Responding to the urgent need for additional specialists to treat the growing prevalence of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society hosted the fifth annual “Pan American Section (MDS-PAS) Movement Disorders School for Neurology Residents” on October 10, 2020. Sponsored by the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), the one-day virtual course had 344 registered participants — including neurology residents, medical students, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals from across the Americas — who were provided educational lectures, panel discussions, live patient examinations and video case studies on Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. The online programming allowed for the largest and most diverse course attendance since inception.
An Immediate and Growing Global Need for Parkinson’s Specialists
An estimated 6 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s disease. As the population ages, scientists predict this number could double by 2040. With the growing PD population comes an increasing need for more movement disorder specialists (MDS) — neurologists who complete additional training in treating people with Parkinson’s. These experts can help manage new and evolving symptoms, coordinate comprehensive treatment plans and connect patients to the latest research opportunities. Yet, according to a 2015 survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of MJFF, only 28 percent of Parkinson’s patients are treated by a movement disorder specialist.
“The need for specialists with a solid understanding of Parkinson’s has never been greater,” said Rachel Dolhun, MD, MDS-PAS Movement Disorder School for Neurology Residents course organizer, fellowship-trained MDS, and MJFF’s vice president of medical communications. “The Foundation is focused on creating opportunities like the Movement Disorders School to provide education and foster professional curiosity, and to ultimately inspire the next generation to pursue career paths caring for the growing Parkinson’s population.”
Led by internationally recognized experts, the annual Movement Disorders School provides coursework on care, research and drug development in PD and other movement disorders and encourages consideration of careers in this field. With leadership from nine distinguished faculty clinicians from academic institutions across the United States, the 2020 course was co-directed by Steven J. Frucht, MD, director of movement disorders at NYU Langone and Tanya Simuni, MD, professor of neurology and head of the division of movement disorders at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. This year’s program included an inaugural lecture on health care disparities provided by Nabila Dahodwala, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2016, the course has attracted 678 neurology residents and other interested health care providers from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean.
Past course attendees shared reflections on what the event has meant to their education:
- “I intend to specialize in movement disorders, a decision I made after the course that made a huge impact on my career.”
- “I never got such an in-depth knowledge of movement disorders!”
- “Now I have a better understanding of movement disorders, their various presentations and possible plan strategies. So, it will be easier for me to make a diagnosis of my findings and make a plan for each patient.”
Additional support for the MDS-PAS Movement Disorders School is provided by sponsors in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry including Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Acadia Pharmaceuticals, Biogen, Boston Scientific, Lundbeck, Sanofi-Genzyme, and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. This corporate philanthropy supports the Foundation’s commitment to creating high-quality educational resources while preserving a track record of efficiency in stewarding donor-raised contributions for maximum impact on Parkinson’s drug development.
The Foundation’s Continued Commitment to Supporting the Next Generation of Parkinson’s Clinicians
Even when neurology residents do choose movement disorder careers, a lack of funding for additional training has historically made it challenging for them to secure the experience necessary to become specialists. In response to this need, MJFF and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation partnered to establish the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders. Launched in 2014, this program annually selects five world-renowned medical centers to each train a movement disorder clinician-researcher over two years. (Due to a generous increase in support from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, the Classes of 2024 and 2025 will each train eight new movement disorder specialists.) By 2025, the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders will graduate 48 new movement disorder specialists in communities around the world to treat patients and lead research into patients’ most pressing needs. These educational and training programs demonstrate MJFF’s commitment to serving the millions who live with PD through investments that connect Parkinson’s research to clinical care.
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
As the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $950 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. For more information, visit us on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.