URMC Rheumatologist, Pro-Golfer Phil Mickelson, Shed Light on Psoriatic Arthritis

Mar. 2, 2011
Drs. Andrea Sandoz, Francisco Tausk and Christopher Ritchlin

Today, world class pro-golfer and psoriatic arthritis patient Phil Mickelson, in partnership with both Amgen and Pfizer, Inc., launched “On Course with Phil,” a disease education program for people with certain chronic inflammatory joint and skin conditions.

The program seeks to inspire people with psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or plaque psoriasis to take early action, educate themselves, and work with a medical specialist to build a disease management plan that’s right for them. The program also features the Joint Smart Coalition, a new effort by theArthritis Foundation and the National Psoriasis Foundation that aims to provide an empowering and educational resource for people with psoriatic arthritis and other related chronic inflammatory conditions.

The initiative has tapped local University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) rheumatologist and professor of Medicine Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H., to offer his expert insights into these conditions. Ritchlin will discuss the status of current treatment options, research, and underscore the importance of early intervention in mitigating long-term joint damage.

URMC's Psoriasis Center is the only clinic in the country where patients are seen simultaneously by a dermatologist, psychiatrist and rheumatologist. All team care discussions take place in front of the patient.

“People with psoriatic arthritis experience flares of joint pain, stiffness and swelling in the peripheral joints and in the spine,” Ritchlin said. “And, since there’s no cure at present, the most important thing is to catch the disease early, intervene and stop or slow progressive joint damage.”

Psoriasis, which affects an estimated 7.5 million American adults, occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals, ultimately accelerating skin cells’ growth cycles. The result is raised, ruby patches of skin, or silvery colored scales from dead skin pile-up. One in four people with psoriasis lesions is also at risk for bone destruction from a related arthritic condition, psoriatic arthritis, which sometimes takes many years to develop.

Given the complex and systemic nature of psoriatic disease, in 2009 URMC opened a dedicated Psoriasis Center – one of the few recognized multidisciplinary psoriasis centers in the country. The Center tackles the disease from a 360-degree perspective that not only focuses on skin lesions, but also the attendant joint pain, psychological components, and more. In fact, the Center is the only clinic in the country where patients are seen simultaneously by a dermatologist, psychiatrist and rheumatologist. All team care discussions take place in front of the patient.

“Psoriatic disease can encompass so much more than a person’s skin,” said Francisco Tausk, M.D., professor of Dermatology and Psychiatry who leads the Center with Ritchlin and psychiatrist Andrea Sandoz, M.D. “We connect patients with specialists in cardiovascular disease, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, and nutrition to properly attend to their various needs.”

The Center also folds clinical research activities into the care mix, giving patients access to cutting-edge investigational therapies, as well as the chance to contribute to scientists’ collective knowledge of the disease. To that end, Ritchlin heads up one of the six sites comprising the International Psoriatic Arthritis (IPART) database – a registry funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, pooling data from nearly 4,000 psoriasis patients across Canada and the U.S. He’s also conducting clinical trials through the Center, exploring DC-STAMP and molecule CD-16, both thought to be potential biomarkers that might bear clues into the psoriasis-arthritis connection. Ritchlin hopes the research will one day help clinicians forecast which psoriasis patients are most at risk for joint damage, and consequently, might be candidates for more aggressive therapies.

In addition to conducting research, caring for patients, and his work with the “On Course with Phil” effort, Ritchlin serves on the Board of Directors for the National Psoriasis Foundation and chairs a Professional Meetings Committee for the American College of Rheumatology.

For more information on the Psoriasis Center (located at 400 Red Creek Drive, off Calkins Road in Henrietta), please call (585) 487-1403 or visit

For more information about the “On Course with Phil” program, visit

Ritchlin has served as a consultant to Amgen, Wyeth, Abbott, Roche, Calcimedica, Centocor, UCB, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and has received research funding from Centocor, Abbott, Roche, Calcimedica, Amgen, UCB and Bristol-Myers Squibb.