Student Scholar Program at Louisiana Tech Connects Parkinson’s Patients to Resources

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by Mary Chapman |

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Through Louisiana Tech University‘s (LTU) Student Scholar program, participants are both learning and teaching others about Parkinson’s disease (PD) and available support.

Lauren Tompkins is one of two students currently in the program at LTU’s Parkinson Resource Center (PRC), which aims to promote a healthy PD community by connecting people, programs, ideas and resources. A sophomore nursing student, Tompkins works with the area patient community.

“We’re just trying to get resources to the community and to people in the area with Parkinson’s,” Tompkins said in a press release.

The program gives students hands-on experience caring for those with the progressive disorder, which affects seven to 10 million individuals globally.

“We want to impact those who will be our future nurses caring for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Donna Hood, who, along with fellow LTU professor Tara Haskins, directed the PRC’s formation. “What we found is folks with Parkinson’s disease are very often hungry for resources. Our students have been great about helping to put those resources into the hands of the people who reach out to us.”

The students spend time learning as much as possible about resources specific to the complex condition that affects each patient differently. The program’s PRC office abounds with educational books, pamphlets and other materials.

“It starts with education,” Hood said. “If they’re going to connect folks with Parkinson’s to resources, they need to know the resources. They would go in and spend a couple of hours a week listening to webinars, reading and reviewing.”

Near the PRC is the university’s Lambright Sports and Wellness Center, where Parkinson’s-related activities such as Rock Steady Boxing take place. Exercise is important for PD patients because it helps maintain balance, mobility and the ability to perform daily routines. Student Scholar participants volunteer with Rock Steady Boxing, a program that uses a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum to help slow Parkinson’s and enable better disease symptom management. The PRC also has launched a PD dance program.

“More and more people are affected by [Parkinson’s] than we realize,”  Tompkins said. “It’s not really taught that much in other schools. It’s important for nursing students and biology students, speech pathology students and kinesiology students just to get a little insight about the disease so they know what to expect and what to tell patients.”

Hood said many area PD patients are in need of resources, and that the Student Scholar program and other PRC efforts are helping to remedy that.

“They don’t have ready access right now, but through Louisiana Tech and our collaborative effort, we can really grow those resources, and we can see that happening,” she said.

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