An interview with Eric Richardson, President/CEO of the National Parkinsons Institute 8/3/2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Eric Richardson is the current President/CEO of National Parkinsons Institute. Mr. Richardson has been in the health and fitness industry for 18+ years with a background in physical therapy, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. Eric holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Louisville, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science/Sports Medicine with a minor in Nutrition. He holds the top certifications in the field: American Council on Exercise (ACE) where he is a contributing writer and speaker, The National Strength, and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He’s also certified with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist.
Eric has worked with all populations and has great experience with obese and specialized patients. He leads all clients, classes, and patients with a preventive and physical therapy approach. Mr. Richardson has specialized working with the Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) community, leading multiple exercise classes weekly for almost 15 years and is currently a coach for Rock Steady Boxing. Patients love him for his individual care, personal attention, and enthusiasm.
He has a passion for traveling and great foods from around the world. His hobbies are hiking, the outdoors, and music festivals, especially Bonnaroo. And is a huge University of Louisville and Atlanta Falcons sports fan.
Can you tell me more about the NPI?
National Parkinsons Institute was founded in Louisville, KY in 2020 during the pandemic out of need and necessity locally and nationally. NPI has grown at an extraordinary pace over the last 3 years by creating lasting relationships and partnerships with local and National companies and foundations. Partnerships with the University of Louisville Neurology, UofL Health, Louisville City FC Soccer Club, Maker’s Mark, Bill Collins Ford and a litany of others, awareness and the free services have been able to grow rapidly.
National Parkinsons Institute’s mission is to support the fight against Parkinson’s Disease by improving quality of life through exercise, education, and awareness.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
After spending several years as board members of a local Parkinson’s support center that closed at the start of the pandemic, current CEO Eric Richardson and Vice President Erika Ganong created NPI after getting calls from the Parkinson’s community, the caregivers, families and others that were worried about services disappearing and health declining.
CEO Eric Richardson has spent 15 years dedicated to Parkinson’s disease and has made it his passion and life goal to make individuals lives better who are battling Parkinson’s disease nationwide and to one day find a cure.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with he NPI?
Individuals with Parkinson’s disease have many different goals depending on their stage of the disease and individual issues. There are no two Parkinson’s patients alike. The goals for an individual with Parkinson’s disease can range from a variety of symptoms that can occur such as voice and speech issues, walking, freezing, feet shuffling, range of motions, mobility, dystonia, restless leg syndrome, and tremor as just a few examples.
What type of training and how long are the programs?
National Parkinsons Institute provides all their services and classes free of charge. The most popular program is Rock Steady Boxing. This 1 hour class provides an individual with all of the tools and intensity to help improve their daily lives while simultaneously helping slow the process of the disease. A typical class will work on your cardiovascular system, strengthening, balance, core, fine motors skills, big movements, processing skills and many more.
NPI also offers the Buddy Program. This program partners a 1st year, University of Louisville Medical Student with a Parkinson’s Individual for an entire year with the only condition is that they meet once a month together doing an activity or outing of their choosing. This program was designed to help combat the stigma and unknowns with Parkinson’s disease. This has led to several medical students choosing a career as a Movement Disorder Specialist in Neurology.
NPI also provides other programs such as yoga, meditation, support groups, educational seminars, luncheons, festivals, group outings and so much more.
What effect does the NPI’s programs and exercises have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
Studies have shown that intense exercise is the most effect way to slow the progression of Parkinson disease. Rock Steady Boxing provides this type of intensity with several rounds different of gloved boxing stations and ungloved activities.
Fight Back with Fitness is another program created 15 years ago by CEO Eric Richardson when first tasked with creating an intense exercise program specifically for Parkinson’s disease. This program is a full body workout, targeting the major muscles groups of the body as well as challenging balance, strengthening the core and stretching routines.
Another major area the group attended programs and classes provides is the social aspect. Being socially active and around others has proven to be a major necessity for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. This helps combat depression, decline in cognitive abilities and overall health for an individual battling Parkinson’s disease.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
National Parkinsons Institute has very lofty goals for the near future. Just announced is a state-of-the-art headquarters, research facility and health campus located in Louisville, KY. This campus will serve as the model for a national rollout of support and programming in underserved Parkinson’s communities. Helping to provide these communities with the resources, tools, and classes to successfully serve their Parkinson’s community will better, prolong and save lives of those currently fighting the disease. The research facility will bring the best and brightest research and companies from across the globe under one roof to work synergistically to fast-track treatments, medications and ultimately a cure.
With an “everything under one roof” approach, NPI’s health campus will be the go-to when it comes to Parkinson’s Disease.
Another goal of the Institute is helping secure passage of the first and only, Parkinson’s specific Bill currently in Congress: The National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act. This bipartisan bill with create an advisory committee that reports findings back to Congress, sets aside money specifically for creating awareness, new programs and services and to fast track a cure.
What events do you participate in?
National Parkinson’s Institute attends and provides events all throughout the year. Attending Rock Steady Boxing’s yearly Coach Con is a great way to learn new skills and to keep your program on the cutting edge. Other events like the World Parkinson’s Conference, Neuro Expos, and Clinics help spread our awareness and reach.
NPI’s own events range in variety and scope. The yearly Red Tulip Gala is their premier event. An exciting evening with a guest list of 500 in historic and breathtaking venues is their largest fundraiser of the year.
Other events like their Spring and Fall Festival, Christmas Gathering, Game Nights, Luncheons, Golf Leagues, and a new yearly Parkinson’s Walk provide a wide range of variety to fit everyone’s need.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
Anyone that wishes to learn more, have questions answered or would like to donate can visit our website at nationalparkinsonsinstitute.com
How can others also become advocates for awareness?
If there are individuals who would like help to grow their Parkinson’s community, volunteer or have questions, please reach out and send an email to Admin@nationalparkinsonsinstitute.com
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
National Parkinsons Institute is here for every individual in their Parkinson’s journey. Whether it’s the patient themselves, a care partner, family member or friends of someone fighting Parkinson’s disease, we want them to know they are not alone. NPI was created out of caring and a passion to provide help to everyone in every way.