MDA Matters Winter 2011

From left to right: Sarah Schwegel, Sanjay Bidichandani, and Abbey Umali and Luke Christie
by Quest Staff on January 1, 2011 - 1:31pm

QUEST Vol. 18, No. 1

Featured in this article: MDA Telethon's new six-hour format * New MDA research VP comes on board * Abbey and Luke back for another year * Clinic Advisory Committee looks at efficiency * Former MDA National Goodwill Ambassador makes her mark in choreography

Telethon shortened to six hours

In 2011, MDA will reduce the length of its Labor Day Telethon to six hours, a dramatic change from its standard 21½-hour format.

With the new show airing exclusively in prime time, it’s hoped that more television stations will join MDA’s “Love Network” of stations (now numbering 173) that carry the broadcast nationwide, and that more people will tune in, resulting in a net increase in dollars raised by this important annual event. The new show will air Sunday, Sept. 4.

New MDA research vice president comes on board

Sanjay Bidichandani, formerly an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has joined MDA as vice president of research.

Bidichandani, who holds both a master’s degree and doctorate in medical genetics from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, assumed his new duties Jan. 3. He brings more than 20 years of academic experience in fields that include neurology, pediatrics and molecular genetics at medical institutions across the country. Since 2008, he has been a member of MDA’s Medical Advisory Committee.

Abbey and Luke back for another year

Two talented youngsters who do an outstanding job of spreading the word about MDA’s missions of help and hope are returning for another year as Association spokespeople.

Abbey Umali, 11, of Redlands, Calif., is tackling an unprecedented fourth term as MDA National Goodwill Ambassador. Luke Christie, 17, from Due West, S.C., is stepping into his third year as MDA National Youth Chairman.

The two good friends, who have traveled across much of the country with their parents on speaking engagements at MDA and sponsor events, are both top scholars and achievers. Luke has spinal muscular atrophy; Abbey has a form of Charcot-Marie Tooth disease.

New Clinic Advisory Committee hard at work

MDA’s new Clinic Advisory Committee is working to ensure that the Association’s nationwide network of 200 neuromuscular disease and 38 ALS clinics operates as efficiently as possible.

The committee consists of medical professionals, MDA staff and people affected by neuromuscular diseases who will address issues such as quality improvement techniques, standards of care, best practices, grant funding, the grant application process and ways in which MDA can best support its clinic teams.

You should be dancing

Former MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Sarah Schwegel (2001) assisted the choreographer with “wheelchair dancing” for the October production of the musical “OLIVER!” at the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Sarah, 17, has spinal muscular atrophy and was one of 16 young people with disabilities who were part of the 80-member cast and crew.

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