National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

Until May 19, 1972, the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases; until June 23, 1981, the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases; until April 8, 1986, the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.


The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) was established in 1986. The mission of the NIAMS is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.

The Institute also conducts and supports basic research on the normal structure and function of bones, joints, muscles, and skin. Basic research involves a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including immunology, genetics, molecular biology, structural biology, biochemistry, physiology, virology, and pharmacology. Clinical research includes rheumatology, orthopaedics, dermatology, metabolic bone diseases, heritable disorders of bone and cartilage, inherited and inflammatory muscle diseases, and sports and rehabilitation medicine.

Important Events in NIAMS History

November 20, 1985—The Health Research Extension Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-158) authorized the establishment of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

April 8, 1986—The NIAMS was established.

April 1986—Dr. Lawrence Shulman was appointed Director of the NIAMS.

February 18, 1987—The first meeting of the National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Advisory Council was held.

August 1995—Dr. Stephen Katz was appointed Director of the NIAMS.

April 15, 1996—The NIAMS held a 10th anniversary symposium: "Progress and Promise in Chronic Disease."

April 2006—The NIAMS celebrated its 20th anniversary.

June 13, 2011—The NIAMS hosted a scientific symposium: Improving Lives Through Discovery, one of many activities held throughout the year that recognized the 25th anniversary of the Institute. 

February 2021—Dr. Lindsey Criswell was appointed Director of the NIAMS.

NIAMS Legislative Chronology

August 1950—An arthritis program was established within the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases under Public Law 81-692.

May 1972—P.L. 92-305 renamed the Institute the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases.

1973—Senator Alan Cranston introduced legislation that would eventually lead to the National Arthritis Act. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Paul Rogers.

January 1975—The National Arthritis Act (P.L. 93-640) established the National Commission on Arthritis and Related Musculoskeletal Diseases to study the problem of arthritis in depth and to develop an arthritis plan. The act also established the position of associate director for arthritis and related musculoskeletal diseases and authorized an interagency arthritis coordinating committee; community demonstration project grants; an arthritis data bank; an information clearinghouse; and comprehensive centers for research, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and education.

April 1976—After a year of study and public hearings, the commission issued a comprehensive plan aimed at diminishing the physical, economic, and psychosocial effects of arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases. It laid the groundwork for a national program encompassing research, research training, education, and patient care.

October 1976—The Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive Diseases Amendments of 1976 (P.L. 94-562) established the National Arthritis Advisory Board to review and evaluate the implementation of the Arthritis Plan, prepared in response to the National Arthritis Act (P.L. 93-640).

December 1980—P.L. 96-538 changed the name of the Institute to the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

1982—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conferred bureau status on the Institute, resulting in creation of the Division of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases and the appointment of a division director.

November 1985—The Health Research Extension Act of 1985, P.L. 99-158, established the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to bring increased emphasis to research on these disorders. The legislation provided for the development of a plan for a national arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases program, and establishment of two interagency coordinating committees, one on arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases and one on skin diseases. It also expanded the activities of the National Arthritis Advisory Board to include musculoskeletal and skin diseases.

September 1993—The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-43) called on the NIAMS to establish "an information clearinghouse on osteoporosis and related bone disorders to facilitate and enhance knowledge and understanding on the part of health professionals, patients, and the public through the effective dissemination of information."

October 2000—The Children's Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310) called on the NIAMS to expand and intensify research programs on juvenile arthritis and related conditions, in coordination with other NIH Institutes and the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases Interagency Coordinating Committee. Further language stipulated that the Institute's current information clearinghouse include resources on juvenile arthritis and associated conditions.

November 2000—The Lupus Research and Care Amendments of 2000, which passed as part of the Public Health Improvement Act (P.L. 106-505), required the NIAMS to expand and intensify research and related activities regarding lupus, and to coordinate such efforts with other NIH Institutes, as appropriate. Among other provisions, the bill called for information and education programs for health professionals and the public.

December 2001—The Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research, and Education Amendments of 2001, or the MD-CARE Act (P.L. 107-84), called on several components of the NIH, including the NIAMS, to enhance research on muscular dystrophy, including establishing Centers of Excellence.

February 2003—The Office of the Secretary, HHS, was called on to establish a Federal working group on lupus for the purpose of exchanging information and coordinating Federal efforts regarding lupus research and education initiatives (P.L. 108-7, Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY 2003). The NIAMS, as the lead Institute at the NIH for lupus research, was asked to lead this Federal working group. The group is comprised of representatives from all relevant HHS agencies and other Federal departments having an interest in lupus.

October 2008—The Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research, and Education (MD-CARE) Amendments of 2008 (P.L. 110-361) officially named the muscular dystrophy Centers of Excellence as the Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Centers. In addition, the Muscular Dystrophy Coordinating Committee was authorized to give special consideration to enhance the clinical research infrastructure to test emerging therapies for the various forms of muscular dystrophy.

September 2014—The Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education (MD-CARE) Amendments of 2014 (P.L. 113-166) made several changes to the program’s authorization, including expanding the types of muscular dystrophy for which NIH must conduct research, expanding the membership of the MDCC and requiring it to meet two times each year, and expanding the items to be covered in the Action Plan for the Muscular Dystrophies.

Biographical Sketch of NIAMS Director Lindsey A. Criswell, M.D., M.P.H., D.Sc.

Dr. Lindsey Criswell

Lindsey A. Criswell, M.D., M.P.H., D.Sc., became Director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) in February 2021.

Prior to joining NIAMS, Dr. Criswell was vice chancellor of research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as well as professor of rheumatology and a professor of orofacial sciences.

Between 1994 and the time she became NIAMS director, Dr. Criswell was a principal investigator on multiple NIH grants and published more than 250 peer-reviewed journal papers. Her research focused on the genetics and epidemiology of human autoimmune disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Using genome-wide association and other genetic studies, her research team contributed to the identification of more than 30 genes linked to these disorders.

Dr. Criswell has a bachelor’s degree in genetics and a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.D. from UCSF. She earned a D.Sc. in genetic epidemiology from the Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences, Rotterdam. She completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in rheumatology.

Dr. Criswell’s many honors include the Kenneth H. Fye, M.D., endowed chair in rheumatology and the Jean S. Engleman distinguished professorship in rheumatology at UCSF, and the Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award from the American College of Rheumatology. She also was named UCSF’s 2014 Resident Clinical and Translational Research Mentor of the Year. During her career, she has mentored some four dozen students (high school through medical/graduate school), medical residents, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.

NIAMS Directors

Name In Office from To
Lawrence E. Shulman, M.D., Ph.D. April 1986 October 1994
Michael D. Lockshin, M.D. (Acting) November 1994 July 1995
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D. August 1995 December 2018
Robert H. Carter, M.D. (Acting) January 2019 February 2021
Lindsey A. Criswell, M.D., M.P.H., D.Sc. February 2021 Present

Research Programs

The NIAMS supports a multidisciplinary program of basic, clinical, and translational investigations; epidemiologic research; research centers; and research training for scientists within its own facilities as well as grantees at universities and medical schools nationwide. It also supports the dissemination of research results and information through the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse.

The NIAMS Extramural Program plans, develops, awards, and manages basic, translational, and clinical scientific research studies and training throughout the United States and abroad within the scientific mission of NIAMS through a wide array of grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements to universities, hospitals, medical schools, small businesses and other organizations. The goal is to facilitate the most promising discoveries and emerging technologies for rapid translation to clinical applications for improving public health.

The NIAMS Intramural Research Program conducts innovative basic, translational, and clinical research relevant to the health concerns of the Institute and provides training for investigators interested in careers in these areas. The ultimate goals are: 1) to provide new insights into the normal function of immune cells, bones, muscles, and skin, and diseases that affect them, especially immune and inflammatory diseases; and 2) to generate a cadre of well-trained investigators to continue toward a complete understanding of these structures and the disease conditions that affect them adversely.

Extramural Program

The NIAMS Extramural Program (EP) consists of two divisions and an administrative management team servicing both divisions. Together, they are responsible for planning, developing, awarding, and managing basic, translational, and clinical scientific research studies and training.

The Division of Extramural Research (DER) provides scientific management of the largest federal investment on arthritis, musculoskeletal, and skin diseases research conducted in academic institutions across the country.

  • The Program Analyst Team provides high-quality, timely administrative and scientific support to NIAMS Scientific Programs and the Institute as needed for long-term projects and small, discrete tasks.

The Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) is responsible for the areas of overall administration and management, scientific review, grants management, and clinical research administration.

  • The Grants Management Branch (GMB) negotiates and issues over $500 million in grants and cooperative agreements annually. GMB responsibilities are complex and critical to the Institute’s mission and success. GMB staff ensures that all legal, regulatory, and policy requirements are met by the NIAMS and grant recipients, and directs all business-related activities associated with NIAMS awards.
  • The Scientific Review Branch (SRB) is responsible for the initial scientific and technical merit review of grant applications and contract proposals submitted to NIAMS
  • The Clinical Research Operations and Management Branch (CROMB) has responsibility for assessing study risk, implementing data and safety monitoring oversight, tracking enrollment progress, and mitigating study related issues for the complete portfolio of NIAMS funded clinical trials and select human subjects observational studies with some level of risk (60-70 studies currently active in the managed portfolio).

Intramural Research Program

The NIAMS Intramural Research Program (IRP) consists of the Office of the Scientific Director, the Office the Clinical Director, the Career Development and Outreach Branch, the Administrative Management Branch, and the following Labs and Core Facilities:


Core Facilities

This page last reviewed on May 28, 2024