Diagnosed at 42

I have always had an inquiring mind, and was fortunate to become a research scientist, a goal I identified in my High School Yearbook. Also in that yearbook (8 pages later) was a neighbor whom I dated in college and married, and who still supports me today – my wife Susan. I am a biologist and Susan a registered nurse, and we have two daughters, who became a veterinarian and a health care attorney. Imagine the meal-time debates we’ve had!

I followed the standard academic track – Princeton undergrad, Yale Ph.D., UC San Francisco Post-Doc and Ohio State Faculty.  But I realized that companies in the new field of biotechnology needed people with skill and information so I started working for a string of biotech labs (start-ups, agri-chemical giants, and hybrids thereof.)  Through their risings and fallings, I subsequently went to work for vendors of biomedical research tools, developing and marketing products for gene transfer, cell culture and imaging, and protein isolation and characterization.  In the final years of my career I worked on panels of multiplexed immunoassays for improved diagnostics in clinic, a natural lead-in to disease biomarkers.

I learned from this biotech work that it is easy to have a good idea, hard to make one into a good product, and extremely difficult to produce a commercial hit!

When California voters approved the Stem Cell Imitative (Proposition 71) in 2004, I entered the fray as an advocate staffing conference tables and supporting multiple Parkinson’s organizations in Southern California.

My Parkinson’s Disease progression has been slow, and I’ve responded well to new medicines. Nevertheless, it now takes me twice as long to do half as much, and I promptly forget half of the things I do since very little is processed into my long-term memory.  I have given up working and driving, but am learning new songs and practicing old piano music. The best news Susan and I will soon be grandparents!

I sing with Orange County “Tremble Clefs” and have lectured at the University of California – Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Diego campuses.  My brain will be donated to the UCSD Brain Observatory collection.

I have lived with Parkinson’s Disease for 20 years, and have been an advocate for the last 10 years. Every month, I see the same questions posted on websites and addressed in lectures that every newly-diagnosed person and their family wakes up to on the morning after that life-changing pronouncement – especially for Young Onset PD.  I view my participation in this PSA as a quick way to reach these people and direct them to the many people like myself and my wife Susan, who have already experienced this and are willing to help others get through this minefield.

A positive attitude is the primary tool we have to personally combat this disease.  This is the attitude that drives me to maintain a schedule of 30 meds every 24 hours, to exercise as much as possible, and to sing in public with the Tremble Clefs.