Louisiana Tech's Parkinson Resource Center bringing more resources to the area

RUSTON, La. (KNOE) - The Parkinson Resource Center at Louisiana Tech University is growing to offer more resources for people with Parkinson’s Disease. After the success of the Rock Steady Boxing class, they’re looking at bringing Dance for PD to Ruston.

The Parkinson Resource Center at Louisiana Tech University is growing its resources for Parkinson's Disease patients. (KNOE)

Dr. Larry Neal is an Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor, and also a Parkinson’s patient. He brought the Rock Steady Boxing classes to Ruston back in 2016, and due to the success of the classes, faculty at Louisiana Tech felt there was a need for more resources. That’s when Louisiana Tech and their Division of Nursing came together to create a center in the fall of 2018.

They had their first sample Dance for PD class last week, taught by Tech alum Kelly Harp Haber, who already teaches these classes down in New Orleans. Dr. Neal says it was a lot of fun for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their spouses and families.

"Music was a big part of it, we love to hear music and the rhythm,” says Dr. Neal, “I learned how to wave significantly and how to move and point with music."

And the center is growing too. The Speech-Language Pathology Department at Tech is also joining the center to bring more expertise.

The faculty will be “bringing the Lee Silverman Voice training program, an evidenced-based Parkinson's program, to deal with the issues of voice and the softening of the voice that comes with Parkinson's Disease,” says Dr. Donna Hood, the Director of the Division of Nursing.

There are “a lot of symptoms, voice and swallowing, sense of smell, and stiffness, pain, and discomfort, and as we begin to see those things we begin to realize we need things more than just exercise,” says Dr. Neal.

Dr. Tara Haskins, an Associate Professor with the Division of Nursing, says the center reaches out to people as far away as Southern Arkansas.

“We believe that our impact is not just in Ruston, this extends both north, south, east, and west of us,” says Dr. Haskins. “There are a lot of rural communities."

She says this program is not only helpful for those with Parkinson’s Disease, but also for students. They have a student scholar program, where students apply to be a Parkinson Nursing Student Scholar and they work in the center all year long. Dr. Haskins says their first four scholars just completed the program, and they’re looking forward to more.