Parkinson's in the Spotlight This Saturday in Pittsburgh

Sep 13, 2012

Hundreds of Parkinson’s patients and their loved ones are expected to gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Saturday in an effort to learn more about the disease, the latest research, and a few tricks to living with the illness.  The day-long and free Victory Summit sponsored by the Davis Phinney Foundation kicks off at 9:00am.

Davis Phinney is an Olympic Bronze Medalist who has more cycling event wins than any other US Cyclist and is also living with Parkinson’s Disease.  Since 2004 his foundation has spent more than $3.8 Million to “support, inform and inspire people living with Parkinson’s” to help them “live well today.”

Allegheny General Hospital Department of Neurosurgery Vice President Don Whiting will be part of the event.  “There are doctors, both neurologists and surgeons as well as physical medicine doctors, different types of therapists, different types of people that do exercise type therapy, music type therapy, support group people.  Just basically a one-stop place for any questions that would affect the family or the patient with Parkinson’s Disease," said Phinney.

Whiting stress that while there are companies and organizations that man booths at the event, it is not about selling a product or pushing a particular treatment.  He said it is about taking an holistic approach to the illness.  “For example they have movement breaks where people during the conference get up and move…” said Whiting.

Awareness of the disease has been growing in recent years with high-profile patients such as Davis Phinney and actor Michael J. Fox speaking out about thier personal struggles with Parkinson’s  Whiting said while the incidence of Parkinson’s is not on the rise nationwide, there is a higher than average rate of Parkinson’s in Pittsburgh that he says is related to the high number of individuals who once worked in the mills of southwestern Pennsylvania.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s and only recently has there been any indication that the available therapies slow the progression of the disease.  “There is some early research that is starting to be published that the deep brain stimulator (electrodes inserted into the patient’s brain) can slow down the progression but nobody knows why and it still isn’t definitive,” said Whiting.

The Phinney Foundation’s web site addresses the issue of fighting the illness on two fronts by noting, “while it’s critical to find a cure for Parkinson’s, we feel strongly that people living with this disease also need information and tools to live well today.”

Registration information for the event can be found here.