Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease are invited to participate in the Parkinson’s Disease Buddy Program, which matches them with first-year University of Louisville medical students for a series of one-on-one meetings designed to benefit both students and the patients. Buddies will be paired for one calendar year beginning in September, meeting two to three hours a month and at special group events.
The PD Buddy program, the only one of its kind for Parkinson’s patients, was launched last summer as a partnership between UofL and the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana. Twenty-five buddy pairs participated in the year-long program designed to give the patients social interaction and allow them to share their stories with the students, who in turn gained first-hand knowledge about living with a nervous system disorder. The program also serves to better educate students about Parkinson’s, introduce students to research and career opportunities in neurology and movement disorders, and provide people with Parkinson’s Disease the opportunity to interact more closely with the medical community.
Kathrin LaFaver, MD, the Raymond Lee Lebby Chair for Parkinson’s Disease Research in the Department of Neurology at UofL and director of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Clinic at UofL Physicians, said the exchanges give the students a deeper understanding of how patients cope with the disease. LaFaver also meets monthly with the students to provide additional medical information and inform the students about research and career opportunities in neurology and movement disorders.
Since this program is unique for Parkinson’s patients, LaFaver, along with Erika Branch, executive director of the Parkinson Support Center, and Denise Cumberland, PhD, assistant professor in the UofL College of Education and Human Development, will present findings from the first year of the PD Buddy Program at the World Parkinson Congress in Portland, Oregon, in September.
The PD Buddy Program, also sponsored by KentuckyOne Health, is open to anyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease who has the time and interest to participate. In addition to one-on-one meetings with the students, several group activities will be planned over the course of the year. Patients must understand that this is an education program and that the medical students will not be able to give medical advice.
Interested individuals may call the UofL Physicians Movement Disorders Clinic at 502-582-7654, the Parkinson Support Center of Kentucky at 502-254-3388, or email a completed application form to firstname.lastname@example.org prior to August 15. Application forms may be downloaded online.