Nevertheless, within about a year the inflammation had progressed from her joints into her lungs. Within a few months, by the spring of 2004, she had died of lung failure.

That inflammation movement, from bones and joints to soft tissue, doesn’t happen in that many people, but it does happen to quite a few. Because of that, the average life expectancy of people with RA is substantially shorter than people who don’t have RA.

When she died, I wanted to do something constructive with my anger, so I got involved with the Arthritis Foundation. By then, Amgen (through Jeff’s efforts) was sponsoring the California Coast Classic bike ride.

I want a research cure. There is a big genetic component to [arthritis], so my wife is at risk. I also have injury-induced osteoarthritis (OA) in my lower back and hands from the war in Vietnam.

Q: How were you able to help grow the Arthritis Foundation’s California Coast Classic bike ride?

I rode it in 2003 and got my executive team, including my CEO and all of his direct reports to ride a couple days as well. That got it a lot of publicity and got it rolling, and it took the ride from raising a couple hundred thousand a year to raising $300,000 or $400,000 a year.

I got a position on the Southern California Chapter board and really increased the ride. Within two years, we had it [raising] $1 million per year. And it’s been over a $1 million a year since.

Q: What do you love about cycling?

I love the people and the scenery. There’s no better way to see the United States, or any country, than by bike because you’re traveling at the right pace. You experience the fresh air, the smells, the birds, the sound of crashing waves. You don’t get that in a car. And walking is too slow.

I have actually walked from San Francisco to L.A. – once. I was healing from wounds after the war. I was paralyzed for a while and I had just learned to walk again. I said, ‘You know what, I’ve got to get from Oakland to L.A. I’m just going to hoof it!’


Q: When you’re not cycling, raising funds and working, what do you like to do?

I’m a scientist, a tinkerer and an inventor in my own right (Jeff has a PhD in economics with a background in microbiology and chemistry). Solar [power] is a big hobby of mine. I have 21 kilowatts of solar on the roof of my house, which is about seven times the amount my house uses. So I supply power back to the grid. I’ve been a net power producer for two years.

I have a lithium-polymer-iron phosphate-battery-powered car. That’s how I get to work every day. I’m also designing and building an electric plane. A battery will get [the plane] to cruising altitude and then solar panels will carry it from there. Right now, to get to Phoenix and back it costs $300 in fuel. To fly solar, it would be 50 cents or a dollar.

Q: What legacy do you hope to leave with the Foundation?

I’d like to leave behind an Arthritis Foundation that is twice the size – both financially and resource-wise – as it is today.

The Arthritis Foundation needs to lead research into new areas. But it can only do that if it’s funded better. RA is a very complex multiple group of diseases, it’s not just one disease, and there are many different cytokines – those little chemical proteins – involved in inflammation. The way we’re going to understand that better is pure academic research.

We also have a real shortage of research rheumatologists and clinical rheumatologists, especially pediatric rheumatologists. One of the things that attract people to rheumatology is that the Arthritis Foundation offers rheumatology fellowships. So if we don’t do it, no one will.

I’d also like to see access to care become something we don’t have to worry about anymore. A lot of people need treatment but because of high co-pays or a complete lack of insurance can’t afford it. It comes back to all of us – you, me, staff, volunteers – working together to help grow the Foundation to where it can do more for patients with arthritis.