April 6, 2023, an Interview with Vice President, and Dean of FAU College of Medicine Dr. Julie Pilitsis. By Dr. George Ackerman. TogetherForSharon®
Please tell me a little about your background and what got you involved with awareness –
I am a neurosurgeon by training. During my residency, Deep Brain Stimulation had just become a treatment. I was amazed at its results and that led me to get specialty training in that area of the field. I have been performing DBS for 15 years but am also passionate about helping everyone in the Parkinson’s Disease community regardless of whether they need surgery..
Can you tell me more about FAU College of Medicine programs for individuals with Parkinson’s disease?
We are aiming to be a center of excellence in Parkinson’s disease. We have NIH funding and many student trainees interested in neurology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery who are involved not only in research but also in the clinic and the community. We have many community events at the clinic. We have 2 main locations, one in Boca Raton, FL the Marcus Institute of Integrated Health where we do 12 Parkinson’s events a month. In partnership with M3F, we will be offering even more frequent programming at our Jupiter campus.
The programs for PD include Yoga, Legos, Rock Steady Boxing, choir, dance meditation, Tai Chi, and healthy eating. I am doing a “Cooking with the Doc” special next week.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
I think the many years of treating good people and their families who are affected by the disease has had a real impact on me. It is just so important to get out and give people a better understanding of living with PD. I think people worry about having it and what it all means – so just being there as a guide is important. I want individuals to have a better understanding which will empower them. The disease does not impact everyone the same and many can still have a good quality of life.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when attending the courses?
I believe in the theory of either use it or lose it. Getting people moving is the most important. Exercise has been shown to slow the progression of the disease. The classes are also great for the sense of community. Because you are never sure how you will be one day or another, PD can be very socially isolating so a sense of community is important.
What type of training and how long are the classes?
The duration of the classes we offer vary. Sometimes we will do 6-week courses like Tai Chi or Yoga. Choir goes on year round and people can attend as long as they would like.
What effect can these programs have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
There is a lot of research that shows the movement slows down the progression of PD and improves quality of life. Whether this is do to moving around, the sense of community or a sense of accomplishment is unclear.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
I would like everyone to be aware that the programs exist and offer the programs in more areas, cities, and counties. We are currently only in two locations so it can be difficult to attend for people who live in Broward County or other cities. I would also like to offer programs in different languages like Spanish. More variety at different locations is important so that there is something for everyone. We will maintain virtual courses such as nutrition when possible.
What events do you participate out of the FAU program setting?
We try to get awareness going in a number of ways from speaking to groups, APDA seminars, community walks and talking with other physicians. We are working at the state level to get more awareness for the programs.
How can someone get in touch and sign up for the classes?
Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, BC-71
Boca Raton, FL 33431, (561) 297-4828 www.fau.edu/medicine
More about Julie G. Pilitsis, MD, PhD, MBA, is Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Vice President of Health Affairs at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
Being the first woman neurosurgeon to become a Dean, Dr. Pilitsis oversees the college’s innovative medical student and graduate medical education programs in partnership with a consortium of five regional hospitals. Dr. Pilitsis is also a board-certified practicing neurosurgeon who is a national expert in multidisciplinary pain, and movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease.
As Vice President of Health Affairs, Dr. Pilitsis is leading the FAU Health Network initiative. Under her
stewardship, FAU Health Network is well positioned to promote premium academic healthcare to the
community while addressing the challenges of shortages in medical workforce in the region. Guided by
vision “Of the Community, For the Community”, Dr. Pilitsis’ compassionate care for patients permeates
to the communities in the region, where she continues to tackle complex health challenges and create
Prior to joining FAU, Dr. Pilitsis served as division chief of functional neurosurgery and chair and
professor of the basic neuroscience department at Albany Medical College in New York. Dr. Pilitsis is the
2023 president of the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS), the first woman ever
to lead the organization. She is also President Elect of the American Society for Stereotactic and
Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN). She maintains an NIH sponsored research program focused
on device optimization for neuromodulation and has published over 200 journal articles, 4
books, and numerous chapters.