As the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) celebrates its 30th anniversary, Multiple Sclerosis News Today talked with its CEO, June Halper, about the achievements of the CMSC from the past three decades and the goals for the next three. The exclusive interview took place at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the CMSC June 1-4 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Halper has been a nurse practitioner with a specialty in multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1978. She served as president of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers from 1995 and 1997 and has been its CEO since 1992. Given her experience and the fact that she watched the birth of the CMSC, Halper believes the consortium’s largest achievement over the years has been in its originality, which is focused on a team approach to improve the field of MS.
“The greatest milestone is just the fact that it was founded by a number of neurologists who in 1986 saw the possibility of a team approach to managing MS,” Halper said. “Years ago, before the consortium, the disease was managed by a neurologist only and all the other support staff and programs were nonexistent. And what these gentlemen saw was that nursing, rehabilitation, mental health services, counseling, and possibly some community support were vital to help somebody successfully deal with the long-term issues related to their disease.”
Halper, who has a long and distinguished record in promoting MS patient care, specialist training, and treatment advances and was the founding director of the International Organization of MS Nurses (IOMSN), remembered the importance of continuous care for MS patients. Unlike other conditions that attack temporarily, MS patients must deal with a lifetime of struggles, including relapses, remission, uncertainty, and progression.
The CMSC continues to work to improve the different aspects of patients’ lives. “We continue to grow and flourish because as more and more centers are founded, they keep joining us. Right now we have almost 280 MS centers all over North America,” said Halper, adding the consortium also has a foundation and is working with a number of sister organizations, including the International Organizations of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN).
Halper said the consortium started 30 years ago with only seven centers and a lot of dreams and hopes, but no drugs were available to treat multiple sclerosis. Since then, it has greatly increased and helped advance the field, which resulted in the approval of 14 disease-modifying drugs for MS patients. As for the future, Halper mentioned several projects for the future that will be focused on continuing to explore its worldwide team approach.
“Our strategic plan right now is to increase the workforce in the future, to try to get more professionals — doctors, nurses, rehab specialists, mental health professionals — interested in the disease, so that we can all retire and they can take over,” she smiled.
“And then we have a great deal of hope that there is going to be more personalized medicine — in other words, being able to target specific patients for specific therapies, when now it is rather random.”
In addition, the MS leader left a message for patients and loved ones who are currently dealing with the disease: “We are here for you. We do this all because we love people with MS and we care about what happens to them. We want to make sure that every person with MS — in North America at least, or throughout the world if we could — gets the best of care for every problem they are having related to MS.”
In April, Multiple Sclerosis News Today spoke to Halper to discuss the goals of the 2016 Annual Meeting of the CMSC, which is celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary. Halper also discussed advances in multiple sclerosis research and treatment, as well as the obstacles currently being faced by patients. The April interview is available here: http://bit.ly/1ZCAkGx.
This year, Multiple Sclerosis News Today is offering expanded coverage of the June 1-4 Annual Meeting of the CMSC. Our five-person news team will continue to publish feature articles on the presentations, exclusive video interviews from the convention floor with leading MS researchers and professionals, and live social media coverage and live streaming.