January 29, 2009
Lisa Shulman, MD, the Eugenia Brin Professor of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders in the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is featured in a PBS FRONTLINE documentary about the disease. My Father, My Brother and Me explores how three members of the same family have dealt with their diagnoses of Parkinson's.
The program will be broadcast on FRONTLINE on February 3, 2009. It can also be viewed online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/parkinsons/#.
Dr. Shulman, who is also co-director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center, is currently overseeing a multi-year study to determine if regular exercise can help people with Parkinson's improve their balance and walking.
During the show, viewers will see study participants walking on specialized treadmills at the Baltimore VA’s Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, a gym facility with equipment for people who may have some physical limitations. Study participant Thomas Manning of Laurel also shares his personal story and how he feels the exercise has benefited him.
Dr. Lisa Shulman, M.D. is the principle investigator for the University of Maryland study. During the Frontline program, she observes, "Maybe there's been a cultural perspective that has embraced pharmaceutical and surgical approaches and has considered lifestyle changes soft and not worthy of study. But it's not at all hard for me to imagine that the results of a properly designed exercise program are going to be more effective than many of the medications we have now.” The study is funded by a $750,000 grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
My Father, My Brother and Me is by radio and TV producer Dave Iverson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2002. Iverson’s father was diagnosed in 1971 and his brother learned he had the disease 20 years later.
"For me, Parkinson’s is a personal story, but the disease is much more than a family saga," says Iverson on the FRONTLINE website. "It’s the second most common neurological disorder there is, and it raises intriguing questions for science and our aging society."
“Parkinson’s patients tell us that when the disease begins to affect their ability to walk, their entire life is affected," says Dr. Shulman. "They have trouble with daily activities such as dressing, housekeeping, shopping and getting around their community. That’s why we are so interested in studying if exercise can help these patients improve their gait and balance, because it is so fundamental to their daily lives.”
For more information on the University of Maryland/Baltimore VA Medical Center trial on Parkinson’s disease and exercise, go to these sites: