Community Healthcare System equips community with knowledge on Parkinson’s disease

Community Healthcare System equips community with knowledge on Parkinson’s disease

“Knowledge is power,” said Patricia Pompea, an attendee of Community Healthcare System’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders symposium on Wednesday evening. Newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Pompea was ready to arm herself with as much knowledge as she could for the fight against this disorder. The symposium helped her do just that. 

“This event is really beneficial,” Pompea said. “I’m hoping to learn more about what they can do for me and see what’s out there for the future.”

More than 300 attendees came to The Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster on Wednesday night to learn about Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. The program featured presentations by Neurologist Andrea DeLeo, DO; Gastroenterologist Gene Chang, MD; Neurosurgeon Wayel Kaakaji, MD, and Physical Therapist Samantha Paige, PT, DPT.  The presentations were the heart of the program, focusing on movement disorders, treatment options beyond oral medications, deep brain stimulation and new advances in therapy treatments. The program was moderated by Neurologist Leslie Wilbanks, MD.

“We have many steel plants, pulp mills and are a highly industrial area. There is a strong association with these particular industries and workers with those industries and Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Andrea DeLeo, a neurologist for Community Healthcare System. 

“There’s a great need within the community for this type of event and continued education,” said Jill Conner, Administrative Director of Neuroscience and Cerebrovascular Services at Community Hospital in Munster.  “There’s a lot of new technology and treatment available right now and we wanted to showcase that and let patients know that there are other options besides just medical management.”

“We need patients to understand how they can gain access to our movement disorder program here at Community,” she continued. “We want them to know that there’s a team of people supporting their disease process and we are here to help them out.” 



Some of the new medication and technology discussed included new oral inhalant medications that will help patients who are experiencing “drop-off” symptoms from their daily oral medication. This happens more frequently with the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Chang gave a brief overview on the benefits of this new medication. 

Drs. DeLeo and Kaakaji discussed the benefits of deep brain stimulation (DBS). In the simplest of terms, it is a type of “pacemaker” for your brain to help stimulate neuro-activity. A video showing the difference in a patient’s movement before and after treatment showed the efficacy of DBS in helping patients with tremors and various other neurological symptoms.  

Therapist Paige wrapped up the symposium with a discussion on new trends in physical therapy. She highlighted VirtuSense Technologies, a new assessment tool for the progression of Parkinson’s and movement disorder symptoms.

“We’re assessing our patients and getting a quick snapshot of how they are moving, how they walk and their balance,” Paige said. “We then use those results to track the patients’ progress with the addition of a new medication or participation in therapy, whatever might be appropriate for them.”

Earlier in the evening, guests mingled with each other, sampling catered appetizers and speaking with the vendors. From pharmaceutical reps to essential oil consultants, the event provided attendees with a wide array of opportunities to engage with professionals in the field.

The symposium was the first that Community Hospital, Munster, hosted specifically geared toward Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders.

For more information about the hospitals of Community Healthcare System including Community Hospital, Munster, St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago, St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart and specialty hospital, Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center, Crown Point, visit: