Feature: Senior Executive Director Angie Billingsley Talks Arthritis Foundation and APC
By Angie Billingsley, Senior Executive Director at Arthritis Foundation
Over 54 million Americans have some form of arthritis, making it the leading cause of disability across the nation. At the Arthritis Foundation, we believe that a cure is within our reach, and we’re funding and propelling research to improve the lives of people living with all different types of arthritis. As the Senior Executive Director at the Arthritis Foundation, I work alongside our amazing sponsors and partners, including clinics like Advanced Pain Care, who are doing the critical on-the-ground work to support patients with arthritis and equip them with the tools they need to live a happy life!
In the Austin area, we host many information events, support groups, and fundraising events like our annual Walk To Cure Arthritis. We hope that this introduction to what the Arthritis Foundation does and how we partner with APC will inspire you to get involved and take advantage of the programming that’s right for you.
What Is The Arthritis Foundation?
The Arthritis Foundation was formed in 1948, and since then, we’ve been working to improve the quality of life for all people living with arthritis and chronic pain. We fund and conduct research around many types of inflammatory and rheumatic conditions that happen to fall under the broad umbrella of arthritis. Whether it be osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, or gout, the Arthritis Foundation recognizes it and is committed to finding a cure for the country’s #1 cause of disability.
We have over 190 support groups where Arthritis Warriors can meet others that are just like them and going through the same things. It’s so important to us to empower our Arthritis Warriors with information, resources, and the best tools available to make the best of their journey with arthritis.
We also host patient education events, where we bring in guest speakers to talk about topics that are relevant to people that live with chronic pain and different forms of arthritis. Finally, we host our local fundraising events, including the Walk To Cure Arthritis and The Jingle Bell Run that help raise valuable funds for our work and our research.
How The Arthritis Foundation Partnered With APC
Our relationship with APC began just before I joined the Arthritis Foundation when we partnered with them for our 2019 Jingle Bell Run. APC has an amazing patient ambassador in Austin named Chester Jones, who we chose to be our military honoree at our Jingle Bell Drive in 2020.
Mr. Jones is a veteran, and an outspoken Arthritis Warrior, which makes him the perfect face of our military arthritis community. There is a much higher prevalence rate of arthritis in the active-duty military and veteran communities than there is within the general population. In the general population, one in four Americans have arthritis, but in the military, it’s one in three.
Arthritis is one of the top two reasons that our active-duty military is deemed unfit for duty and discharged. It’s a huge problem in our military, and we work closely with the Department of Defense on trying to identify not only causes but more effective treatments for our servicemen and servicewomen. That’s why it is so important for Chester Jones to spread awareness about the reality of arthritis for active duty service members and veterans, and to make specialized resources available for his brothers and sister who serve in the armed forces.
The team at APC and Chester Jones had a great time with us at the event, which turned out to be a Jingle Bell Drive instead of a Jingle Bell Run amid the pandemic. Since then, it’s been really fun to get to know the APC team a little bit better.
The APC Difference When Treating Arthritis
We’ve been working together with APC since 2019, and in 2021 at the Walk to Cure Arthritis, we honored three APC physicians as our medical honorees: Dr. Pegram and Dr. Malone. Being a multi-disciplinary clinic, APC can service the arthritis community through rheumatology, pain management and orthopedics. Our partnership with APC provides us with a unique opportunity to showcase the diversity of care that’s offered by APC, which is why we chose to honor the three wonderful APC physicians in 2021.
When people have rheumatic conditions, they also have compromised immune systems. Many patients are on immunosuppressant treatments. This means that many patients with rheumatic conditions are seeking out several types of therapy, not just from a rheumatologist, but also from an orthopedic surgeon, or a pain doctor, or even an infusion center. They typically have several doctor’s appointments scheduled throughout the year and are scheduling appointments at multiple clinics.
When patients are working with APC, they have the luxury of having all of their practitioners and healthcare providers in one location. It cuts down on stress for the patient, facilitates better communication between their doctors, and leads to an all-around better care plan. It’s a super unique model, and it’s why the Arthritis Foundation is proud to work with Advanced Pain Care.
What Is The Walk To Cure Arthritis And The Jingle Bell Run?
The Walk To Cure Arthritis is a spring-time national fundraising event, where our communities from all over the country walk to raise money for arthritis research. The 5K walk brings together families of folks lving with arthritis and fosters a sense of community.
This spring, we weren’t quite back to in-person events yet. We decided to convert the Walk To Cure Arthritis into the Watch To Cure Arthritis! We met at a drive-in movie theater, where we watched Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. We had sponsor tables set up at the drive-in, so participants could drive through the sponsor tables before parking to watch.
The Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run was the very first holiday-themed festive 5K around! It’s a distinction that we’re proud of because many copies have followed our Jingle Bell Run. Similar to the Walk To Cure Arthritis, the Jingle Bell Run is a fundraising event, and a space for our Arthritis Warriors to get together and connect.
In 2020 Jingle Bell Run was converted to a Jingle Bell Drive. We were super excited to be able to host the Drive at Santa’s Ranch, the largest drive-through Christmas light display in Texas.
We had sponsors set up along the drive, so participants were able to remain safely in their cars while stopping at each of the sponsor tables to visit with the sponsors before continuing on through the light show. Despite the extenuating circumstances that forced us to make some changes, last year’s Jingle Bell Drive was an amazing and festive event that was the third top fundraising Jingle Bell Run in the country!
We’re so excited that we will be back in person for the Jingle Bell Run in 2021, which will be happening on December 11th, 2021.
Take The Arthritis Foundation’s INSIGHTS Assessment Now!
At the Arthritis Foundation, our programming is very specific to our local communities. We determine the needs of our local community through our INSIGHTS Assessment. We’re able to figure out the highest priority programming, and what our unique community could benefit from most.
The INSIGHTS Assessment is a simple 10-minute survey. People with doctor-diagnosed arthritis can take it, and it rates like their pain scale, their sleep disturbance, and their mental and emotional health. As with the folks at APC, we think it’s important to evaluate the whole experience of any person struggling with arthritis. Rather than focusing on pain as a separate issue, we know that it’s deeply intertwined with sleep, mental health, and so many other quality of life indicators!
We’re able to collect that aggregate data from the survey and determine with the local leadership board what local programming will address the biggest issues in our community. Take our INSIGHTS Assessment today, and help our local branch of the Arthritis Foundation tailor our programming more precisely to your needs.