ENACT Spotlight: Saralynn Allaire

in Inaugaural Newsletter, News Feed
August 5th, 2011

Saralynn Allaire

Though life-changing news may have negative impact on lifestyle and employment, strategies exist to lessen such impact. Dr. Saralynn Allaire, ScD, CRC-R was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis during her career as a nurse. She used various strategies to help her work as a nurse. Because the pain and fatigue from the disease hindered her ability to continue such a physically demanding career – she knew that she needed a change.

Dr. Allaire refused to let the diagnosis stop her and obtained advanced degrees to get a job that was not physically challenging. Upon learning that many people with arthritis experience work disability, she chose a field called rehabilitation counseling. Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities with employment and independent living issues. Before long, Dr. Allaire earned a doctorate in the field of rehabilitation counseling and joined a group of prominent rehabilitation researchers at Boston University Medical Center. Allaire, now both a Professor of Medicine and a prolific researcher, also serves as the associate director for the Center for Enhancing Activity and Participation among Persons with Arthritis (ENACT).

Her efforts focus on preventing work disability in individuals with arthritis and rheumatic conditions. Often these individuals are diagnosed while employed and Dr. Allaire wants them to stay employed. A randomized trial she conducted proved that vocational rehabilitation provided while persons were still employed helped them maintain employment. Therefore, Dr. Allaire’s research identifies effective intervention strategies and the best methods to deliver those interventions.

Another of Dr. Allaire’s major achievements is the development of a diagnostic tool called the “Work Experience Survey for Persons with Rheumatic Conditions,” or WES-RC. This tool, which is administered by a rehabilitation professional, identifies and prioritizes problems and barriers that individuals with rheumatic conditions face in the workforce. Based on the answers to these questions, the administrator and patient brainstorm to identify effective solutions. Preliminary results for this work, which Dr. Allaire co-authored with ENACT’s Dr. Julie Keysor, appear in a 2009 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Drs. Keysor and Allaire started working together about three years ago.  Now that Dr. Allaire is planning for retirement, she is excited that Dr. Keysor wants to continue to focus on employment retention and rehabilitation research. Dr. Allaire serves as an associate director and consultant for ENACT. Her research interest overlaps with ENACT’s research project “Efficacy of a Modified Vocational Rehabilitation Intervention.” This study will further test the efficacy of the WES-RC diagnostic questionnaire.  ENACT is currently recruiting research subjects for that study.

Stay tuned for more updates about ENACT and Dr. Saralynn Allaire’s work! Be sure to register for her upcoming webinar, Preventing Work Disability: Strategies and Resources You Can Use.