January 21st meeting between THE HEALERS campaign, two Harvard Medical School ALS researchers affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, & two wholefoods advocates from Functional Formularies

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 By Dr Craig Oster

The title of this post refers to an event which I consider to have been another milestone in THE HEALERS campaign. The January 21st meeting between THE HEALERS campaign, two Harvard Medical School ALS researchers affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, & two wholefoods advocates from Functional Formularies was wonderful. Dr Wills and Dr Pagnoni, who have conducted important MDA funded research showing that mild obesity in ALS is associated with increased longevity, were gracious in meeting with us to discuss my dietary scientific research study proposal.

In addition to them discussing experimental design issues with us, Dr Wills advised me to contact Dr Deborah Gelinas, an ALS clinic director located in Michigan, regarding possible partnership on my proposed groundbreaking ALS scientific wholefoods dietary research. To my delight, after the meeting, I discovered that Dr Gelinas is Michigan State University’s (Grand Rapids “Campus”) Director of Clinical Neuroscience Research, Hauenstein Neuroscience Center Muscular Dystrophy Association ALS Clinic, the only ALS clinic in West Michigan. Dr Gelinas is also Director of Michigan State University’s East Lansing Campus Muscular Dystrophy Association ALS Clinic and the Sparrow Hospital’s ALS Clinic!

Amazingly, and the Harvard scientists were not even aware of this fact, the night before I had submitted a letter of intent to Michigan State University/Sparrow Health System’s Center for Innovation and Research with the hope of being among those selected to write for a competitive research grant to conduct innovative dietary research with Michigan State University’s ALS clinics!

When I contacted Dr Gelinas, she enthusiastically agreed to partner with THE HEALERS campaign groundbreaking ALS dietary scientific research, and recommended that I contact one innovative dietary scientific researcher from Boston University and another from Tufts University regarding joining my advisory team. The future is looking bright for THE HEALERS! I will end this post with the following, for those who are interested in learning about who attended the important scientific research conference call between THE HEALERS campaign and scientists affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Biographical information I could find for those who attended January 21st meeting between THE HEALERS campaign, two Harvard Medical School ALS researchers affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, & two wholefoods advocates from Functional Formularies

Anne-Marie Wills M.D. M.P.H. is a Neurologist specializing in neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s Disease and A.L.S. She received her B.A. from Princeton University, her M.D. from Columbia College Physicians & Surgeons, and her M.P.H. from Harvard School of Public Health. She completed her specialty training in the Partners Neurology residency program, a combined program between Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has been on staff at M.G.H. since 2006.

Her research focuses on environmental risk factors and determinants of neurodegenerative disease progression, including nutrition, caffeine and pesticides. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a multi-center clinical trial funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Association to study the effects of over-feeding A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) patients, because both human and animal data show a strong increase in survival from excess calories and body weight. She is also the M.G.H. Investigator on several Parkinson’s Disease clinical trials testing therapeutic interventions in P.D.

Publications of Dr Wills may be viewed here: http://www.massgeneral.org/neurology/doctors/doctor.aspx?id=17489


Sabrina Paganoni, Ph.D., M.D.

Key study by Dr Paganoni & Dr Wills:

Muscle Nerve. 2012 Apr ;45 (4):612  22431098  [http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mus.22114/abstract]

What does body mass index measure in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and why should we care?

Sabrina Paganoni, Jing Deng, Matthew Jaffa, Merit E Cudkowicz, Anne-Marie Wills

Numerous other publications of Dr Paganoni may be viewed here: http://connects.catalyst.harvard.edu/profiles/profile/person/68399


Roger S. Newton, PhD

Executive Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer, Esperion Therapeutics

Roger Newton, Ph.D. has worked for thirty years in the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries. He is currently Founder, Executive Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc., which has its laboratories and offices at the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center in Plymouth, MI. Prior to his current role, he was Senior Vice President, Pfizer Global R&D, and Director, Esperion Therapeutics, a Pfizer, Inc. company. He was a Co-founder, President & CEO of the original Esperion founded in July 1998. Under Roger’s leadership and the team’s effort, Esperion raised more than $200 million in funding, building a portfolio of biopharmaceuticals focusing on HDL therapy and small molecule lipid regulating agents. Esperion was acquired by Pfizer for $1.3 billion in February 2004 and was run as a separate unit within Pfizer until its closure in May 2007. Roger divested Esperion IP and the company name from Pfizer in May 2008 and restarted the company as an independent enterprise with $23 million in venture capital. Prior to founding the original Esperion, Roger was with Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis from 1981-1998. As a Distinguished Research Fellow and Chairman of the Atherosclerosis Drug Discovery Team, he co-discovered and was the product champion of what is now the most prescribed cholesterol-reducing drug in the world, atorvastatin (Lipitor®).

Dr. Newton’s research interests for the past thirty-nine years have focused on the nutritional and pharmacological regulation of cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism as they relate to atherosclerosis and vascular diseases. Dr. Newton is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School. He has co-authored nearly one hundred peer-reviewed articles and chapters during his research career. Dr. Newton has a Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Science degree in nutritional biochemistry from the University of Connecticut, and a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Lafayette College. Dr Newton is passionate about contributing to scientific research that will support the use of food as medicine in ALS to improve the lives of people who live with the condition.

Roger is a member of the Board of Directors of Juventas Therapeutics, Rubicon Genomics, and Ann Arbor Spark. He is a member of the National Advisory Boards of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center and University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute. He is also a member of the Technology Advisory Boards of Arboretum Ventures and Metagenics, Inc.


Coco Newton, MPH, RD, CCN

Coco received her Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Dietetics/Community Nutrition from the University of California, Davis; her Masters of Public Health (MPH) in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota; her Registered Dietitian (RD) traineeship from the University of California, San Diego. Coco completed the “Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice” course through the Institute for Functional Medicine. She is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) and is board certified through the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists. Coco is owner of Lifetime Nutrition, LLC, a private practice focusing on integrative and functional nutrition therapy in chronic disease. She co-founded and served on the Nutrition Advisory Board at the Institute for Functional Medicine from 2007-2011. In 2010, she co-founded and is a member of the Michigan Nutrition Association. Coco served as Vice-Chair, Michigan Board of Dietetics and Nutrition 2007-2011, and was re-appointed through Governor Snyder’s office to the board until 2015.


Francesco Pagnini, PhD

Dr. Pagnini graduated with his MS in Clinical Psychology from the Catholic University of Sacred Heart of Milan (Italy), receiving the award for “Best Graduate Gemelli Catholic University” for the year 2007. He obtained his PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Bergamo. Dr. Pagnini is a research fellow at the Laboratory of Clinical Psychology at the Catholic University in Milan, as well as a research associate with the Ellen Langer Mindfulness Research Lab at Harvard University. His main areas of study and intervention are Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders. Dr. Pagnini utilizes a biopsychosocial perspective in his ALS-related work and has also addressed the significance of spirituality in the life of the ALS patient. He performs professional services in Milan and specializes in personal management of critical events, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Dr. Pagnini is an Associate Editor for the journal Frontiers of Psychology in Medical Settings.


Terry Wahls, MD, FACP

I am a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A., where I teach internal medicine residents in their primary care clinics. I also do clinical research and have published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters, and papers.

In addition to being a doctor, I am also a patient with a chronic, progressive disease. I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in 2000, around the time I began working at the university. By 2003 I had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. I underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in my back muscles. It was clear: eventually I would become bedridden by my disease. I wanted to forestall that fate as long as possible.

Because of my academic medical training, I knew that research in animal models of disease is often 20 or 30 years ahead of clinical practice. Hoping to find something to arrest my descent into becoming bedridden, I used PubMed.gov to search scientific articles about the latest multiple sclerosis research. Night after night, I relearned biochemistry, cellular physiology, and neuroimmunology to understand the articles. Unfortunately, most of the studies were testing drugs that were years away from FDA approval. Then it occurred to me to search for vitamins and supplements that helped any kind of progressive brain disorder. Slowly I created a list of nutrients important to brain health and began taking them as supplements. The steepness of my decline slowed, for which I was grateful, but I still was declining.

In the summer of 2007, I discovered Functional Medicine, an organization devoted to helping clinicians use the latest scientific discoveries to take better care of those with complex chronic diseases. As a result I developed a longer list of vitamins and supplements that were good for my brain. Then I had an important epiphany. What if I redesigned my diet so that I was getting those important brain nutrients not from supplements but from the foods I ate? I used what I had learned from the medical literature, Functional Medicine, and my knowledge of the Hunter-Gatherer diet—the most nutritious of any diet—to create my new food plan, the Wahls Diet™. At that time, I also learned about neuromuscular electrical stimulation and convinced my physical therapist to give me a test session. It hurt a lot, but I also felt euphoric when it was finished, likely because of the endorphins my body released in response to the electrical stimulation. In December 2007, I began the Wahls Diet™ along with a program of progressive exercise, electrical stimulation, and daily meditation. The results stunned my physician, my family, and me: within a year, I was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour.


Robin Gentry McGee, Founder and CEO

Robin Gentry McGee is a Health & Lifestyle Coach and Chef. Her passion for health is overwhelmingly apparent, whether she is working with private clients, teaching group wellness classes, leading corporate retreats or teaching healthy cooking. She is founder of Just Great Foods™ and Functional Formularies™, which are lines of health–promoting foods. She works closely with The Block Integrative Cancer Center in Chicago offering their patients customized formularies.

In her work, Robin draws on many years of experience in the health and wellness industry. She is the former owner of Just Great Foods Cafe, which was the area’s only organic whole foods restaurant. Robin is also an accomplished food stylist and has studied design specializing in sustainable and eco-friendly products.

Robin has both studied and taught at Heartwood Institute’s Healing with Whole Foods program, located in Garberville CA. She is a 2007 graduate of The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and a certified Laughter Yoga™ Instructor. Robin is also a certified Food for Life Instructor, working with Dr. Neal Barnard’s D.C. based Cancer Project and recently completed advanced training with Dr. James Gordon in Mind-Body Medicine at The Center for Mind Body Medicine also located in Washington D.C.

Robin was selected as one of the 2009 Miami Valley’s Women in Business Networking (WiBN) TOP 25 Women to Watch.

She has just completed her first book “A Turn for the Worst” which chronicles the journey of her father’s traumatic brain injury and the creation of Liquid Hope an enteral formula she created for her father.  She is currently working on a new book “Living Well with Whole Foods”.  Robin has written numerous articles on health and wellness both locally and nationally.


Lynn Goldstein MS, RD, CDN

Lynn Goldstein is a registered dietitian with a Masters of Science degree from New York University. She is currently working as the Clinical Nutrition Supervisor for Beth Israel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Formerly, Lynn was Nutrition Educator at the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health, the Weill Cornell Breast Center, and the Beth Israel ALS clinic in New York City. In addition Lynn runs a private practice with focus on gastrointestinal disorders and cancer. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Mercy College and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Lynn is certified by the Commission on Dietitians and is a member of both the American Dietetics Association and the New York State Dietetics Association.


Craig Oster, PhD

In 1994, at the age of 30, Craig Oster was given the “death sentence” diagnosis of ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Even though Craig’s physical functioning was slipping away, he successfully fought to fulfill his dream of earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Michigan State University in 1996. What you can type in three minutes, currently takes Dr Craig Oster a half-hour or more to accomplish. Dr Craig (the name by which many refer to him) entered hospice in late 2008, after he had lost over 45 pounds of muscle and was requiring breathing machines to make it through the night. Digging deeply and praying earnestly, with an undeterred spirit he gave everything to continuing his holistic healing quest. Dr Craig was discharged from hospice on May 30th, 2009.

Dr Craig is on a mission to demonstrate as much wellness as possible and to inspire people to approach whatever hand that they have been dealt in life in the most constructive manner possible. His professional training as a behavioral research scientist and clinical psychotherapist was followed postdoctoral training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, including years of personal psychoanalytic treatment. Dr Craig has treated himself as a case study during his 18 years of experience of living with ALS, including recording and working with over 1,100 nighttime dreams.

THE HEALERS Campaign was born on New Year’s Day 2012. THE HEALERS Campaign mission is conduct innovative ALS scientific peer-reviewed research that has the potential to enhance the wellness and quality of lives of people with ALS and their caregivers. The first peer-reviewed ALS scientific research study of the campaign, Resentment, hate, and hope in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, was published in November of 2012. The campaign also has a broader holistic health educational purpose to provide information and perspective to people facing other challenges in wellness. Over 50 renowned integrative medicine doctors, other health professionals and scientists have joined Dr Craig’s ALS scientific research and holistic health educational campaign advisory team.

With gratitude and love,

Dr Craig

Craig Oster, PhD

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