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Yvonne Claire Lee, MD, MMSc
Associate Physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Department of Medicine
Rheumatology, Immunology
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115

Research Location: Boston Lying-In


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Research Narrative:

My research focuses on the inflammatory and non-inflammatory components of pain in the rheumatic diseases.  Pain is the most common reason patients seek rheumatologic care.  However, little is known about the mechanisms of pain in rheumatic diseases, and the best ways to treat pain are still unknown.

To examine the many components of pain among patients with rheumatic disease, we supplement data from validated instruments of clinical pain severity with quantitative sensory testing methods to assess experimental pain sensitivity.  Using different testing paradigms, we are able to examine the contributions of peripheral mechanisms (e.g., inflammation and damage at joint sites) and central mechanisms (e.g., modulation of pain by the brain and spinal cord) to overall pain sensitivity.  Current research activities include: 1) a study to examine differences in central pain processing among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients compared to healthy controls and 2) a clinical trial of milnacipran, a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, in the treatment of pain in RA.

We also collaborate with prospective observational cohorts, such as the Brigham Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Study, to examine relationships between pain and inflammation in large rheumatic disease populations.  We are currently conducting a study to examine the effects of widespread pain on functional status.  We are also working with a separate cohort of early inflammatory arthritis patients to describe the acute to chronic pain transition.  We are particularly interested in defining clinical predictors of the development of chronic pain.

Harvard Medical School, 2009, MMSc
University of Michigan Medical School, 2003, MD