What’s Happening in the Muscular Dystrophy Field in 2021


Donald Wood, PhD, the recently elected president and CEO of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, discusses what’s coming up in the field of muscular dystrophy in 2021.

Contemporary Clinic® interviewed Donald Wood, PhD, the recently elected president and CEO of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the muscular dystrophy field.

Alana Hippensteele: Is there anything happening in the muscular dystrophy field in 2021 you plan to keep your eye on?

Donald Wood: There's something happening every year, like I said, we've been around for 70 years, and we are used to being leaders. What we aren't used to is having a drop in fundraising. So, the first thing that I’ve got to focus on in a pandemic, as you might imagine, is our funding has dropped significantly, and so we need to raise the funds in order to drive the successes, the mission, and everything else. So that's one thing.

The other thing is the advancement in science and medicine continues all over the world. Many of the researchers we support are now coming back to the labs. Remember, the pandemic actually took them out of the labs, and so now they're coming back to the labs. Clearly the clinics kept going—we have 150 clinics nationally.

People may not be aware of the vast national network of clinics we have for treating patients with neuromuscular disease. How many patients do we treat a year with neuromuscular disease? Over 60,000 patients, [which includes] more than a hundred thousand visits a year. We have a huge patient network.

So clearly, I'm going to be very focused on maintaining the doors open, maintaining the health of our caregivers, maintaining those kinds of aspects, and seeing that our patients continue to get the treatments they need. They absolutely have to have them; the pandemic hasn't stopped that.

That's one thing I want your audience to know is that the Muscular Dystrophy Association has been able to keep open every clinic—not one patient has been not served because of the pandemic. We've been able to make our way through there.

But we have 2 things that are very important: We got to raise more funds in this time of COVID-19, and then we also got to move science and medicine forward to advance treatments. We have things in both areas that I'd like to highlight.

First since the fundraising comes before the advances, we have a huge, huge event in February and March we call Shamrocks. Thousands of stores all over the country will participate in this, and you can make a donation and a Shamrock goes up on the thing with your name and all the rest of it, and that raises millions for us. So, hopefully your audience still needs groceries, still needs various things, so when you go in a store that's participating in Shamrocks, please join us—that would be great.

Then on the scientific medical side, we're able to hold, again not in person, but virtually the world's largest scientific medical conference on neuromuscular disease. We host that every year, and we're doing that again this year.

So we have something like 1200 scientists and physicians that will join us virtually, hundreds of speakers talking about the latest advances in research, the latest advances in science, and that also fosters collaborations between folks not only within the US, but because it's sort of the biggest in the world across borders. That's part of what has helped lead us to be leaders in neuromuscular disease is by connecting physicians and scientists to each other, laboratories to each other, to make the next generation of discoveries for treating patients in neuromuscular disease.

So, 2021 actually is turning into a very exciting year. So, help join us in increasing funding and increasing research and medicine going forward.

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