3 posts tagged “2018 Team of Advisors”

2018 National ALS Advocacy Conference: A recap from Team of Advisors members Rich & Paul

Posted 1 month ago by

Last month, Rich and Paul from this year’s Team of Advisors attended the 2018 National ALS Advocacy Conference in Washington D.C. to learn about the latest ALS research, network, and meet with members of congress on Capitol Hill. Just over 600 people attended the event, including 100+ pALS and 240 first-time participants.

The event started on Sunday with opening remarks followed by an afternoon session, reception, networking dinner and entertainment. Paul and Rich had the opportunity to share with pALS about PatientsLikeMe. Read on to learn how it went and what they accomplished.

(front row: Holly Crowder, Stacy Crowder, Kathy Tavano, Team of Advisors member Paul and Tanner Hockinsmith from the ALSA; back row: Stephen Reynolds from Senator Cronyn’s office)

Day 2: Research & Policy

  • Opportunities to participate in research: Rich (and other participants) gave saliva samples to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and blood to the National Institutes on Health (NIH).
  • Interview with Rich: Rich spoke about the ALS Registry Taskforce that exists to brainstorm and come together to find ways to increase participation.
  • Public Policy sessions: These sessions included time to prepare for the visit to Capitol Hill, a Congressional Panel with bipartisan Congressional staff and remarks from US Senator Bill Cassidy.
  • Interview with Pat Quinn: Pat Quinn, the Ice Bucket Challenge co-founder spoke about a new voice generating software and platform.
  • Research panel: Lucie Brujin, John Landers and Tody Ferguson held a panel discussion on where we are in ALS research, and what is coming in the pipeline.
  • Closing remarks/strategy: Following the closing remarks, attendees had time to strategize with state chapters. Paul and Rich’s chapter (the ALS Association FL Chapter) was represented by 17 people including:
  • 2 pALS, caregivers, family members, friends, the President of the ALS Association chapter in Florida and 3 researchers

 

(Tim Cummings (surviving spouse of ALS patient, former board president of ALS association FL chapter), Dorothy Marsh (who lost her sister to ALS), Martin Rivera (Rep. Darren Soto’s office), Team of Advisors member Rich, Talitha, and Rich’s daughter, Gigi.)

Day 3: To the Hill

Rich, Paul and the other members of their chapter headed to Capitol Hill to meet with senators, representatives and their staff.

Their mission?

The Taskforce of advocates asked U.S. Senators and Representatives to gain support for:

  1. The senate and house bills dealing with the ALS Disability Assurance Act. Passage of this bill would eliminate the 5-month waiting period for Medicare.
  2. Continued funding $10M for Department of Defense (DOD) ALS research
  3. CDC funding $10M for the National ALS Registry
  4. Continued NIH funding for $39.3B
  5. Support for Steve Gleason to receive the Medal of Freedom award

They met with congressmen and their staff including:

  • The offices of Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Representatives Darren Soto, Al Lawson, John Rutherford and Ted Yoho.

Were they successful?

“There is no way to know for sure but based on questions asked by the people we met with and the notes taken we felt our mission was successful,” Paul said.

While getting support for “Right to Try” wasn’t officially part of the mission, they did discuss the topic with many of the staffers they met. Representatives Lawson, Rutherford and Yoho all voted in favor of the legislation a few weeks later.

Going forward, Rich and Paul plan to follow up with the congressmen (and their staff) to make sure their asks are met.

Want to get involved with ALS advocacy? On PatientsLikeMe, more than nearly 700 members of your community say they’re interested in advocacy — Join today to connect with others who want to make a difference.

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Confessions of a research study addict: “It’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

Posted 5 months ago by

Elizabeth is a member of the 2018 Team of Advisors living with MS and a self-described research addict. Here’s what she had to say about her experience contributing to research and why “it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

I’ve always been a sucker for a focus group. Give me some free pizza and I’ll tell you everything you want to know about your product, service or ad campaign. In fact, I got into advertising as a career because I liked the research part of it so much.

So, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I applied that same mindset to my disease approach.

The first MS research study I did came a few months after my doctor prescribed Avonex. For someone with a virulent needle phobia, a weekly intramuscular shot sounded almost worse than having MS. So I spent the next few months imagining myself on a beach—right before I tried in vain to push an inch-and-a-half needle into my leg. The meditation didn’t quite take, but my passion for research didn’t waiver (thank goodness for a husband who didn’t mind giving shots and, later, the Avonex quick inject pen!)

Next came the EPIC Study — “an intensive observational study of over 500 people with MS who have been carefully studied since 2004.” I even got my parents involved as a control group. Once a year for twelve years I’ve been getting evoked potentials, an eye screening, a hand-eye coordination exam, and a bonus MRI — I also play a dreaded number addition memory game. I’m proud to be part of this study—last week I was lucky enough to see some of the preliminary findings that I contributed to (hint: there is some AMAZING stuff happening in the MS therapy world.)

I made a brief, but unsuccessful, journey into a Copaxone clinical trial where I had the honor of getting lipoatrophy faster than any patient my doc has ever seen. My case even made it into a medical journal. And while the dents in my thighs never let me forget this one, I like to think my experience helped someone else avoid their own unseemly dents.

My research obsession doesn’t stop with MS. I fit a patient profile for a breast screening study to determine if mammograms alone or with a DNA test can improve outcomes for detecting early cancers. I was happy to be a part of this work, plus I learned I don’t have a carrier gene—a nice bonus of helping out.

Yes, health studies are a bit addictive to me. I get a thrill from trying a new approach or having my data contribute to a new protocol. And while there are different levels of research (especially when it comes to drug trials), every observation, every data point moves our collective understanding about MS and chronic illness forward. I’m grateful to play a role in that; it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.

So, what’s next? The other day I heard about an MS gut microbiome study. The details are…a little gross. But sign me up!

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