February 04, 2012

Nation's Largest Parkinson Symposium Reaches Capacity in Sarasota Saturday

The largest Parkinson Disease (PD) symposium in the nation returned to Sarasota on Saturday. Almost 1,000 patients, caregivers and physicians filled Sarasota Memorial's Institute for Advanced Medicine and overflowed to two satellite locations, each equipped with live streaming footage of the conference. The Suncoast Parkinson Disease Symposium, now in its 15th year, was hosted by Neuro Challenge Foundation (NCF) in partnership with Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, and Sarasota Magazine.

Opening remarks were given by Suncoast health journalist Heidi Godman, NCF Executive Director Judith Bell and Medical Director Dr. Dean Sutherland, Sarasota Memorial Hospital COO David Verinder, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation CEO Alex Quarles (pictured above addressing crowd, photo by Cliff Roles), and Sarasota Magazine group publisher Kelley Lavin.

Dr. Michael Okun, Medical Director of the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) and neurologist for Mohammed Ali, presented a model of "patient-centric" care that allows an interdisciplinary approach to Parkinson's, prioritizing the individual needs of each patient. "What Neuro Challenge is doing here is absolutely transformational," said Okun, in reference to the patient-centric qualified referral network Parkinson's Partners.

Dr. Cynthia Fox, co-founder of the headline-making Big and Loud Voice Therapy and a Research Associate at the National Center for Voice and Speech, invited the capacity crowd to stand, stretch, and speak loudly. This set the tone for her presentation of the Lee Silverman Voice Therapy system, which incorporates voice and body exercise as integral pieces of the Parkinson treatment, tantamount and complimentary to neurological and pharmacological modalities.

Dr. James Schumacher, Sarasota Memorial Hospital neurosurgeon led the audience through the processes of deep brain stimulation, neurotransplantation, and dopamine cell replacement. He then talked about the groundbreaking science of creating dopamine cells from one's own skin cells.

Dr. Dean Sutherland, NCF Medical Director and founder of the Southeastern Center for Parkinson Disease, presented an overview of current scientific theory about the causes, risk factors, and methods for diagnosis of Parkinson Disease.

Heidi Godman then facilitated a panel discussion and Q & A with the speakers. Topics discussed included causes for dyskinesia, deep brain stimulation for older patients, specific medication and amino acid efficacy, acupuncture for Parkinson treatment, and physical and behavioral tasks that can release dopamine.

"I especially enjoyed Dr. Okun's information about Parkinson patients and hospitalization; I am about to have surgery, and will definitely be taking this knowledge with me," said Sarasota's Linda Hatfield, diagnosed with Parkinson Disease in 2001. "Like last year's symposium, this extremely informational. Just excellent."

It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million people in the United States have PD. In Southwest Florida, it is projected that approximately 9,000 people have PD and another 5-10,000 are directly affected as professional or family caregivers. The Annual Suncoast Parkinson Symposium is held annually in Sarasota, Florida. For more information, please visit www.neurochallenge.org, or call (941) 926-6413.

About Neuro Challenge Foundation: Neuro Challenge Foundation is dedicated to the fight against Parkinson Disease (PD) in Southwest Florida through service, education and research. We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that offers online, in person and phone recommendations about local PD resources. A free resource guide is available online. Printed guides can be ordered online, viewed in the January 2012 issue of Sarasota Magazine or picked up at any Sarasota YMCA or HealthPlex location. NCF funds programs and activities that promise to ease the burden of Parkinson Disease through patient-centered professional education, community forums and scientific and clinical research. Patients, caregivers and nationally recognized scientific experts advise us and lead the way as we invest in the science and services that will lead to a cure. For more information, please call (888) 623-4483 or visit www.neurochallenge.org.