By Jerilyn Bowers
Director of Development and Public Affairs
In celebration of Parkinson’s Awareness last month, we launched a video celebrating two unique champions for research: Michael Westphal, a former competitive runner who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 49, and Aric Rogers, Ph.D., a scientist at the MDI Biological Laboratory who was motivated to study neurodegenerative diseases by a family history of Huntington’s disease.
These two individuals are each running a race to find a cure for Parkinson’s.
After being sidelined by the disease for nearly a decade, Michael decided to start running again in 2014. To his surprise, he found not only that he could still run, but that running improved his condition. In 2015 he completed his first marathon in nearly 15 years with a time that qualified him to compete in the Boston Marathon. Last month, he completed the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 39 minutes and 59 seconds.
Through his running, Michael has raised more than $40,000 to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Meanwhile, Assistant Professor Aric Rogers is running a different kind of race. He and his team are striving to develop new therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. Motivated by several immediate family members who suffer from Huntington’s, Aric is equally determined to provide relief to patients whose lives are affected by these devastating diseases.
Inspiring stories of people like Michael are what motivate all of us at the MDI Biological Laboratory to continue our efforts to improve human health. And thanks to you – our supporters, friends and alumni — we’re doing just that.
We have launched the “Breaking Through” site to keep you informed about what’s going on at the laboratory — the significant breakthroughs, as well as the day-to-day work that makes big accomplishments possible; the educational programs that are helping to build a biomedical research culture in Maine; and the events that are spreading the word about the important work on aging and regeneration that we are doing here.
Please take a moment to learn more about Michael and Aric by viewing the video. I’m certain their determination and dedication will inspire you just as they do me.