5 Famous People With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on June 24, 2021
  • Woman's hands with rheumatoid arthritis
    5 Famous People With Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been around for a long time. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates described a type of arthritis that started in middle age, affected the hands and feet, and progressed rapidly. He may have been describing RA. Some famous people have had to live with the disease, many before newer drugs made managing RA easier.
  • Kathleen Turner
    1. Kathleen Turner
    This four-time Golden Globe winner was a busy actress in the '80s and early '90s. One of her most popular roles was in the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone, co-starring Michael Douglas. In 1992 she was diagnosed with RA, and severe pain and limited movement made it nearly impossible for her to work. But new RA medications have put her disease into her remission and her career back on track.
  • Rosalind Russell
    2. Rosalind Russell
    This star of stage and screen was best known for playing Auntie Mame on Broadway and in the film of the same name. A Tony award winner and Oscar nominee, Russell also received the special Oscar known as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Unfortunately, crippling RA shortened her career. After her death, the United States Congress established the Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis to honor her work in raising awareness. Research goes on today due to her efforts.
  • Christiaan Barnard
    3. Dr. Christiaan Barnard
    In 1967, South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard, MD, performed the world's first heart transplant. Although his patient lived only 18 days, it marked the birth of a procedure that would make Dr. Barnard famous around the world and save many lives. Today thousands of heart transplants are done every year. In 1983, RA affected Dr. Barnard's hands and ended the surgical part of his career, but he continued to teach. Dr. Barnard died in 2001 of an asthma attack.
  • James Coburn
    4. James Coburn
    James Coburn was a classic Hollywood macho man starring in action-adventure films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and the James Bond spoof Our Man Flint. Over the course of his career, he made more than 100 movies. In 1979, at the age of 51, he was diagnosed with RA. He put acting on hold while he fought the disease, but appeared in movies in the '90s, including an Oscar-winning role in the movie Affliction. Coburn died of a heart attack in 2002.
  • Dorothy Hodgkin
    5. Dorothy Hodgkin
    The British scientist Dorothy Hodgkin developed severe, deforming RA soon after graduating from Oxford in 1932. It did not slow her down. She went on to unravel the structure of the penicillin mold, which eventually revolutionized the treatment of infections. She also unlocked the structure of both vitamin B12 and insulin, and in between won the 1964 Nobel Prize in chemistry. She was also active in peace organizations almost until her death in 1994.
5 Famous People With Rheumatoid Arthritis


  1. Rosalind Russell. The New York  http://movies.nytimes.com/person/62246/Rosalind-Russell/biography
  2. Pierre Auguste Renoir, His paintings, life, and biography. AugusteRenoir.org. http://www.augusterenoir.org/
  3. James Coburn, Hollywood tough guy, dies at age 74. The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/20/filmnews.film
  4. Historical Perspective on the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis . National Institutes of Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119866/
  5. Rheumatoid Arthritis. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001467/
  6. Christiaan Barnard, 78 Surgeon For First Heart Transplant Dies. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/03/world/christiaan-barnard-78-surgeon-for-first-heart-transplant-die...
  7. Dorothy Hodgkin. A Science Odyssey. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bmhodg.html
  8. About Us. Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis. http://www.rosalindrussellcenter.ucsf.edu/about_us.html
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 24
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