This Side of Hope

My mom has lived with MS since her 20s. She was diagnosed before I was born, so MS has always been something that is a “normal” part of my life.

Through the years, MS has thrown her some curveballs, but my mom has always found a way to adapt. She’d put on a smile and learn a new way of doing something she loved and wasn’t willing to give up. She is strong and resilient, and this has impacted me in the most extraordinary way.

During my childhood and young adulthood, my mom was involved in many clinical trials. I’ve always been interested in the science behind MS, so I decided to go into medicine and work on drug discovery. I performed research through my undergraduate, master’s program and doctoral program.

I feel obligated to serve because I have the privilege of being able to. To take pride and ownership in anything, you must feel as though you have significantly and consistently contributed. My personal and professional life goal is to cure MS, and research is bringing me closer to bringing a better quality of life to MS patients like my mother. 

Mom-I-80-s.jpgScience, just like any technical field, can seem like a foreign language. But there is just one thing that you need to know about my work and the work of thousands of other MS researchers: we are working towards a world free of MS. A world where a newly diagnosed patient can show up to a neurologist after an MS diagnosis and hear: “Don’t worry, we have a medicine for that.”

I have hope that this will be possible one day. As the daughter of someone living with MS, who was diagnosed during a time where it was process of elimination in the 1980s, and clinical trials/alternative medicine were the only options for therapy, the current state of disease-modifying therapies has vastly improved. We are very lucky to currently have 16 disease-modifying therapies, and for the first time, a treatment for progressive MS. We are on the brink of being able to selectively target the small part of the immune system that goes awry in MS and promote repair of the brain. In short, it means patients could stop disease progression, and regain lost motor and sensory function.

As an MS researcher, I can see firsthand the breakthroughs we’re making each and every day to better understand the causes of MS, find new treatments and ultimately, cure MS. My mom is my inspiration for this work, but I know I’m a part of something bigger. A movement that won’t stop until we end MS.
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Haley Titus

Haley Titus, PhD, is a Society post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Stephen D. Miller at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, focusing on selective immune regulation and myelin repair. She received her bachelor's from Miami University with a minor in neuroscience in 2007, her master's in anatomy from Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine in 2009, and her PhD in neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 2015. She has a strong background in neuroscience, specifically in neurodegeneration and repair through her work on peripheral nerve injury, neuro-oncology, and neuroimmunology. Her personal and professional life goal is to cure MS, as her mother has secondary progressive MS. She is an active philanthropist in her local community and is heavily involved as a board member in her local Society office.

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  • David Maskalick   May 30, 2018 1:15 PM
    Haley, You are a huge inspiration for me. I received my PhD in biophysical chemistry from Indiana University in 1984 and started biotechnology drug development at Eli Lilly & Co. I was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS in 1987 but with support from my wife was able to remain a Research Scientist at Lilly until I had to take disability leave in 2000. We returned home to live near our parents in Pittsburgh, PA and have been caring for them and contributing to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and other non profit organizations since then. Now, without knowing you personally, I feel very fortunate to know that you have committed your career to better understanding how to develop treatments that will halt this autoimmune disease and demyelinate nerve cells. Thank you!!
  • Steve Polatas   May 30, 2018 2:12 PM
    Haley, As a person with MS (diagnosed in 2000, first symptoms early 90's), I am very grateful for your determination to cure this insidious disease. I am, however, somewhat skeptical that I will see a cure in my lifetime (I'm 55) and it's not because of brilliant minds like yours, working in research institutions around the world, it's because of the mess that the pharmaceutical industry has created of the market for treatment drugs for chronic diseases like MS. I'm skeptical that drug companies who are currently charging $60K to $80K per year for treatment drugs are going to support a cure that would eventually wipe out that revenue stream. I guess I've been soured a bit after being on the same DMT since 2000 and currently paying over $6K a month for the same drug that I paid $1500 a month for when I started. That just isn't fair and just practices in my opinion.

    As a former Big Pharma employee, I would love to hear David's opinion on my feelings about a cure.

    Thank you, Haley, for your determination. I truly wish your dream is realized.
  • Steve Polatas   May 31, 2018 11:59 AM
    It's unfortunate that posts like HANK's are not moderated out. Do your homework and you will see that these overseas 'Health Centers' (this one's in South Africa) are scams. You send your money, they say send the goods which then quickly get hung up in customs requiring you to send more money to get them out, which ultimately never happens. Use caution and don't take HANK's word for it without further investigation.