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Health & Wellness

Hope in Progress: Parkinson’s disease

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Hello Get Old Readers,

My name is Heather Gardiner and I have been a summer intern at Pfizer in the Global Commercial Operations department. I’m from Westchester, New York and I’m a student at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

My grandfather was an endocrinologist, with a focus on diabetes, and my grandmother was a pediatrician. My interest in health care is not a foreign concept to my family, but it wasn’t until my grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease that I really realized how important it was for me to work in health.

According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder that is chronic and progressive, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. An estimated 10 million people worldwide live with the disease.1 For years, I watched my grandfather’s life flip inside out as his daily challenges have increased dramatically. Instead of spending his days treating others, my grandfather now finds himself constantly working to take care of himself.

After lunch one day at Pfizer, I noticed a big sign in the lobby. It read, “Project Blue Sky - Parkinson’s.” I walked over and soon found myself engrossed with the new health technology research.

Pfizer and IBM are collaborating with the goal of finding a new approach to transform how clinicians deliver care to patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Project Blue Sky takes an experimental approach, which gives Parkinson’s patients as well as their physicians, the capability to detect and monitor any changes in the disease’s development through remote and innovative technology. “The ultimate goal is to obtain a better understanding of a patient’s disease progression and medication response to help inform treatment decisions and clinical trial design, while also speeding the development of new therapeutic options.”2

This summer as an intern at Pfizer, I have become hopeful about the next decade of health care. I hope that someday people like my grandfather will be able to beat their diseases and live a life of normality and freedom. I’m inspired by the dedication to Project Blue Sky, and am motivated to continue to work so I can someday be inventive and think of new and better ways to overcome disease and illness.

When I told my grandfather about the project, I could feel his excitement. I couldn’t help but feel proud to be part of a company working on something that could bring a smile to his face.

1. Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Understanding Parkinson’s
2. Pfizer Taps IBM for Research Collaboration to Transform Parkinson’s Disease Care

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