Patients, Caregivers, Doctors Unite at Parkinson’s Forum

By ChaseYavondaC

One: Arm yourself with the latest information about the treatment of Parkinson’s.

Two: Surround yourself with a community of fellow patients, caregivers and supporters.


Audience members shadow boxing

The audience practices their boxing skills.

This year, the punching was more than just a metaphor. Danny Dring, owner of and master instructor at Living Defense Martial Arts in Sherwood, demonstrated Rock Steady Boxing, a boxing program specifically designed to increase coordination, speed and confidence for Parkinson’s patients.

Following Dring’s instructions, the crowd held their arms overhead and circled their wrists and they popped up and down out of their chairs to warm up, and then they used their fists to fight the phantom foes in the air before them.

Event organizer Erika Petersen, M.D., a neurosurgeon and associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery, said they try to include an exercise demonstration like Dring’s at each event. Previously they’ve had Thai Chi, and future programs might include chair yoga or salsa dancing.

Erika Petersen, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery and director of the Section of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery, organizes the annual forum.

Exercise is part of the well-rounded, multidisciplinary approach to treating Parkinson’s at the Movement Disorders Clinic at UAMS.

“We launched the Parkinson’s Forum a few years after forming the multidisciplinary movement disorders program, which is unique in the state. We have a comprehensive program where everything is under one roof – neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, researchers, speech-language pathologists and other specialists,” Petersen said. “We wanted to provide patients with a way to learn about everything we are working on and what’s new with Parkinson’s research and treatment, while building community at the same time.”

Forty people attended the first Parkinson’s Forum, which has grown steadily from there.

This year’s event was held April 15 at the UAMS Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. It featured experts in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s, information on research and clinical trials and discussions for patients and caregivers about living with the disease. For the first time this year, doctors, nurses and pharmacists could apply for continuing medical education for attending the forum.

Topics included:

  • Clinical trials basics for Parkinson’s disease
  • Cognition in Parkinson’s disease
  • Panels on multidisciplinary approaches to mild as well as moderate and advanced Parkinson’s disease
  • Deep brain stimulation: what’s new?
Panel of experts on stage

Rachel Beckham; from left, Mary Latham; Tuhin Virmani, M.D./Ph.D.; and Shannon Doerhoff participate in a panel conversation.

Movement disorders include essential tremor, Huntington’s disease, ataxia, Tourette’s syndrome and other conditions that cause tremors, involuntary movements and difficulty walking.

Petersen is director of the Section of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery at UAMS. A fellowship-trained neurosurgeon, Petersen can perform a number of specialized surgeries, including deep brain stimulation, which acts similar to a pacemaker for the brain and blocks some of the signals that cause the increasingly debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s, dystonia and essential tremor that can make daily life difficult.

For more information or to join a list to receive updates about future Parkinson’s events, call 501-686-5270.