UAB’s new ALS clinic offers eight to one advantage

The clinic, supported by an Alabama Department of Commerce Innovation Fund grant, makes it easier for patients to get all the services they need in one place.

Inside ALSThe clinic, supported by an Alabama Department of Commerce Innovation Fund grant, makes it easier for patients to get all the services they need in one place. Eight medical professionals. One visit. A new clinic for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham lets patients see eight health care providers during a single visit, with a single co-pay.

“They’ve got my back,” said Venus Richardson of Mobile, Alabama, who was first diagnosed with ALS in 2019 and began seeing UAB physicians a few months later. “I’ll be making a road trip to UAB every three months now to see the full team. The more you interact with your care team, the better you are able to express how the disease is affecting you. It means better communication and interaction.”

The new clinic is supported by a grant from the Alabama Department of Commerce Innovation Fund. It allowed UAB to expand the existing clinic to see more patients more often. Most patients will come every three months, and during their visit, they will interact with their neurologist, physical and occupational therapists, a dietitian, speech therapist, psychologist, social workers, and respiratory therapists. The visit is facilitated by a nurse coordinator who has several years of experience working with ALS patients.

“If I have questions or need any information on medications, symptoms, or just questions about diet or lifestyle, they are there to help,” Richardson said. “I think God handpicked the perfect team for me. They take their time to talk to me and listen to me. They don’t just hear me; they listen.”

“The opportunity for patients to see all of their ALS care providers at one visit is a significant benefit,” said clinic co-director Mohamed Kazamel, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology, Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine. “Besides convenience and peace of mind for the patient, it allows the care team to work together to build a comprehensive care program for each patient paired with frequent follow-up.”

ALS is a rare neurological disease that affects motor neurons — those nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement such as chewing, walking and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time. ALS has no cure, and there is no effective treatment to reverse its progression.

The new clinic opened in January. It sees about 150 patients currently and expects to add about 30 new patients each year. 

“Beyond expanding our clinical services, the Alabama Innovation Fund grant will allow us to hire an ALS clinical trials coordinator so that we can initiate and participate in national or international clinical trials that shed new light on the disease and may lead to new knowledge about ALS that can point us toward treatments or even a cure,” said Nan Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and co-director of the clinic.

As part of the implementation of “Accelerate Alabama,” the State of Alabama created the Alabama Innovation Fund. The purpose of this fund is to maximize the use of the state’s economic development resources by leveraging annual research and development expenditures by public institutions of higher education to generate resources that can be used to support economic development activities.

For more information on the UAB ALS clinic, call 205-934-2120.