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Grateful Patient Creates Legacy to Support Movement Disorder Research

Norlaine Elsbury and her father Richard Cole

Pictured: Norlaine Elsbury (left) and her father Richard Cole (right).

Richard Cole knew if he faced a serious health challenge he would go to Rush for care. Even though he was living in Florida when he first developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Cole, who grew up in Huntley Illinois, returned to be treated at Rush.

Cole met Christopher Goetz, MD, the Parkinson’s Foundation Chair in Neurological Sciences and former director of the Section of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at Rush, who oversaw his treatment. As a patient at Rush, Cole had the opportunity to receive expert care from Goetz as well as a number of other neurologists due to the team’s collaborative patient care, education, and research model. Based on years of positive experiences, he decided to help the people at Rush who helped him.

“When it came time to settle his affairs, he instantly knew he wanted to support the whole movement disorders group at Rush after the personable experiences he had,” said Norlaine Elsbury, Cole’s daughter. “My father said several times if he could just make a difference and help somebody down the road, he knew he wanted to do what he could.”

Cole’s bequest included funding to create the Richard G. Cole Endowed Faculty Scholar in Movement Disorders. Leo Verhagen, MD, PhD, professor of neurological sciences at Rush, is the first person appointed to the scholar position, and will have the opportunity to further Rush’s leading research on deep-brain stimulation, or DBS, a surgical option for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“Thanks to the Cole family we are now exploring new ways of delivering electrical stimulation to the brain that may be superior to conventional DBS. If confirmed, the Rush paradigm will have immediate impact on Parkinson’s disease patients all over the world,” Verhagen said.

The Cole endowment is also enabling Verhagen and colleagues to continue providing the type of time-intensive and highly specialized care that has made Rush a premier center for Parkinson’s treatment. Endowed funds, like the one established by Cole, ensure that support for continued discovery and development of new treatments will be available far into the future.

“If we can learn signs of the disease sooner and stop the progression so people don’t suffer the way my father did, it would be amazing,” Elsbury said. “That’s what my father had hoped for when he made his decision to support the program at Rush.”

Learn more about supporting movement disorder care and research at Rush by contacting Kristin Stewart at (312) 942-3517 or kristin_stewart@rush.edu.