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Penny Pennington

Penny Pennington

I was prompted to begin my personal research into MS in 1977 after my first attack dramatically changed my life. My symptoms ultimately included significant impairments in my mobility, vision, balance, and speech. Since this era preceded the use of MRI’s, the best available tool to assist diagnosis at the time was the lumbar puncture. My test showed elevated protein and led to my diagnosis.

I was fortunate that all of my symptoms resolved. I decided to change my career goals to work in the pharmaceutical industry, joining Merck & Co, Inc. in 1978. During my 31 years with Merck, I had the opportunity to work in several areas of the company, including one that brought me to WNY as a Business Manager in 1983. Over the years I held a number of positions that involved interactions with the company’s impressive research staff. I learned what constitutes a well-designed or elegant study and carried that insight into my positions with Merck in Health Education, Managed Care and then as Director, Federal Health Care Affairs in Washington, DC for the last 16 years of my career.

I have been very fortunate that my clinical course with MS has had many “quiet” periods, where it was easy to forget about this disease. I played tennis and ran 5 miles a day. In 2002, however, I had a significant exacerbation that led me to be placed on the interferon therapy that was developed by Dr. Lawrence Jacobs of Buffalo. I then began to truly appreciate the very high caliber of significant MS research that is conducted by the Departments of Neurology at the University at Buffalo.

Since retiring from Merck, it has almost seemed like destiny that I had the fortune of meeting my colleagues who joined together to form ARMS, under the inspiration of our founder, Linda Safran. Our first endorsed study explores what factors influence the progression of MS and if these factors can be successfully managed or controlled. This novel study will, we hope, provide significant findings to help explain how and why people like me have been so fortunate with our slow disease course versus those whose progression is much faster. More importantly, these findings may help determine what interventions might maintain or improve the health of those diagnosed with MS.

I’ve never had more hope than today that we are on the cutting edge of finding the cause and cure for MS!

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