More thoughts on the WPC in Kyoto

There were many inspirational moments at the WPC.  I have already written about some of them, and will highlight a few more today.

The most inspiring speaker of the WPC was Dr. Linda K. Olsen, who gave the keynote speech at the opening.  Dr. Olsen lost both of her legs and and arm in a car and train accident over 30 years ago.   Many years later she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Her indomitable spirit is amazing.  Enjoy the video of her speech from Tuesday night.  Turn up the volume, because it is a bit muted.

Thursday, June 6

Thursday at the WPC started early.  Ronnie Todaro, from the Parkinson’s Foundation was presenting at Hot Topics at 8:00 am.  Her presentation “A Closer look at the unmet needs, research and care priorities for Women with Parkinson’s” was about the Women and PD Study that I had been a co-chair of for the last two years.

Getting a shout-out from Ronnie Todaro at her Hot Topics presentation was the highlight of my day!

I then went to the PD Movement Lab with Pamela Quinn, which was terrific.  Here is the description of the session from the program catalogue:

“Using a wide range of dance moves, great music, and practical cueing strategies, we use a wide range of dance movements, wonderful music and practical cueing strategies, we challenge the body, defy our expectations, and  Challenges the body, violates our expectations, and enhances our spirit.”

Mr. Twitchy and I went to a showing of the film “Kinetics” (https://www.kineticsfilm.com/) by Sue Wylie.  Then went to get our Bento box lunches for the day, only to find out that there was a glitch with the caterer, who did not provide enough and they ran out of food!  After scrambling to find something to eat, I missed almost all of the noon talk by Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka on  “Current status of iPS cells and efforts for medical application”.  I will have to watch the video later.

My final session of the conference was a round table discussion on “Staying positive and engaged after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, advice from a PwP and care partner.”  I decided to check it out because one of my Parky friends was leading the discussion.  Since there was a Japanese interpreter at the session, most of the participants were Japanese and much of the time was spent translating.    I think everyone got something out of the session, but it was hard to tell because of the language barrier.  I had to leave a few minutes early to catch a train to Tokyo.

One thing I learned today is that I apparently missed some very good sessions throughout the three days for various reasons.  Will have to catch up by watching what is available on Youtube. Right now, you can view some highlights by Sarah King at by clicking here. At the end of the conference it was announce that the next WPC will be in Barcelona from June 7-10, 2022.

How Are Women with Parkinson’s Different than Men?

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The new image of Parkinson’s DIsease

What image comes to mind when you hear someone has Parkinson’s Disease?  I am sure it is not what you would have seen in Houston at the Women and PD TALK National Forum last week.

In a little over 2 years from concept to fruition, the Parkinson’s Foundation’s Women and PD TALK initiative held 10 regional Forums in the past year, and a final National Forum in Houston last week. Three years ago, at the Parkinsons Disease Foundation’s (now Parkinsons Foundation) Women & PD Initiative conference that I was privileged to attend, one of the key take-aways was that there are disparities in research and care between women and men with PD.  To date, there had not been any studies to look seriously at these disparities and we wanted to know what could be done to improve the care and treatment of women with PD.   A year later, Ronnie Todaro, VP at the Foundation who had led the Women & PD Initiative, applied for a PCORI (Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute) grant to help fund Women & PD TALK.

Because the grant required patient involvement, I was honored to be named a co-lead on the project, along with Dr. Allison Willis, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.  We worked with Megan Feeney, M.P.H.
Manager, Community Engagement at the Parkinson’s Foundation to put everything in place for this initiative.

There were 10 regional forums, with sites chosen to represent large urban areas as well as more rural areas.  Each  forum leadership team included a Woman with Parkinson’s, a Movement Disorders Specialist or Neurologist and an Allied Health Professional.   About 40 participants, both women with PD and Health Professionals attended each of the full day events.  Breakout groups at the forums gave valuable information on Risk, Symptoms, Treatment and Care.

50 people, about a third of them women with Parkinson’s Disease, gathered in Houston at the National Forum to go over the findings from the 10 forums and begin to set some goals and create recommendations and action plans.  There is too much to report here now, but there will be some specific recommendations to improve the care and treatment of women with Parkinson’s in the final report.

Meeting with such strong women, both people with Parkinson’s and health professionals, makes me proud to be a part of the PD community and inspires and empowers me to do more.      Kelly W

What was most interesting to me is that while there are definitely differences in symptoms and reactions to medications, many of the disparities were more cultural and social.  Just a few examples:

  • There are a significant number of women with PD who are caregivers, taking care of children, elderly parents or sick spouses and there is no one to take care of them.
  • Women tend to go to their doctor’s appointments alone, while men do not.  In fact, women go alone to most things related to PD.
  • Women do not go to support groups as often as men.  Some reported that when they went, they were asked who they were taking care of.  No one believed that they were the one with PD.
  • Being treated dismissively by doctors. Told it was all in their heads, and in many cases, especially for younger women, it was because of hormones.
  • Women need to connect to other women with Parkinson’s. There was a lot of talk about the need for mentors to be paired with the newly diagnosed, to make the disease less frightening and be there for them when needed.
  • Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!!!! We can’t say it enough.
  • And finally, can we get rid of that awful caricature of a man hunched over with PD and replace it with the photo above of 11 amazing women with Parkinson’s?

Thank you  Ronnie, Megan and Dr. Allison for giving me the opportunity to be an integral part of this team.

A full report will be issued, with specific recommendations and strategies to improve the lives of women with Parkinson’s Disease, sometime in the spring of 2019.     I am looking forward to sharing it with you.  In the meantime, click here for the link for the press release about Women and PD TALK.