Muhammad Ali’s daughter to speak at annual Parkinson’s disease event

March 29, 2011 | Events, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham



Rasheda Ali has a message for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families from her world-famous boxing champion father, Muhammad Ali: “Never lose faith and never stop living each day to the fullest extent possible.”

Rasheda Ali, an internationally known author and speaker, will provide her insight as a daughter of a man with Parkinson’s disease as the keynote speaker for the 14th Annual Parkinson’s Disease Symposium, “The Balancing Act of Parkinson’s Disease,” Saturday, April 2, at Parkway Place, 2592 Parkway Plaza, Maumee.

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that occurs when nerves of the substantia nigra in the brain die or become impaired. Those nerves produce dopamine, a chemical that allows smooth and coordinated movement of the body’s muscles. When a majority of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear. Some key signs of the disease include tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity and difficulty walking.

In the United States, 50,000 to 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are added each year to the more than one million already diagnosed, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation of Northwest Ohio.

Rasheda Ali wrote the book, I’ll Hold Your Hand So You Won’t Fall: A Child’s Guide to Parkinson’s Disease, after watching the interaction her children have with her father. In contrast to when she was a child and her father’s symptoms were subtle, Rasheda’s children see the visible signs of Parkinson’s disease in their grandfather.

Muhammad Ali, a three-time World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic gold medal boxer, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 at age 42.

Rasheda Ali will discuss coping with a neurological condition and how it affects the family unit. Her message is partnership, love and support to strengthen the family and bring members closer together.

“All the people here are excited to hear her message of hope. She will really inspire people,” said Dr. Lawrence Elmer, UT professor of neurology and director of the Center of Neurological Health.

The annual symposium is held to benefit patients with Parkinson’s disease, their families and the community with up-to-date information, research and treatment. The symposium attracts up to 600 attendees each year, Elmer said.

“Parkinson’s is a challenging disease, but we try our best to make it as insignificant as possible,” Elmer said. “People have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have them.”

The symposium also will include remarks from Dr. Krishe Menezes, UT assistant professor of neurology, who will discuss the latest in deep brain stimulation as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Michelle Masterson, chair of the UT Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and associate professor and director of the Physical Therapy Program, along with Dr. Selena Nicholas-Bublick, UT assistant professor of neurology, will discuss intimacy issues to promote better relationships.

Doors at Parkway Place will open at 8 a.m. with the welcome and introductions beginning at 9 a.m. Rasheda Ali is expected to address the crowd at 11 a.m., following the morning speeches about deep brain stimulation and intimacy. A lunch, raffle and panel discussion will round out the event, which is scheduled to end at 3 p.m.

The annual symposium is co-sponsored by the Parkinson Foundation of Northwest Ohio and the UT Medical Center Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Program.

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