Profile: Parkinson’s Institute


by Bruce Roberts

Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, was the epitome of grace and lightning-fast movement in his days as a boxing champion. He claimed to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and he was not exaggerating.   To see him today though, years later,  slow of movement, shuffling,  leaning forward, slurred speech, uncontrollable shaking, he has also become the epitome of a Parkinson’s Disease patient, a tragedy of which all should be aware.

Fortunately for the world in the year 2012, the Parkinson’s Institute—based in Sunnyvale, California—exists.  The brainstorm of its founder, Dr. J. William Langston, this institute stands out in its field because its approach to Parkinson’s is all-inclusive. Dr. Langston’s concept is “to take an integrated approach to basic clinical research and patient care” (PI website). In other words, other Parkinson’s sites are either research clinics or treatment clinics. The Parkinson’s Institute is both—world class research combined with top-notch patient care to put the research into practice.

All this from an equally world class staff. In fact, two of the PI’s doctors have recently won prestigious awards in their fields.  Dr. Caroline Tanner, the Director of Clinical Research, won the 2012 Movement Disorders Research Award from the American Academy of Neurology.  Significantly, she is the first woman ever to receive this award.   Also, Dr. Langston himself has been awarded the Robert M. Pritzker Award from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.  He received this honor “for his profound contributions to Parkinson’s disease therapeutic development and his exceptional commitment to mentoring the next generation of Parkinson’s researchers.” (MJF Foundation)

PI’s other emphasis, of course, is patient care.  Even Dr. Langston sees patients every day, indicating that PI has its feet firmly anchored in the real world.  Additionally, they offer a wide range of seminars to aid their patients—and their caregivers—in coping with Parkinson’s.  Patients can take seminars for those newly diagnosed, for medications and drug interaction, for social interactions, for financial planning, and even for dance and PD.  Many other programs are offered, and most of these seminars are free and available to caregivers too, a true community service.

Recently, PI has become the collaborative center for a 20 million dollar grant, together with Emory University and UCLA, to focus on epidemiological research—the environmental,  genetic, and age-related risk factors for Parkinson’s Disease.  Understanding these causes will improve PI’s ability to prevent and treat Parkinson’s, and indeed, that is their only goal:  to lick Parkinson’s Disease and make the world healthier.

They should be constantly commended and supported for their outstanding work. Just Google the Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale and click DONATIONS on their website to offer your support.

Bruce Roberts, who may be reached at, is an accomplished sculptor and schoolteacher from Hayward, California. 

2 thoughts on “Profile: Parkinson’s Institute

  1. Pingback: Synchronized Chaos » Blog Archive » Synchronized Chaos, July 2012: Growth and Development

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