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Published: Saturday, 5/25/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

New Toledo facility offers hope for Parkinson's patients

UT aims to become leading treatment center for disease

BY LORENZO LIGATO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dr. Lawrence Elmer hugs Jo Stockstiel of Holland during the open house of the Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center at the University of Toledo's Health Science Campus. The advanced clinical treatment facility aims to be one of the nation’s leading Parkinson’s centers. Dr. Lawrence Elmer hugs Jo Stockstiel of Holland during the open house of the Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center at the University of Toledo's Health Science Campus. The advanced clinical treatment facility aims to be one of the nation’s leading Parkinson’s centers.
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Vicki Bolinger was only 47 years old when she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2002. A retired nurse, she underwent a series of medications and treatments in clinics scattered across Ohio before arriving at the Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center on the University of Toledo Health Science campus.

It was at the center, she said, that she found a "wonderful, dedicated staff and rooms twice as big."

Ms. Bolinger, 58, of Marion, Ohio, is one some 1,300 patients who will receive treatment at the new Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center.

Characteristics of Parkinson’s disease include shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the brain disorder affects about 500,000 people in the United States. The average age of onset is 60 years. The disease was first described in 1817 by James Parkinson, a British doctor.

The nearly 6,000-square-foot center was inaugurated on Apr. 26 after a major six-month renovation project that turned the old medical facility into “one of the leading Parkinson's centers in the nation,” said Dr. Lawrence Elmer, a professor of neurology at the University of Toledo and medical director of the Parkinson’s Center at the former Medical College of Ohio.

When he arrived in Toledo as an assistant professor in July, 1998, Dr. Elmer said the city lacked a center dedicated to the treatment of movement disorders. Four years ago, Dr. Elmer partnered with the Parkinson's Foundation of Northwest Ohio to organize a fund-raising dinner for a new Parkinson clinic in the old Medical Pavilion of the University of Toledo.

The event exceeded all of Dr. Elmer's expectations: The dinner raised more than $120,000 to help offset the approximate $1.35 million in renovation costs. The renovation was largely financed by private donors, including the family of Findlay businessman Philip Gardner and the Harold and Helen McMaster Foundation, in recognition of which the Parkinson Center has been named.

Vicki Bolinger talks about a brain procedure for her Parkinson's disease while touring the open house at the Parkinson's center. Vicki Bolinger talks about a brain procedure for her Parkinson's disease while touring the open house at the Parkinson's center.
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“None of this would have been possible without the generosity of the Gardner and McMaster families, the Parkinson’s Foundation of Northwest Ohio, and the many, many people who made individual gifts to help fight, treat, and one day cure this disease,” Dr. Elmer said. “In spite of our nation’s economic challenges, this overwhelming degree of community and university support is breathtaking."

The center's “team-care approach” to combating complications of the disease is setting it up to be one of the leading Parkinson clinics in the nation, Dr. Elmer said. The center staffs a multidisciplinary team of physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, pharmacists, neuropsychologists, and others trained to treat patients who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor and executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Toledo, said the new Parkinson's center is a resource not only for Northwest Ohio, but globally.

“Advanced clinical treatment facilities like this one separate academic medical centers from other health-care organizations and attract patients from all corners of the globe seeking the most current treatments available,” Dr. Gold said in a statement.

Patients can get medical treatment, obtain information about new research in medications, or learn specific exercises to alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Soon, the center will also offer innovative surgical practices like deep-brain stimulation, a treatment in which a “brain pacemaker” is implanted into the brain of the patient to generate electrical impulses.

In addition to medical care and Parkinson's research, the center offers patients and their caretakers a set of educational and emotional support resources, including a patient-advocacy team sponsored by the Parkinson's Foundation of Northwest Ohio. The team, which meets weekly in the clinic, comprises 20 volunteers who provide “comfort and security to patients,” said Robert Dubois, a volunteer at the center and a Parkinson's patient.

Mr. Dubois, 68, applauded the work of the staff.

“This is a center of excellence,” he said.

Dr. Elmer said the patient advocacy team is necessary to help patients and their families navigate through the intricacies of the health-care system and to educate them about the disease and the available treatments.

“As we often say, the best prescription we write is for hope,” Dr. Elmer said.

In addition to the Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center, the Medical Pavilion houses the relocated Urology, Nephrology, and Transplant Clinic, the Pain Clinic, and the outpatient pharmacy.

The Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center operates Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment only.

Contact Lorenzo Ligato at: lligato@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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