In recognition of his advocacy on behalf of those affected by multiple sclerosis, Dr. Jaime Imitola, director of UConn Health’s Division of Multiple Sclerosis and Translational Neuroimmunology, is a winner of the National MS Society’s 2020 Inspiration Award.
The National MS Society named 11 honorees among nearly 200 volunteer nominees from its state and territory chapters. Imitola is the only awardee from New England and the only health care provider so honored.
“I have two roles,” Imitola says. “I go to the lab and try to answer fundamental questions about progressive MS that I see in my patients. When I go to the MS center, I see the societal implications of living with MS and the tremendous gaps in delivery of care and education. My goal is to close the gaps to understand what is needed for optimal MS care from the bench to the bedside and vice versa.”
The MS society recognizes Imitola for:
- His longtime involvement with the MS Society, including the recent launch of an MS summit with the Connecticut chapter to identify unmet needs for patients in the state.
- His role as “a passionate mentor, attracting and training the next generation of MS doctors and scientists.”
- His role in the success of the Ask an MS Expert program, helping facilitate sessions in English and Spanish.
- His work to identify and advocate for at-risk communities to ensure they had what they needed to get through the pandemic — including leading the effort to get donations of masks, spearheading the “orange masks campaign’ to fundraise for the MS Society, together with the extended UConn MS community, buying groceries for patients in need, and organizing mobile COVID testing.
“There is a great gap in the way we deliver care, especially to patients of diverse backgrounds and progressive MS,” Imitola says. “What has helped overcome these challenges is the sense of community we have built and the collaboration with the National MS Society.”
Last summer, Imitola and UConn Health nurse practitioner Marina Creed brought a mobile testing site to a supportive housing complex to help get MS patients tested for COVID-19. Recognizing his expertise in progressive MS and MS in diverse populations, the MS Society invited Imitola to be part of the national task force that would come up with recommendations on the COVID-19 vaccines in the MS population.
“We remind ourselves every day that we are the last line of defense for people with MS in the state, as UConn is the flagship institution of Connecticut,” Imitola says. “We take care of complex cases. Therefore, we have built a very passionate and committed team for our patients to help them with their challenges and restore the sense of hope in their life. This is where our energy comes from.”