The Maxine Mesinger Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital opened today in Houston. The new clinic is designed to give patients unique access to care from a variety of specialists and medical staff, including neurologists, gynecologists, urologists, physical therapists and social workers.

The clinic is part of the Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital Multiple Sclerosis Center, a joint effort that focuses on clinical care, basic and clinical research and outreach for multiple sclerosis -- a chronic, often disabling neurological disease that affects the central nervous system. As the disease progresses, recovery from each relapse becomes less and less complete, leading to disability or the inability to function.

"Multiple sclerosis can severely limit the mobility of the people who have it," said Dr. Victor Rivera, professor of neurology at Baylor, elected deputy chief of neurology at Methodist and medical director of the clinic. "The medical staff of the clinic met with experts including patients with MS and advisors from the national Multiple Sclerosis Society to design a clinic that was both functional and comfortable for patients with unique needs."

The new clinic is named in honor of the late Houston Chronicle society columnist Maxine Mesinger, who had the disease and was an active fundraiser for multiple sclerosis-related causes until her death in 2001.

"I know Maxine would be very pleased with the opening of this new clinic because it offers so many options in one location to people with this dreaded disease," said her widower, Emil Mesinger.

The clinic offers unique access to MS research studies conducted at Baylor and Methodist. Current research open to MS patients includes stem cell transplantation and national trials testing new MS drugs.

"We are developing new tests like gene expression profiling analysis, that may help clinicians to better evaluate patient response to the current treatments," said Dr. Jingwu Zhang, director of research for the Center.

From a simple blood test, researchers are hoping to tell which of the FDA-approved treatments for MS will work best on each individual patient. Since MS is a slow-progressing disease, determining whether a drug is helping a patient can often take a long time.

Patients from outside the United States will benefit from the clinic's area for international patients, where staff members facilitate travel arrangements to the clinic and coordinate care with the patient's treating physician. The clinic also features multilingual physicians and personnel and maintains close ties with MS Associations in Latin America. Rivera established the Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital International Multiple Sclerosis Center in 1996.

The Methodist Hospital's neurology department is ranked #11 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The clinic is one of two Centers of Excellence in Texas affiliated with and partially funded by the Lone Star Chapter of the National MS Society.