Community Involvement Enhances MS Patient Care

Care for her patients takes neurologist Nancy Sicotte, MD, beyond the walls of Cedars-Sinai and the Multiple Sclerosis Center where she serves as director. Her involvement in both large national organizations and small community outreach programs allows her to be a voice for patients of the autoimmune disease.

In turn, she said, those efforts have also supported her research into ways to better treat and serve patients and families dealing with multiple sclerosis.

"Part of my research is to address some of the challenges families and patients with MS have," she said. "This is a part of what I do at Cedars-Sinai and through the relationships I've developed in the community."

Two of Cedars-Sinai's major community partners are the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Race to Erase MS Foundation.

Sicotte is a member of the Clinical Advisory Committee of the National MS Society for the Southern California and Nevada Chapter, and previously served as chair. She is a former recipient of the nonprofit's prestigious Harry Weaver Junior Faculty Award, which supports the development of leaders in multiple sclerosis research and clinical care.

The National MS Society has funded many of Sicotte's research projects since then, most recently a $506,000 grant to study brain changes in multiple sclerosis and underlying causes and potential treatments of MS-related depression.

Sicotte said the awards have been pivotal to her career in the field.

"The MS Society has funded a lot of my research and it's been a wonderful reciprocal relationship," said Sicotte. "They do so much for the patients and we rely on their resources including information and handouts, and it's a way to be mutually supportive of our shared mission to take care of patients and families affected by MS."

Along with some of the nation's top multiple sclerosis research centers, Cedars-Sinai also is a part of the Race to Erase MS Foundations' Center Without Walls program, which aims to link together "multidisciplinary scientific programs and expertise across the country to advance the understanding of the cause of MS and to develop new treatments."

Sicotte said one of the reasons Cedars-Sinai was chosen is because of the state-of-the-art imaging technology at the Biomedical Imaging Research Institute.

"The Biomedical Imagining Research Institute takes research imaging seriously because it's a resource that allows us to utilize the newest cutting edge imaging techniques as well as create new collaborations," Sicotte said. "The institute is a world-class facility."

In addition to being involved in large-scale organizations, Sicotte and her team of Cedars-Sinai neurology residents also provide care to underserved populations at the Venice Family Clinic. Sicotte has been a regular fixture at the Venice-based clinic for more than 18 years, seeing patients with multiple sclerosis and other neurological issues.

Elizabeth Benson Forer, executive director and chief executive officer of the Venice Family Clinic, said the entire team at Cedars-Sinai has shown extraordinary commitment to the low-income families served at the clinic.

"From volunteer providers like Dr. Nancy Sicotte, who has provided our patients with access to neurological care since 1997, to recent investments in our infrastructure through the community benefit program, Cedars-Sinai has been a true partner in our efforts to build a strong and healthy community," Forer said.

For Sicotte, being involved in the community comes down to helping those in need.

"Patients with neurologic disorders or chronic debilitating disorders need care, and that is what I aim to do," Sicotte said. "Having those national relationships and being able to give back by volunteering at the Venice Family Clinic only enhances our ability at Cedars-Sinai to provide the best possible care to all our patients."