An interview with Robin Cohen from Mission PD on August 25, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Please tell me a little about your background.
For the past 30 years, I have enjoyed educating my patients about their dental health. Helping them see the importance of proper brushing and flossing techniques to stop the disease process of gingivitis. That love of helping others was what drove me to find the Parkinson’s community. I volunteered for a local Rock Steady Boxing affiliate.
This weekly class that I attended, put the wheels in motion to push me to get certified myself and teach. Wanting more tools to help this community, I attended more seminars to become certified in other exercise modalities for Parkinson’s. I was unfamiliar with the term occupational therapy until I started working with people with Parkinson’s (PwP). Setting my sights on expanding my education and wanting to have a science-based background I applied to Thomas Jefferson University’s Occupational Therapy Assisting (OTA) program in Philadelphia, Pa. Prior to beginning the program, I began working with Mission PD. We provide both in-person and virtual programs to PwP. We are lucky to be in an area that has two centers of excellence for Movement Disorders: Jefferson Health and Penn Medicine. Mission PD started as an online platform. We realized there was a need to reach people who do not have the ability or resources to travel a great distance to exercise and help them slow down the progression of this incurable disease. We provide these online services for our clients for free. We rely heavily on grant money and donations.
Can you tell me more about your organization?
Mission PD is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. We provide resources to people living with PD locally and virtually. Our classes pertain to motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. We have a book club and support groups. Plus, share links to webinars and other tools helpful to PwP and caregivers. We have advocacy and policy meetings to help empower our clients to get involved and use their voices to make change happen. Lastly, the platform allows our clients to communicate with each other via a thread chat.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
My passion has always been helping others. The core values of occupational therapy (altruism, dignity, equality, freedom, justice, truth, prudence) have always been characteristics that I have embodied. Being a part of this community and helping our clients achieve independence and live his or her best life is what keeps me moving forward. Learning new tools so I can help the population reach their meaningful goals is my why.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?
Goals are specific to each client that I work with. Occupational therapy practitioners (OTP) are taught to consider the whole person from a holistic point of view. Whatever is meaningful to that client (his/her everyday activities or ADLs) to help achieve greater independence is what I would collaborate with an OT and the PwP. I am certified in Rock Steady Boxing, PWR! Moves, and Parte’ (Parkinson’s Art of Expression). I create classes utilizing these modalities.
What type of training and how long are the programs
Mission PD has a virtual platform on Zoom with classes 7 days a week. We also offer in-person classes Monday through Thursday. Private and group training are available as well. Classes are 60 minutes.
What effect can it have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
A major symptom of PD is depression. My hope is for our clients to feel comfortable and share their experiences with no judgment or cancel culture. Feeling free to find the resources and to be able to educate themselves or look to ask others for their opinions. Basically, to talk and not feel so isolated.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
We have outgrown our space. We would love to find our forever home. I would also like to find a driving service that would assist our clients in getting to and from their homes to the gym. Finally, to continue with our advocacy work toward helping to pass The National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act. (H.R. 2365/S. 1064).
What events do you participate in?
I am an Ambassador for PMD Alliance. I am involved with volunteering for The MJFF and Parkinson’s Foundation with fundraising events locally as well as a special baseball fundraiser for Mission PD ~ Day at the Phillies ~ September 23, 2023, Phillies Vs. Mets.
How does this also assist the caregivers?
Mission PD has a caregiver space as well as resources to help educate themselves on their needs.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
How can others also become advocates for awareness?
Anyone can make a difference. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
Stay positive, think outside the box, and know that you are not alone.