An interview with Dr. Zoltan Mari, Neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders on September 1, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Please tell me a little about your background.
I am a neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s & movement disorders.
Can you tell me more about your advocacy?
As director of the Parkinson’s Foundation of Center of Excellence – the first and only such CoE in the state of Nevada, community outreach and education about Parkinson’s has been my top priority. Before moving to Nevada in 2017, I served as the Director of the Johns Hopkins National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) and after their reorganization Parkinson’s Foundation (PF) Center of Excellence as well, for 10+ years – and in the course of that work I helped oversee the initiation or continuation of over 100 PD support groups in 4 states. I have also been part of various advocacy efforts, including writing to Congress and/or local representatives. In addition, I am a life-long donor of the NPF/PF.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
Since Parkinson’s and movement disorders have been my life’s work, you can see that is my passion. I got involved in the effort to improve awareness throughout my work with the Parkinson’s Foundation. I would like to warn about the use of “hope for a cure”, as I am worried that unrealistic and over-the-top buzzwords and slogans may backfire and undermine the credibility of our awareness efforts. During this effort it is important to discuss what Parkinson’s disease is, how its pathology develops, to remain grounded to science and maintain realistic expectations.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?
Find the best possible treatment options that may be available to optimally control their symptoms and minimize their Parkinson’s related disabilities, to ensure they can enjoy the best quality of life they can.
What type of training and how long are the programs?
Our Parkinson’s programs are of different types and length. I am the activity director for all these programs. We have a “full day” fair, twice a year, which is held on a Saturday, and features over a dozen speakers and trainers, as well as parallel breakout sessions (typically including PT, SLP, dance therapy, music therapy, as well as other forms of training). There are also “evening seminars”, which last a couple of hours on a Thursday every other month and we usually have 4 speakers for these, covering an important theme or topic. Then we have a “lunch and learn” series on the 3rd Wednesday each month. We also have a monthly “PD Five” series in which we have a 5-minute quick 5-point webcast that covers an important area – with varied speakers. I also direct a CME lecture series called “Cleveland Clinic PD Grand Rounds” on the 4th Tuesday of the month, with world-renowned speakers addressing an important topic.
What effect can your advocacy have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
I believe my work as a Parkinson’s specialist and the organizer of their multidisciplinary care needs have far greater effect on any individual PD patient’s life than any of the advocacy that I will ever do. But advocacy can help us improve awareness, making sure more PD patients get to see a movement disorder specialist like myself and receive integrated care intended to improve their quality of life, along the concept of “wellness” (please find attached and please read a recent editorial I wrote on the “wellness prescription”).
What would you like to see as a future goal for your advocacy?
While I will do everything I can to promote advocacy, including public speaking, signing petitions, helping to raise funds, and my involvement with the media, I believe I best spend my time in touching lives in my work as an academic neurologist and expert of Parkinson’s, including seeing patients in clinic, training healthcare professionals, conducting research and education relevant to PD care.
What events do you participate in?
Many different kinds. A few of those:
- International scientific conferences. These are photos from the XXVIII World Congress on Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders in Chicago, Illinois, USA (in-person 13th to 16th May 2023).
- Fundraisers and awareness/advocacy events, such as the Parkinson’s Foundation “Moving Day” in Las Vegas on 5/6/2023. I received the IMPACT Award given for outstanding effort in community outreach, advocacy, education – the first time this award was given by the Parkinson’s Foundation in the state of Nevada.
- I am also advocating reaching out to celebrities. I am shown on this picture in front of our Center with Larry Ruvo, founder, and director of Keep Memory Alive Foundation, and with Garth Brooks, country singer, who visited our Center – I toured him around our facility, gave him an overview what our PF CoE is doing, and how advocacy is critical to improve the lives of PD patients:
- Furthermore, I participate in events focusing on Team Training
How does your advocacy also assist the caregivers?
Significantly. I advocate (and pay) for their team training. Here is one picture with my team at work (team meeting) and another photo from a 2022 Parkinson’s Foundation Team Training in Kansas City,
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
How can others also become advocates for awareness?
I recommend starting at the Parkinson’s Foundation.
If you could add any questions to this interview that you may want others to learn about, what would the question(s) be?
I recommend getting in touch with our media team – all the questions and any and all of my participation with the media must be approved and managed by them, including questions.
In your opinion what is the key to effective advocacy?
I believe having some personal connection to Parkinson’s. Those who have been personally affected (for example by seeing a family member’s struggles with PD), tend to be more motivated and effective – for example my great grandmother, who lived with us through her later years of life, while I was a teenager, affected my lifelong interest in pursuing PD related causes.
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
We can make a difference together.