In Australia, 37 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each day.

The statistic hits close to home for IHMRI researcher Dr. Claire Stevens, whose father Graham lives with Parkinson’s.

“I completed my PhD in Parkinson’s disease because of my Dad. I figured if I’m going to spend my life, or at least three and a half years researching something, I wanted it to be for a really good reason,” she said.

Dr. Claire Stevens and her father Graham

Graham has lived with Parkinson’s for nearly twenty years. Five years ago he received deep brain stimulation: electrical signals implanted into the brain. The procedure significantly improved Graham’s most debilitating symptoms – his ability to walk and tremors. However, the procedure is a once off treatment. As with neurodegenerative disorders, the brain will continue to get worse over time. 

Dr. Stevens said that raising awareness helps the community understand how vital research funds are for her, on a career and a personal level.

“Without past medical research we wouldn’t have the medication or deep brain stimulation my dad received. We need more funding and more fabulous research so we can get closer to that cure. If not a cure, better treatments will give people a better quality of life for longer,” she said. 

For Dr. Stevens, Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Day is about about hope and action.

“It is about highlighting the amazing work done by Parkinson’s organisations, support groups, healthcare workers and researchers. It helps people with Parkinson’s and their families know where they can go to access support and resources, and ultimately feel confident that they do not fight alone,” she said.

Research in the Illawarra

Professor Heath Ecroyd is a lead Parkinson’s Disease researcher at IHMRI.

His research involves understanding the disease at the molecular level.

“By understanding what causes the disease, we can try and find ways to stop this from happening, and hopefully a treatment,” he said.

“By finding drugs that can make a difference, I hope that one day people diagnosed with diseases such as Parkinson’s disease do not have to be told they are fighting a debilitating and progressive disorder. Instead, I hope those people can be offered a treatment. “

Professor Ecroyd said community awareness is vital in making a difference.

“The research we are doing right here in the Illawarra is world class and can make a difference. By engaging with the community, including people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and their families, it highlights to us how important our work is to people’s lives and it inspires us to work harder towards a treatment.”

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