From initiatives like the MU School of Medicine’s Missouri Telehealth Network that connects rural patients to health care specialists to the Rural Track Clerkship program that brings third-year medical students to community-based training sites throughout the state, rural health access is a major priority for the UM System.
While attending rotations in southeast Missouri as part of the Rural Track clerkship, medical student Ash Sampath helped start a goal-oriented, non-contact boxing program for Parkinson’s disease patients. After being inspired by one of his patients, Sampath teamed up with a local boxing instructor, Danny Rees, to develop a program that targets the constraints of patients with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease patients may have symptoms including tremors, slowed movement, muscle stiffness, impaired posture and balance, as well as speech and writing changes and loss of automatic movements. Some research shows that regular aerobic exercise reduces the risk of Parkinson’s. Sampath and Rees developed the non-contact boxing program to alleviate Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
The program seems to be working—strictly by word of mouth, the program grew from one participant to more than 30. Some boxers travel from nearly 50 miles away three times per week to enhance their quality of life.
To keep the program free and sustainable, Sampath and Rees have worked relentlessly to attain external support and funding. Sampath’s efforts have led to grants from the American Academy of Neurology, United Way and RuralPREP, as well as collaborations with the University of Missouri and Southeast Missouri University. Additionally, he has presented the program at regional and national conferences, and is working to get published in academic journals.
Sampath is grateful for his time in the Rural Track Clerkship program and for the opportunity to help those patients in the southeastern part of the state. Sampath’s work and research are helping to create a better life for all Missourians, one of the driving forces behind the Missouri Compacts for Achieving Excellence. The dedication and hard work required to sustain the boxing program is an inspiration for the UM System to accelerate medical breakthroughs for patients everywhere, especially through the Engagement and Outreach Compact and initiatives like NextGen Precision Health.