By Carl Sketchley
Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world. MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system comprising the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. It is f the most common neurological disorder, other than trauma, affecting young adults in Canada.
Dr. Dessa Sadovnick, a Professor in Medical Genetics and Neurology at UBC, grew up knowing about the MS through her family’s friendship and volunteer work with Evelyn Opal, one of the founders of the MS Society of Canada. Evelyn Opal was diagnosed with the disease at a time when there was no information or network of people to support one another, but she and her supporters changed that situation by organizing. As a child, Dr. Sadovnick help her mother who chaired the fund raising committee for MS in Montreal and later as a teen, together with Minda Opal, Evelyn’s daughter, ran small fundraising projects, such as afternoon movies for young children. As an adult, Dr. Sadovnick has focused her medical work around the roles of genes, environment and interactions of these factors on the frequency/prevalence of MS as well as on the recurrence risks for family members of persons with MS.
On area of Dr. Sadovnick’s most recent research focuses on identifying whether rates of MS are changing in North American Asian and South Asian communities. She is currently collaborating with Dr.Anthony Traboulsee, an MS neurologist from UBC and Professor, Zhi-Ying Wu from Fudan
University in Shanghai, China as well as a former graduate student, Dr. Joshua Lee, to standardize the pre- and post-immigration data they have been collecting on genetic factors in people of Chinese descent with MS. This will assist researchers in more clearly understanding the roles genetic and non-genetic environmental factors have in making some people more susceptible to developing MS.
The MS Society provides services to people with MS and their families and funds research to find the cause and cure for this disease. Please visit mssociety.ca or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation or for more information.