Website Edition: June/July 2011

Training Tomorrow's Movement Disorder Superheroes

DMRF and Merz Partner to Offer Clinical Movement Disorders
Fellowships with a Focus on Dystonia

By Arthur Kessler, President, Dystonia Medical Research Foundation

Movement disorder neurologists are among the dystonia community's superheroes. Many of us who have navigated the dystonia diagnosis process have been met with bafflement and even skepticism as we attempted to describe unusual symptoms to health care providers outside the field of movement disorders. Unless appropriately referred, dystonia patients often endure a challenging period of misdiagnosis. We may be told, "You probably just over did it and have some muscle strain," or "We can't find anything wrong with you," or "Let's refer you to a qualified psychiatrist." Meanwhile, symptoms and pain escalate. As someone who saw 15 doctors over the course of five years before being properly diagnosed with early onset dystonia, I know firsthand how important it is for individuals with dystonia to be diagnosed and treated by the correct specialist. That first encounter with a movement disorder expert who can look us in the eye and say, "I know what you have, and I think I can help," is not just comforting but often life-changing.

As those of you in the field can fully appreciate, dystonia is a complex, still often un- or misdiagnosed disease. The situation is compounded by the fact that there is no single test to confirm the diagnosis of dystonia. Despite decades of advancement in dystonia research, the diagnostic process remains grounded in clinical phenomenology, the neurologic examination, and supportive laboratory testing.

Once an individual is diagnosed, treatment becomes the next challenge, and there are now more options at the clinician's disposal than ever before, including multiple therapeutic neurotoxins and deep brain stimulation. However, dystonia patients continue to report difficulties in locating physicians who are familiar with dystonia and can customize an appropriate treatment strategy to their unique needs. Dystonia-affected individuals and families throughout the country and the world remain in urgent need of expert clinical care.

The DMRF, with the support of Merz Pharmaceuticals, is addressing this problem by offering a clinical movement disorders fellowship program to train the dystonia clinical leaders of tomorrow. Working with a team of nationally recognized, expert dystonia clinicians, the DMRF will award clinical fellowships that train exceptionally qualified individuals in preparation for either an academic career or private practice in movement disorders with a concentration on dystonia. The fellow will, however, have training in the broad field of movement disorders. Fellowships will first be awarded beginning July 1, 2012.

The fellowship, a one year program with the option for a second year in clinical research, will focus on clinical evaluations, on-going clinical care, structuring patient management and learning intervention therapies including pharmacotherapy, a special emphasis on neurotoxin injections with/without EMG guidance, treatment with intrathecal baclofen and management of patients undergoing deep brain stimulation. The training will include attendance in outpatient clinics, clinical trials, didactic sessions, and encouraged participation in the NINDS/ORDR funded Dystonia Coalition. The option of a second year will be reserved for those outstanding candidates who are interested in dystonia research.

Eligible candidates must be board certified or board eligible in Neurology, have completed a neurology residency, and eligible for US medical license. Fellowships will be awarded at $75,000 per year.

Application information is forthcoming. For more information, contact the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) at 800-377-DYST (3978) or dystonia@dystonia-foundation.org

Arthur KesslerAbout Arthur Kessler
Arthur Kessler is President of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. He was diagnosed with early onset dystonia at the age of 12. Arthur graduated from Colgate University and earned an MBA from the Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He is currently in the private equity business, operating and investing in small businesses.