A Health-Care Hero is leading The University of Toledo’s Center for Neurological Health.Dr. Lawrence Elmer, UT professor of neurology and director of the Center of Neurological Health and the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Program, recently was honored as a Health-Care Hero by the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio at the third annual Health-Care Heroes recognition ceremony held this summer at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.
Health-Care Heroes was started in 2008 to recognize health-care professionals who are making a significant impact in the health-care industry and on the quality of life in their community. The honor goes to individuals who are not motivated by praise, recognition or job advancement, but those who desire to make a difference in the lives they touch.
Elmer, who has spent the last 13 years at The University of Toledo Medical Center, researches the most promising medications for Parkinson’s disease. Many of these investigational treatments have been found effective and have become available medicines for adults living with Parkinson’s.
“I wish I had a magic wand to take it away, but we have the next best thing. We can do our best to make Parkinson’s as insignificant as possible in the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease,” Elmer said.
Elmer helped create the annual Northwest Ohio Parkinson’s Disease Symposium to inspire and educate patients, caregivers, students and health professionals dealing with Parkinson’s. In its first year, the symposium drew less than 200 people; now in its 14th year, it has grown to 600 attendees, making it the second largest annual Parkinson’s symposium in the nation.
“In the old days of the symposium when we did not have as many medications to help, it was easy to tell who had Parkinson’s. Now the attendees have to go around their tables and ask who has Parkinson’s disease and who doesn’t. That means what we are doing treatment-wise seems to be working,” Elmer said.
He also has been able to help those struggling to pay medical expenses by establishing his own patient assistance program in the Neurology Department that has assisted hundreds of patients who need medication but are unable to afford it. This program annually dispenses more than $250,000 in free medications supplied by pharmaceutical companies.
Elmer, who was nominated for this award by the daughter of one of his patients, was one of five Health-Care Heroes selected out of 55 candidates.
“It is very humbling to hear of the other heroes’ achievements and to be awarded as a part of that group,” Elmer said.
“The thing I love most about my job is helping older adults with Parkinson’s live life to the fullest without having them feel like they are in prison, because Parkinson’s disease can make you feel like you are being locked inside your own body. We are taking the chains off of these people,” Elmer said. “When I hear stories of people treated at UT working in their garden, golfing, bowling or just returning to those things they love to do, that makes all our team efforts more than worthwhile.”