$20 million gift will expand Parkinson’s disease programs and research

The gift will ensure greater access to medical expertise; expand innovative clinical translational research; and recruit, train and attract even more best-in-class specialists.

Norton Healthcare has announced a gift of $20 million to the “Just Imagine” campaign from the estate of Elizabeth Pahk Cressman, M.D., Ph.D., to support programming and research in Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders at Norton Neuroscience Institute. The gift will ensure greater access to medical expertise; expand innovative clinical translational research; and recruit, train and attract even more best-in-class specialists.

“During her lifetime, Dr. Cressman’s vision has helped elevate the care for Parkinson’s patients  — helping to create a nationally known program through Norton Neuroscience Institute,” said Lynnie Meyer, R.N., Ed.D., FAHP, CFRE, senior vice president and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “She also was the catalyst behind funding Parkinson’s disease research that already has helped transform the lives of many patients and families through access to more groundbreaking treatments.”

Dr. Cressman was a respected anesthesiologist at what is now Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, while her husband, the late Frederick K. Cressman, M.D., was a pathologist at CPA Lab, a Part of Norton Healthcare. Both of the Cressmans understood the power of philanthropy and giving back to the community. Dr. Frederick Cressman died in January 2010 after a seven-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Before her death in June 2021, Dr. Elizabeth Cressman provided $8 million to establish Cressman Critical Care Center at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, as well as Norton Neuroscience Institute Cressman Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center on the Norton Brownsboro Hospital campus. This latest gift brings Dr. Cressman’s total support of initiatives at Norton Neuroscience Institute and Norton Healthcare to $28 million.

Nearly 1 million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the number continues to increase. The movement disorder generally develops in people ages 55 to 75. While more men are affected, women have a higher mortality rate and faster progression of the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The main symptom of Parkinson’s disease is bradykinesia, or slowness of moment. It also can cause tremors and muscle stiffness.

“Parkinson’s disease can be extremely debilitating and, unfortunately, there currently is no cure,” said Justin T. Phillips, M.D., movement disorders neurologist with Cressman Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center. “With Dr. Cressman’s generosity, we are able to build upon the work we already do and offer even more options for patients. She has already had a great impact on people with Parkinson’s in our community, and that will continue for years to come.”

This $20 million gift will work to expand Parkinson’s programs within Cressman Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center and Cressman Parkinson’s Research. Donations also allow the Norton Neuroscience Institute team to provide exercise groups to help slow the progression of the disease, individual therapy through Cressman Neurological Rehabilitation and patient support groups through Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers.

At Cressman Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center, specialists Dr. Phillips and Jason L. Crowell, M.D., work to provide the latest and most effective treatments to help patients. These include medications, therapeutic treatments and surgery such as deep brain stimulation. In the near future, emerging therapies may include neuron repair treatments, gene therapies and modulation of gut-brain interactions.  

Research into movement disorders is rapidly expanding and key to building knowledge that will lead to additional treatments. At Cressman Parkinson’s Research, Shirish S. Barve, Ph.D., chief research scientist, Norton Neuroscience Institute and Norton Research Institute, leads research efforts. Dr. Barve is known internationally for his research on the connection between the gut microbiome and brain. The work of Dr. Barve and his team, which includes Smita S. Ghare, Ph.D., senior research scientist at Norton Research Institute, has received sustained federal funding from the National Institutes of Health to investigate changes in gut-brain interactions.

“We know that the gut is constantly influenced by lifestyle issues, including aging, lack of sleep, stress and diet,” Dr. Barve said. “We want to understand the impact of lifestyle on gut bacteria and associated immune responses in the development of neuroinflammation and degeneration that lead to Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders that affect brain function. We are hopeful this translational research will lead to better preventive and treatment options for these disorders and improve patient care.”

You can be a part of making a difference for people living with Parkinson’s disease. Make a donation to the “Just Imagine” campaign at JustImagineCampaign.com.

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