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University of Florida Parkinson’s clinical practice again named Center of Excellence

The Parkinson’s disease clinical practice within the University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration has been designated a Center of Excellence by the National Parkinson Foundation for the third time.

The Center of Excellence, part of the McKnight Brain Institute of UF, is one of three in Florida and one of 41 worldwide.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by the National Parkinson Foundation as a Center of Excellence, and it also reignites the challenge to keep working as a team and looking for new ways to serve our patients,” said director Irene Malaty, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology in the UF College of Medicine.

Centers of excellence must meet numerous criteria for research, comprehensive care, patient outreach services and professional education. For example, patients must have access to a wide array of treatment options, ranging from surgical to experimental therapies. Clinical training and research is prioritized, and patients and caregivers must receive access to educational seminars, support groups and wellness programs. Centers must reapply for the designation every five years.

“The bar is set high on purpose,” said Michael Okun, M.D., co-director of the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration and a professor of neurology. “The competition to become a Center of Excellence is very difficult.”

The process has gotten increasingly rigorous over the years. A peer-review committee comprising a medical director and a nurse or social worker from two separate centers of excellence conducts an on-site assessment. The reviewers evaluate the facility’s programs, procedures and research and also consider factors such as convenient parking and patient wait times. UF received high marks on all counts.

“They passed with flying colors,” said Peter Schmidt, Ph.D., National Parkinson Foundation chief information officer and vice president of programs, who visited UF to officially mark the designation.Created in 2002, the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration receives more than 1,000 Parkinson’s patients annually at its offices inside the UF Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute. Patients can see many interdisciplinary specialists — psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, speech pathologists, psychiatrists and more — all at a single location, conceivably in a single day.

“The multidisciplinary care is, I think, the thing that’s most special about this center,” said Kelly Foote, M.D., co-director of the Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration and an associate professor of neurosurgery. “Here, various specialists work side by side in a single facility so patients don’t have to travel all over campus to get the care they need. It’s just a better way to deliver specialized health care.”

National Parkinson Foundation Centers of Excellence are considered leaders in Parkinson’s research and care, and they receive financial support from the foundation.

“We hope it’s a model for other centers,” said Okun, who is the national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation.

The centers are part of a consortium that meets annually to share updates and new research findings. The Center of Excellence designation also helps patients, because community doctors and the foundation take it into account when making referrals.

“We look for places where we can really be pleased to send patients and this center is at the top of that list,” Schmidt said.

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Marilee Griffin
Assistant Director of Communications, Cancer Center

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