There are many people with MS who miss out on easy access to care from multiple sclerosis specialists, and they often have few places to turn for trusted information, or to get their questions answered. There is a place where we can get both for free – the Virtual MS Center. If you don’t know this special website, let me introduce you to its founder and its purpose.
The Virtual MS Center, established in 2013, lists its motto as “Stop searching, start learning,” and is a resource that every person with MS should know about. The Virtual MS Center is operated by HealthCare Journey, and overseen by Rip Kinkel, MD, director of the MS Center at the University of California, San Diego. Kinkel is one of the 20 medical experts who assist with staffing this site and answering questions submitted by readers. He is joined by neurologists, physical therapists, psychiatrists, dietitians, and others, all of whom specialize in treating people affected by MS.
Kinkel, originally from the Boston area, is affiliated with the Accelerated Cure Project, and is a member of the governing board for iConquerMS, the patient health data registry that I am part of. I can personally attest to Kinkel’s dedication to the MS community, so it was no surprise to me that, in addition to everything else he is involved with, he also heads the Virtual MS Center. This is a non-commercial operation, but not a non-profit group, and depends on the goodwill of organizations for funds to operate the website, and the willingness of the medical experts to donate talents to sustain the work. The companies that support the site have no input into the content.
The Virtual MS Center is not meant to replace your regular neurologist, but to be an additional source for MS education materials, and ways to improve our lives with MS. One of the best features of the site is its willingness to answer questions submitted to the Questions & Answers section. The appropriate MS expert will respond to your posted question, and everyone can benefit from reading this section. Even if you have your own neurologist, this is like having an additional medical expert to consult. The best part is that this is free.
The Virtual MS Center has several podcasts on Health and Wellness and it is a pleasant surprise to find acupuncture, reiki and guided imagery are among the topics presented. Complementary and alternative medicine seems to be embraced by the virtual staff, rather than discouraged. There also are blogs by patients, physicians, therapists, caregivers and researchers.
Another special area at the Virtual MS Center is Ask Dr. Debbie Your Research Questions, where physical therapist Debbie Backus, PhD, director of Multiple Sclerosis Research at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, is available to help us understand what those published research studies really mean. Again, I have to share that I know Backus, as she is a member of the iConquerMS research committee, and volunteers her time in a number of patient-centered MS projects. How often do you read about a study and want to understand it better? Ask Dr. Debbie is meant to help us interpret those concepts in ways that might be more meaningful.
My personal neurologist is good about answering my questions, explaining research, and much more, but invariably I think of other questions when I am not in the clinic office and I can always reach out to these virtual experts. More recently, a person in the iConquerMS registry emailed a question about the prevalence of bladder dysfunction, and I was able to submit the question to the experts at the Virtual MS Center to verify my own response.
I hope you will check out this resource, browse all the information, ask your questions and check in as a member of the Virtual MS Center.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.