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(The following post was published on the Parkinson’s Action Network blog.)

The PAN Forum unites people with one common goal and purpose.

People gather to learn about the latest developments that affect the whole Parkinson’s community and to continue advocating for funding for biomedical research and other areas of interest to our community.

People who attend the PAN Forum have a vested interest in getting together, learning from each other, and networking. For these reasons, there is no other conference like the PAN Forum. Dealing with congressional and governmental agency issues takes patience and then some more of the same. Things happen at a slow pace, yet require quick responses to the issues that are being discussed, debated, and decided on.

The 2015 Forum has been one of the best yet for me. Those in attendance seemed to have a focus that didn’t waver when it came to advocating, and the give and take that is required of the legislative process. Is there an urgency that needs to be addressed in advancing research? Most definitely. Is the voice of the patient, caregiver, advocate being listened to in the process? Without a doubt.

From seeking support for increased funding for biomedical research and innovation (including at the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Defense) to asking for co-sponsorship of the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act of 2015 (H.R. 292/S. 849) so that we can finally get an official count of people in the U.S. living with Parkinson’s disease.

The great thing about the PAN Forum through the years is that we continue seeing new faces from new places, along with some of us whom have been around for a few years. Yet, we are all committed to putting an end to a disease that keeps on taking from us and our friends across the country.

I’ve often said that the Forum is one of the must-attend events of the year for Parkinson’s advocates. My hope is that we continue growing the Forum so that PAN advocates are recognized as a force to be reckoned with and known as a highly trained and educated group of people who will not give up the fight as we seek the elusive cure.

When I asked one attendee if she would attend again next year, she mentioned the Forum’s impact and the friendships made and developed. She said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Come to think of it, neither would I.

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