PD School Returns for Another Year of Innovation and Integrative Medicine

Parkinson's Disease Summer School at Bastyr University

Last year, 22 patients and 13 partners spent just a week at Bastyr University’s Parkinson’s Disease Summer School (PD School) but left with years worth of information to implement into their everyday lives. Led by Parkinson’s researcher and expert, Laurie Mischley, ND, MPH, PhD, Parkinson’s School 2018 expands to two sessions due to last year’s success.

Integrative Approach

PD School takes an integrative approach to Parkinson’s Disease, emphasizing natural sciences such as nutrition and lifestyle as well as drawing from experts in neurology, physical therapy and psychotherapy. PD School patients will learn from a team of medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, nutritionists and therapists – all with the goal of improving the lives of those with Parkinson’s disease.

“My marketing colleagues won’t let me call this a sanitarium, but that’s what it is – an institution for the preservation or recovery of health, especially for convalescence; a health resort. If I were diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease today, this is precisely the program I would want for myself,” she says. "The program is designed for people who don’t have access to integrative neurology expertise in their hometown. The goal was to develop a place where people could check in for a week and learn about PD and themselves, develop tips and tricks, and get their questions answered. It’s not just the health information that’s therapeutic. It’s making friends with common goals  and eating good food in an old seminary in the middle of a Pacific Northwest state park  – all part of a successful disease-modification strategy."

Dr. Mischley and her team help bridge the gap between NDs and MDs. Her relationships with PD school participants continue long past this week-long program. Dr. Mischley stated that she and her team collaborate with patients’ physicians across the country and across the world to empower the patients and give them the best care possible.

College-level Classes, Experiential Learning

Held at Bastyr University, Parkinson’s Disease Summer School offers college-level classes that benefit both patients and their partners. Electives include classes in neurofitness training, motor-symptom management, nutrition and environmental health, personal lab evaluation, biofeedback, optional field trip to off-site cannabis dispensary, and more. Optional experiential activities include cranio sacral therapy, biofeedback, reflexology, singing and other therapeutic activities. If a person were to see Dr. Mischley one-on-one in her clinic to cover this same territory, the cost would be over $8,000.

“The program is actually quite rigorous,” says Dr. Mischley. “The biggest complaint we had last year was that there wasn’t enough down time.” We’ve solved that by extending the program by a day and offering optional one-on-one consultations.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see people from last year coming back,” she says. Patients told Dr. Mischley, “I want to hear it all again!” Our goal is to make every year better and continually evolve the program. PD School 2018 includes new topics, different speakers and more electives than last year.

Dog as Medical Device

While this year’s sessions are fresh and new for patients, there is at least one aspect of the week that will remain the same – the adorable and intriguing presence of Dr. Mischley’s dog, Cocoa. Bred for their incredible sense of smell, Cocoa is a one-and-a-half-year-old Lagotto Romingnolo, trained to smell Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. Mischley shared the daunting statistic that “there are ten million people walking around right now who have Parkinson's that don't even know it yet.” Dr. Mischley has plans underway to conduct a simple and non-invasive health screening.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Dr. Mischley stated, “My dog is a medical device.” Learn more about Cocoa, her training, and Dr. Mischley’s research on the World Parkinson Coalition blog.

More about Parkinson’s Disease Summer School at BastyrPDSchool.org.