College of

David Van Andel Life Sciences Achievement Award

February 10, 2008

A unique collaboration of three major west Michigan institutions has created a comprehensive center for patients with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or, as it’s commonly known, Lou Gehrig’s disease). 

Michigan State University, Saint Mary’s Health Care, and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital have combined resources to create the Grand Rapids clinic, which opened in October at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. It is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of ALS and is the 38th in the country to achieve certification by the Muscular Dystrophy Association as an MDA/ALS center. In a unique partnership, MDA has certified the center with two clinical locations. In addition to the Grand Rapids location, the center has an affiliated clinic on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing. Together, the two locations comprise the only MDA-certified ALS center in the state.

Inspired by two west Michigan families struck by the disease who approached the organizations with the idea last spring, the center provides the only comprehensive care in the area for ALS patients and families. Prior to the opening of the Grand Rapids clinic, patients and families who are affected by ALS had to travel to Northwestern University in Chicago for an MDA designated ALS center, as there was none located in Michigan. A team of professionals, including physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, dieticians and respiratory therapists work together to provide coordinated care, thus eliminating the need for patients and caregivers to travel to multiple locations.

The Grand Rapids clinic was organized under the direction of a lead physician from each organization: David Baumgartner, MD, Vice President, Medical Affairs at Saint Mary’s Health Care; John F. Butzer, MD, Medical Director, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital; and David Kaufman, DO, Chair of the Michigan State University Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology. “This center is an excellent example of the cooperation among the three major organizations and two communities,” remarked Dr. Kaufman. “Together we have created an opportunity to work toward a world-class center for patients and families who suffer from this disease.” 

Brian Averell, DO, oversees the clinic in Grand Rapids, which has seen steadily increasing patient volumes since it opened in October.