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Proposed center offers new hope for Parkinson’s patients, others

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

For the 10,000 New Mexicans afflicted with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, a proposed 16,000-square-foot clinic for comprehensive care at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center would be a one-stop shop for coordinated treatment and therapy.

It could also reduce the long waits – of up to nine months for new patients – for an appointment to see a UNM neurologist for a movement disorder.

A pending legislative appropriation of $3.5 million, matched by UNM funds, would pay for the center’s construction. Once built, another $1 million would be required for staffing for faculty, nurses, psychologists, social workers, therapists and speech therapists.

And there likely would be another benefit that addresses the state’s physician shortage, said Dr. Amanda Deligtisch, movement disorder specialist and assistant professor of neurology at UNM.

Dr. Amanda Deligtisch

“This is a recruiting tool, a center like this,” Deligtisch said. ” This is the kind of practice that attracts physicians, where we have a holistic program and we expect to be a center of excellence. All of those pieces are what people (providers) are looking for.”

“It’s almost like an ‘If you build it, they will come’ kind of phenomenon,” she said.

Movement disorder centers, located at teaching institutions, are “standard of care in most other states.”

“We aren’t creating something brand new,” she said. “This is tried and true.”

A center could also help others with neurological illnesses that affect one’s ability to move normally, including Huntington’s disease, restless legs syndrome, and tremor disorders.

“We take care of patients in our practice the best we can and part of that is what limits access,” Deligtisch said.

Being a specialist in New Mexico is often “hard,” she conceded. “You can definitely be out there as the only one or one and half or two people doing what you do.”

“It’s really different from when I practiced in New York City. There was somebody to take my job three minutes before I gave my job up to move to New Mexico. That doesn’t happen here. And recruiting is really challenging.

“It’s harder to recruit when it’s me sitting in an office at UNM, right? And so, when you have a beautiful site with resources and a program that we can offer people, that is sort of unlimited growth.”

There would be the potential for having a surgical program, “because there’s surgical therapies for certain disorders and for growing community outreach. I mean it kind of becomes endless. Those are powerful recruiting tools.”

New Mexico could also become a “real presence” for clinical trials with a new center, she said.

Former UNM Regent and state Rep. Jaime Koch of Santa Fe, who has Parkinson’s, is a vocal proponent of building a movement disorders center and was instrumental in getting a legislative memorial passed last year to kick start the project after his diagnosis.

Currently, just getting to an appointment to see a movement disorder neurologist at University Hospital in Albuquerque is difficult, Koch said.

“There’s no place to park. The parking garage is usually full and all the handicapped places are full.”

The new building would have appropriate patient access, such as handicapped parking out front and shorter and wider halls – features that could make it easy for patients to navigate an appointment there.

Koch said he and others would also welcome quicker access.

A nine-month wait for a new patient appointment is a “long time if you have Parkinson’s,” he added.

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