Why ATMRD? A Spirit of Camaraderie - PMD Alliance

When Priya Chaudhari, a nurse practitioner at Washington University in Missouri, attended the first-ever Advanced Therapeutics in Movement & Related Disorders (ATMRD) Congress, a partnership between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and PMD Alliance, it wasn’t just professional; for her, it was personal. Priya’s mom is living with advanced Parkinson’s. As she puts it, “Movement disorders is a calling for me.” 

For Priya, being in a room full of multidisciplinary practitioners, from movement disorder specialists, to residents and fellows, to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and more was “empowering” and “reignited” her passion. And it had immediate practical impacts. Within days of returning home to her clinic after ATMRD, she had already shared the innovative medications she learned about at the congress with her patients. She even connected with a pharmaceutical rep she met at ATMRD to help one of her patients get access to an advanced therapeutic she had learned about. She shared: “My patients have already come back to me saying, ‘This is great.’ It’s already improving their lives.”

“ATMRD,” she insisted, “was the best conference ever.”

Expanding Your Clinical Toolbox

ATMRD Course Co-Founders Fernando Pagan, MD, and Yasar Torres-Yaghi, MD of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital designed this congress to be different. Dr. Torres-Yaghi said, “Our goal was to create a congress where every other congress fell short.” Their leadership and expertise is again on display at the third annual congress in Washington, DC, from June 22-June 25. ATMRD goes beyond epidemiology,  diagnosis and etiology, and also translates the science to the practical clinic experience. Dr. Torres-Yaghi knows there is a long therapeutic journey after a patient is diagnosed, and this congress is built to equip providers with the knowledge, resources, and hands-on experience with advanced therapeutics so they can best support their patients on this journey. 

In fact, this congress is designed to be immediately useful to participants, helping providers in the trenches deliver high quality, patient-centric care for movement disorders. At ATMRD, the presentations aren’t focused on esoterica, but instead on building skills to help the real people that come into their clinics day in and day out. Because it is the people living or loving someone with a movement disorder that this congress, at its heart, is all about.

ATMRD’s Origin Story

At PMD Alliance, we have always worked closely with our clinician advisors to create education and resources for people living with a movement disorder. But the more we talked with our clinician advisors, the more we realized they needed support, too. Andrea Merriam, PMD Alliance’s CEO, explained, “Practitioners set out in medical school to take care of people. Along the way, with our broken healthcare system, that passion gets eroded by paperwork and insurance companies and administrators and all these things that interfere with what is so beautiful: a person’s desire to devote their career to taking care of people. When a physician or an NP is overworked, underappreciated, and isolated, they get burned out. When our healthcare system is burned out, what hope do the rest of us have for getting not just quality care but empathetic, inspired care?” Helping providers deliver—and helping everyone access—empathetic, inspired care was the seeds of ATMRD.

When PMD Alliance connected with Drs. Pagan and Torres-Yaghi at Georgetown, it was the catalyst. The founding principle of Georgetown School of Medicine is the Jesuit concept of cura personalis, which means, “care of the whole person.” It aligns uniquely with PMD Alliance’s mission: to educate, empower, and inspire the whole person and the whole movement disorders ecosystem—everyone impacted by the disease.

ATMRD is designed intentionally to supercharge practitioners back to their passion and their calling. Merriam said, “This congress feels different. It’s very human-centric. We think it’s just as important to hold space for the unplanned connections and spontaneous community-building as didactic lectures and poster presentations. This goes into the planning and structure of ATMRD.” Merriam’s favorite response from an attendee who was describing the feel of the congress is that it “feels like a warm hug.” “That’s exactly how we want it to feel,” Merriam said. “After the relentless day-to-day of clinic, of patient after patient and never enough time and always more charting and red tape, ATMRD is this refuge where we are taking care of the healthcare providers and turning the tables for four days. This is built into even the little things, like breakfast is not just a cold bagel, or the way we arrange the space for organic conversations to occur.” 

ATMRD has become such a spark for new and deepening connections between colleagues that PMD Alliance launched CAMPFIRE (Career and Mentorship Program for Fellows and Interested Residents), which matches movement disorder mentors with residents and fellows in order to continue the relationships formed at ATMRD throughout the year. Because if we know anything to be true, it’s that we’re better together.

A Spirit of Camaraderie

Community is the undeniable spirit of ATMRD, offering participants meaningful and inspired connection to each other, to their patients, and their calling. 

This is visible even in the way we select faculty. “Not only do we choose people who are highly published and renowned thought leaders,” Merriam said, “but we want faculty who are positive and inclusive, as well…As you walk through the ATMRD halls, there’s a spirit of camaraderie. It’s like we’re united by a sense of mission: There’s something more we can do to help; let’s learn together.” 

What’s also unique about the faculty is that we have one of the highest percentages of APP (advanced practice provider) faculty. 40% of those up there on stage are APPs (nurse practitioners and physician assistants), educating alongside movement disorder specialists—because a united, multidisciplinary care team is the strongest care team. 

Indeed, the diversity of ATMRD participants is part of what fuels the congress’s spirit of camaraderie. Merriam is continually inspired by the energy and passion of the youngest participants—the neurology residents, early career physicians and APPs, and the movement disorder fellows. “They’re just so eager to help people that it just refills my cup and, I think, the cup of anyone who’s in the halls,” Merriam said. “It’s the best part of human nature.” 

And one of the best parts of the congress. PMD Alliance, the Course Co-Founders, the faculty, and participants come together from varied clinics around the globe. And when we all connect, when we learn together, we inspire each other. For people living or loving someone with a movement disorder, this is the gift providers can offer them: a genuine spirit of passion and care, and a willingness to see everyone who enters their clinic not just as a patient, but a whole person.

Are you a practitioner who’s ready to get re-energized and re-inspired? Join us at ATMRD, June 22-25, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, DC

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