$15K med scholarship set for MS research

June 10, 2010 – Officials of the global Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers — which staged its annual meeting in downtown San Antonio — announced the creation of a $15,000 scholarship, intended for a University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio medical student specializing in neurological disorders

The local office of Genzyme Corp., a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, donated the $15,000 in scholarship money. The scholarship was unveiled during opening ceremonies of the CMSC’s 24th annual gathering staged at the Grand Hyatt hotel over the course of three days last week. More than 1,400 doctors, researchers, caregivers and other professionals from around the world who work with multiple sclerosis patients participated in the meeting.

“The importance of this is to get our young students interested in neurosciences,” said Dr. James P. Simsarian at the conference. Simsarian is the director of the multiple sclerosis program at the Neurology Center of Fairfax, Va., and past president of the CMSC. “We appreciate the willingness of UT Health Science Center to embrace the opportunity for a fellowship.”

With the theme “Multiple Sclerosis: Sustaining Care, Seeking a Cure,” health professionals from all over the world — including individuals from Cuba and as far away as Australia — gathered to share their findings with colleagues and ascertain the global impact of the autoimmune disease afflicting some 2 million people worldwide. A series of panel discussion from June 2-5 focused on the immunology, genetics, epidemiology and pathophysiology of MS.

Robert M. Esterl, professor of surgery and interim associate dean for student affairs at UTHSCSA, said the scholarship money would help alleviate the burden of tuition, books and fees for a needy student hoping to specialize in study of MS.

The complexity of MS and the emerging knowledge on how to treat the disease calls attention to the need to nurture its study, Simsarian said. To that end, officials hope the scholarship money will help spark a young student’s interest in pursuing the field.

“If you bring a young mind to a science like this, they’ll get interested,” Simsarian said. “WE need to nurture the colleagues of the future.”

CMSC President Colleen Harris agreed with the premise: “We tend to see retention. Once we engage (students), they tend to stay,” she said.

Up until the 1980s, not much was known about MS, and sometimes people were misdiagnosed with another malady, Simsarian said. Since that time, progress has been in diagnosis and treatment. But the need for awareness continues.

The scholarship will be awarded to a deserving student with an interest in neurology who is currently enrolled at the medical school of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The scholarship money will go toward tuition expenses but also include an opportunity for preceptorships at both a locally based multiple sclerosis clinical care center and in a research-based setting.

By Tony Cantu