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International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society
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        VOLUME 28, ISSUE 1 • March, 2024.  Full issue »

MDS-PAS Leadership Awardee looks back on history, successes of Section  

Since the first edition of the Pan American Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Congress in Miami in 2017, the Congress Scientific Program Committee (CSPC) of the Congress and the leadership of the Pan American Section (PAS) have selected one recipient of the MDS-PAS Leadership Award. This year’s successful edition took place in the beautiful Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on February 9-11. During its opening ceremony, I had the honor and pleasure of receiving the PAS Leadership Award. It is a great privilege to follow the steps of the previous recipients (Tony Lang, Oscar Gershanik, Chris Goetz, and Cynthia Comella).  

I am still feeling particularly happy because of my involvement with PAS since its inception. In fact, after the successful creation of the European and Asia-Oceania Sections, the MDS leadership started a conversation to discuss what should be done at the American Continent. At that time there was the realization of the existence of two poles in the Americas, Latin America and USA plus Canada, that did not have a particularly close relationship. After lively discussions during the crucial Strategy and Planning Meeting of the Society that took place in Sintra, Portugal in 2012, it was decided to create a Pan American Section, bringing together all countries of the American Continent.  

Jorge Juncos (Atlanta, GA, USA), originally from Puerto Rico, was selected to be the first Chair of the new Section with a term from 2013 to 2015. This was decision was made during Matt Stern’s Presidency. The PAS section elected me to be Jorge’s successor from 2015 through 2017.  

The main aim of my six years as PAS Officer was to consolidate the Section, bridging the gap between Latin America and Canada-USA. This was achieved by many actions such as having equal representation of the two areas in the Officers, Executive Committee, and Education Committee. Landmarks of my term as PAS Chair included the organization of the first Pan American Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Congress and the organization of The Schools for Young Neurologists. Perhaps contrary to the initial gloomy expectations, the relationship among members from all over the American Continent was invariably (and remains so!) collegial.  

Later, as MDS President (2021-2023), I was recomforted to see that the PAS was consolidated, showing a remarkable growth. This was evident in areas where there was already an active movement disorders scene, but particularly in regions where in the past there was little or no activity related to our field. The best example of the latter is Central America and the Spanish Caribbean. Thanks to the creation of a working group devoted to fostering education of movement disorders in this region, there has been a remarkable increase of educational offerings and membership in Central America and the Caribbean. This culminated with the recent incorporation of the working group to the formal governance structure of PAS.  

Perhaps the best reward of my participation in the conception, birth and life of the PAS is to witness the enthusiastic participation of movement disorders professionals of the entire continent in the life of the Section. There is a palpable, genuine conviviality, particularly during the PAS Congresses: of smaller size, they allow more intimacy and contact between young colleagues with senior members of our field.  

Obviously, the ultimate goal of the MDS and its Sections, PAS included, is to improve the quality of care of people with movement disorders. In this regard, there is no doubt that PAS is delivering what the MDS and the community at large expected from it. I must clearly state that these achievements are not the result of actions of a hero-like person. Over the decade or so of the life of the PAS there has been the active participation of a large group of volunteers (many of whom have remained anonymous) and a professional and competent staff. The exemplary instance of the latter was Nilda Toro, past MDS-PAS Regional Program Manager. Without her indefatigable support, I would not have been able to achieve much ahead of the PAS. I also need to thank Cecilia Peralta, MD, (Buenos Aires, Argentina), the chair of the Cartagena CSPC, since it was this group that chose my name as the recipient of Awards. And last, but not the least, Alberto Espay, MD, (Cincinatti, OH, EUA), the current chair of the PAS, who, along the Section, gave the final approval of my nomination. 

Writing this note about the events of the life of PAS of which I have been part of makes me think of the final scene of “In Search of Lost Time.” Arriving late at a concert in an aristocratic mansion, M., the main character of the book, is led to the library to await the intermission. Over there he accommodates himself in an armchair, remembering all that had happened to him and those around him in the many past years. All the memories brought back became almost concrete, a reconquered past. It might have not been happiness, but there was joy and serenity. This was as I felt after receiving the PAS Leadership Award.


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