Valley State University where she graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Biology. She is also an Army Officer in the United States Army Reserve.  She will be with us full time over the next two years as she gains experience in public health with supplemented education and training from the CDC.

GolightlyYvonne Golightly, PT, MS, PhD – Grants Program Officer

Dr. Golightly is an epidemiologist and a physical therapist with over a decade of research and clinical experience. Her research focuses on the long-term effects of musculoskeletal injury and disorders of the lower extremity. These long-term consequences include osteoarthritis (OA), pain, and disability.  She is especially interested in identifying modifiable risk factors for OA and injury and in developing non-pharmacologic/non-surgical strategies for the management and treatment of these musculoskeletal disorders. She holds a joint appointment with the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center.

Amanda E. Nelson, MD, MSCR – Medical Advisor

Dr. Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center. As a rheumatologist, she maintains clinical practice and research interests. Her early academic pursuit of Studio Art (in which she earned a BA with Distinction) has allowed her to excel in the field of rheumatology with a special interest in the use of imaging modalities to identify factors associated with OA, including a focus on joint shape.  She understands both the challenges and best strategies for managing OA from her experience working directly with patients both in clinical care and in research.

Postdoctoral, Graduate, and Undergraduate Student Assistants and Interns:


Portia Flowers, PhD – Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Flowers is a skilled researcher with over 10 years of experience developing research questions, utilizing various motion analysis techniques, and analyzing biomechanical clinical, and functional data. Specifically, she also has experience collaborating with academic researchers to produce peer reviewed and technical reports. In particular, her research at the University of Delaware focused on biomechanical and clinical influences on recovery and osteoarthritis progression after total knee arthroplasty under the advisement of Joesph Zeni and Lynn Synder-Mackler.


Crystal MacKay, PhD, MHSc, BScPT – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. MacKay is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network in Toronto, Canada.  She received her PhD from the Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto and a Master’s of Health Science degree in Community Health and Epidemiology also from the University of Toronto.  She is a physical therapist and has worked in the field of arthritis research for over a decade.  Her research interests include understanding the health care needs of people living with chronic musculoskeletal disorders, particularly osteoarthritis (OA), their health service gaps and the effectiveness of interventions for this population.

Leigha Vilen- Undergraduate Student Assistant

Leigha is a senior undergraduate at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She will graduate in May 2018 with degrees in Health Policy and Management and Dramatic Arts. Prior to joining the OAAA team she served as a research assistant with the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, helping to evaluate the Camine con Gusto program among Latino adults with arthritis. Outside of the OAAA, Leigha is also the Care Manager Coordinator for Student Health Action Coalition’s Bridge-to-Care clinic, a free student-run clinic for chronic disease patients.


Kaitlin Gill – Undergradute Student Assistant, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Summer 2017

Emma Morris – Undergradute Student Assistant, Georgetown University, Summer 2017

My-Linh Luong, MSPH – Graduate Student Assistant, University of North Carolina, Spring 2015-Spring 2016

Eleanor Hume – Undergraduate Student Assistant, The George Washington University, Summer 2016

The Osteoarthritis (OA) Action Alliance is a broad coalition of public health leaders and stakeholders committed to elevating OA as a national health priority and promoting effective policy solutions that aim to address the individual and national toll of OA. Join us today.Member Organizations

Benefits of Membership

OAAA Infrastructure and Bylaws

OA Action Alliance Bylaws:

OAAA Bylaws (v1.1, ratified July 13, 2015)

Amendment Summary (v1.1, July 13, 2015)