BME Ph.D. candidate awarded NIH F31 NRSA Fellowship

Tamara Ordonez Diaz, Ph.D. candidate in the Nichols lab, received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Parent F31-Diversity) for her project titled, Integrating Biomechanics and Experimental Pain to Understand Compensatory Mechanisms in Symptomatic Carpometacarpal Osteoarthritis.

The prestigious fellowship covers full tuition, stipend, and educational expenses. Ordonez Diaz’s mentors on the project are Drs. Jennifer Nichols and Yenisel Cruz-Almeida. The overall impact of this study is to identify the interplay between movement variations, symptom severity, and movement-evoked pain to improve our knowledge of OA development.

Osteoarthritis of the thumb carpometacarpal joint is present in 85% of postmenopausal women, reaching 100% in women aged 91 years or older. How the experience of pain aligns with the underlying disease state and how multiple mechanisms compensate to alleviate symptoms is not well understood. Our unique approach will integrate research methods from the fields of orthopedic biomechanics and experimental pain research in a single cohort. The outcomes of this study will identify the heterogeneity of OA-related symptomology associated with somatosensory, neuromuscular, and biomechanical mechanisms. Results will provide foundational data needed to design targeted pain management interventions (e.g., orthotics, hand exercises, patient education) and long-term surgical techniques.