Tech’s ‘Student Scholars’ help educate community about Parkinson disease

Feb 12, 2020 | Applied and Natural Sciences, General News, Innovation, Students

Neurology professor and physician Dr. Karl Kieburtz delivered a seminar on campus in the New Frontiers in Biomedical Research series on Jan. 13. Louisiana Tech University will continue to share a series of stories designed to help readers know more about diseases of the central nervous system and how Louisiana Tech students and faculty are working to advance care for them. This is a story from that series.

In the corner office of GTM 132, a shelf stands tall filled with resources ready for distribution. In front of this shelf sits Lauren Tompkins, a sophomore nursing student. Tompkins serves as one of two Student Scholars of the Parkinson Resource Center (PRC) on Louisiana Tech’s campus. As a Student Scholar, Tompkins has the privilege of working with the Ruston community and patients living with Parkinson’s disease, or PD.

Lauren Tompkins“We’re just trying to get resources to the community and to people in the area with Parkinson’s,” said Tompkins.

Formed under the direction of Tech professors Dr. Tara Haskins and Dr. Donna Hood, the PRC aims to improve the lives of PD patients, their caregivers, and their families. Through the Student Scholars program, nursing students are afforded hands-on experience in caring for the PD community.

“We want to impact those who will be our future nurses caring for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Hood. “What we found is folks with Parkinson’s disease are very often hungry for resources. Our students have been great about helping to put those resources into the hands of the people who reach out to us.”

Student Scholars spend time becoming familiar with Parkinson’s. Hood said that educating scholars first is key before they can go out and educate the community.

“It starts with education. If they’re going to connect folks with Parkinson’s to resources, they need to know the resources,” said Hood. “They would go in and spend a couple of hours a week listening to webinars, reading, and reviewing.”

Educational resources line the neat shelves and desks inside the room, but the real work of the center happens outside the doors of the PRC. Lambright Sports and Wellness Center is a central hub for Parkinson’s-related activities such as the Rock Steady Boxing Program.

Along with educational books and pamphlets, Tompkins explained that a heavy focus is placed on exercise for individuals with Parkinson’s.

“We volunteer at the Rock Steady Boxing and we’re about to start with Dance for PD,” said Tompkins.

According to the Parkinson Foundation, nearly one million people will be living with Parkinson’s disease in the United States in 2020. Because more people than ever before are living with Parkinson’s, Tompkins stressed that PD education is imperative.

“More and more people are affected by it than we realize,” Tompkins said. “It’s not really taught that much in other schools. It’s important for nursing students and biology students, speech pathology students, and kinesiology students just to get a little insight about the disease so they know what to expect and what to tell patients.”

Due to the PRC founders’ passion for community, Ruston became the ideal place to kick-start a resource center. Collaboration from people from different generations, backgrounds, and academic disciplines was key to the center’s initiative.

“Tech is such a great jewel, right here in Ruston with so many great resources that we can impact folks all across North Louisiana,” Hood said. “We’ve got a growing population of folks with Parkinson’s. They don’t have ready access right now. But through Louisiana Tech and our collaborative effort, we can really grow those resources and we see that happening.”

The work of the PRC and the Student Scholar program have an unlimited reach to Ruston and surrounding communities.

For more information concerning the PRC at Louisiana Tech, visit the Center’s website or call 318.257.2514.