MS Research Town Hall is only 6 days away, and as the event draws near, I am getting more and more excited to hear from the experts we have invited to take part and share the latest updates in MS research. I recently posted a brief interview I did with Dr. Mark Freedman, who will be discussing the challenges with treating progressive MS and new research in stem cells at the telephone town hall. Today I bring to you my interview with neurologist, scientist and university professor Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Dr. Marrie’s research into population patterns of MS, risk factors and the presence and treatment of other co-existing conditions such as heart disease, cancer and depression is critical to inform practices that will more effectively treat people who live with MS and improve their quality of life.
Dr. Marrie brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to the table, and I look forward to hearing her discuss the most recent advances in the field of MS. Read further to check out her interview responses.
1. How did you become interested in MS research?
When I was a neurology resident at McGill I was required to spend 6 months doing research. I thought that I would prefer research in the area of epidemiology so I looked for someone studying the epidemiology of neurologic disease. This lead me to Dr. Christina Wolfson who agreed to supervise me. She offered me a chance to work on a project on either MS or Alzheimer’s disease. The project on MS sounded more interesting so I chose that one. I enjoyed my experience so much that I wanted to continue doing research, and became interested in working in MS clinically as well.
2. How would you describe the research that you do in the area of MS?
Broadly, I work in the area of epidemiology. Epidemiologists study who gets a condition, how often, and factors that influence the risk of getting that condition. In particular I am interested in two areas. First, I want to understand the impact of co-existing (comorbid) health conditions on MS. For example, does having MS along with diabetes or high blood pressure make MS more severe? If so, could treating high blood pressure aggressively in a person with MS improve MS? Second, I am interested in what factors cause MS. In particular I am interested in risk factors that can be changed like smoking and obesity.
3. What impact does or will your research have for those affected by MS? / What do you hope to ultimately accomplish through your work in MS?
Ultimately I hope that my work on co-existing health conditions will lead to more personalized care for people with MS and that it will lead to reduced disability progression and improved quality of life.
4. What do you enjoy most about working in the area of MS and what are some challenges you have faced or face?
I meet a lot of different people by working in the area of MS. In clinic this means I am privileged to meet a lot of people who manage to accomplish a lot of wonderful things while facing the challenges posed by MS. I have been lucky to enter the field at a time when a lot of new treatment options are emerging and when there is a great deal of hope about future advancements. This means that I can always expect to be learning something new and that I will be able to offer more to my patients in the future but it remains a challenge not to have all of the tools I want to offer now.
5. Is there a favourite method or past time that you use in order to clear your mind before working?
I like to sail when I have the chance.