Parkinson's disease center nurse trains others as advocates

Dec. 1, 2011

Christine Hunter, a registered nurse with the Parkinson's Disease Center and Movement Disorder Clinic at BCM, recently helped train 27 new members of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation's national advocacy network, Parkinson's Advocates in Research.

The three-day training took place in New Jersey, where Hunter used her expertise in clinical research to prepare new members to be a part of the advocacy network. Hunter was among a group of medical professionals from other institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, leading the training process.

The training consisted of educational sessions on topics such as what Parkinson's disease is and what the process is as research moves from lab work to clinical trials.

"To be an effective advocate, it was important to understand why the processes are in place, how they are aimed at protecting those taking part in the research and how it relates to the history of human subject research," Hunter said.

After training, new members are able to return to their communities and work as advocates for research-related activities, including serving on research advisory boards, teaching others about clinical research and taking part in support groups.

"The new members also talk about the importance of people taking part in clinical research. We cannot conduct clinical trials without participants," Hunter said. "They are the key to new therapies."

New members of the advocacy network are people who in some way are affected by Parkinson's disease and who want to play a role in influencing research and the development of new and effective treatments. The advocacy group was created to ensure the unique perspectives of people touched by Parkinson's are included in research decisions and implementation.

Hunter has been a part of the training sessions for four years, but has had experience working in community outreach for much longer.

"We at the PDCMDC at Baylor have been working with the community and education regarding clinical research since the center's establishment in 1977, and I personally have been involved since 1996," she said.

Hunter, along with Dr. Joohi Jimenez-Shahed, assistant professor of neurology at BCM, will take part in the training sessions scheduled for the Southern regions.

Additional training sessions will take place across the United States. To learn more about Southern regional training sessions scheduled for March 2012, please call 800-457-6676, e-mail info@pdf.org or visit www.pdf.org/pair.

The Parkinson's Disease Center and Movement Disorder Clinic at BCM is under the direction of Dr. Joseph Jankovic, professor of neurology.