LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 14, 2021) — UK HealthCare’s Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Center, a part of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, is celebrating one of its biggest achievements since it was created about three decades ago. The MS Center is now recognized as a Center for Comprehensive Care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. To achieve this status a center must address the needs of those living with MS by coordinating multi-disciplinary care, from medical, psycho-social and rehabilitation services, to provide exceptional care.
“Being called a Comprehensive MS Care Center implies that physicians of multiple subspecialties come together under one roof for the patients, the availability of this kind of expertise offers a tremendous breadth of services available,” says Dr. Jay Avasarala, professor of neurology, who leads the MS team at UK HealthCare.
Avasarala says the recent recognition is the result of years of hard work to improve patient care and experience at UK HealthCare. “This shows that the Department of Neurology is 100% invested in patient care as it pertains to multiple sclerosis,” he said.
MS is one of the most common neurological conditions in the United States with more than one million people living with the condition. Worldwide it affects more than two million people with 5,000 of those individuals being in Kentucky and southeast Indiana, according to the National MS Society. MS is also a complicated condition to diagnose and manage. The disorder that can come with debilitating symptoms does impact people of all ages and backgrounds. Most people are diagnosed between ages 20 and 50, but research estimates upwards of 10,000 children under the age of 18 live with MS worldwide. These are all reasons why having a broad base of care is key to a patient’s treatment.
Typically, a 16-year-old is focused on enjoying the prime of their high school years, learning to drive, and looking ahead to college. But for Aleah Archer that was a time in her life that she found out she was living with an incurable illness.
“Finding out that I had Multiple Sclerosis at age 16 is undoubtedly the biggest turning point in my life thus far. Experiencing my body taking such a negative turn in a matter of months was pretty terrifying,” she remembers.
This all started with what she calls an obvious decrease in her peripheral vision that then developed into a dark band accompanied by sharp headaches. Those symptoms plus a diagnosis of Optic Neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve, led her to UK Chandler Emergency Department.
Archer, who is now a junior at the University of Kentucky, says after a lumbar puncture and MRI confirmed a MS diagnosis, UK HealthCare’s MS Center immediately got to work in helping her manage her disease. She has seen multiple providers within the MS Center and says they have all been instrumental in making sure she is aware of how MS is affecting her body. “Dr. Padmaja Sudakar is always quick to get me in if my eyesight gets worse, and Dr. Avasarala swiftly took me on as a new patient when Dr. Joshua Chalkley was out of town for a little while. Dr. Chalkley has even given me his phone number so I can message him if I have a question that I need answered as quick as possible.”
Thanks to her care at UK HealthCare, Archer has been able to live her life as a normal college student. As someone who has always been passionate about learning and helping others do the same, she is working towards her goal of becoming a teacher.
“MS is very tricky to deal with given its unpredictability - but with the help of my doctors - I have had access to new, groundbreaking medicine, consistently thorough care, and most importantly to me – genuine empathy.”
She is also thankful that since her diagnosis she has been able to receive the care needed in her home region – and now that she is a student at UK – literally in her backyard.
“Knowing that I have a team of professionals at my side who go the extra mile to assist me displays their dedication not only to their practice but also to my care. If that is not the definition of the power of advanced medicine, I do not know what is.”
With so many variables at play when it comes to MS, having a team of specialists on hand to address the unique challenges is critical. This new recognition makes it clear that the MS Center at UK HealthCare is equipped with the experts necessary to manage the complete spectrum of MS-related complications.
“This recognition underscores the expertise of our providers and staff, our commitment to providing innovative, cutting edge care and our dedication to our clinical, research, educational and service missions,” says Dr. Larry Goldstein, chair of UK’s Department of Neurology.
The MS team is not stopping with their recent certification as they are determined to keep moving both patient care and research forward. “We are very active in recruiting patients for clinical trials, and we are looking forward to adding an Advanced Practice Provider (APP) to our ranks,” said Avasarala.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.