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Parkinson's Disease Diplomat Program

The VCU Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Center and Power Over Parkinson's are pleased to announce our newest collaborative endeavor: The Parkinson's Disease Diplomate Program (PDDP). 


Through this program, we hope to raise awareness about how advocacy work can make life better for people with Parkinson's. Each month, we will select a single nominee who is working to improve the lives of other people with Parkinson's in their community.  Each monthly nominee will receive a certificate of appreciation and a $150 cash prize to donate to a Parkinson's Disease organization of their choice. At the end of the year, we will select a single winner out of our 12 monthly nominees who best personifies the spirit of the award. The winner will receive a plaque and a $500 cash prize to put toward a PD charity of their choice. All of the monthly nominees will be featured on our various media outlets throughout the year. 

Monthly recipients


susan burns


From the Nominator:

I am nominating Susan Burns for the PDDP.  Years ago, she identified that women with PD, who represent the minority since PD much more commonly affects men, often have special needs that are typically unmet by regular support groups.  She wanted to create a support group that was different from the rest in many ways.  While education was still a priority for her, she placed much more emphasis on meeting the emotional needs of group members as they reacted to their diagnosis and disease progression.  I have attended hundreds of PD support group meetings across the state of Virginia as a guest speaker, but I have never encountered a group quite like this one.  They are so warm and welcoming. They bake and bring cookies, and they foster true friendships within the group.  It's wonderful to see!  

-Leslie Cloud, MD, MSc


From the Nominee: 

I am truly honored to be selected for this recognition.  When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2012, my first reaction was “This cannot be happening to me!”  To learn more about PD, my husband and I joined a PD support group, open to both men and women.  At these meetings, I met several women who, like me, were experiencing PD symptoms they did not feel comfortable discussing in a large support group environment.  With that in mind, and with the support of Dr. Sarah Lageman, Dr. Leslie Cloud, staff at the VCU Parkinson’s & Movement Disorder Center, and a group of like-minded women with PD, I started a PD support group exclusively for women.  We chose the name “Women Going Forward” and our mission is to “Empower Women Living with Parkinson’s Disease.”  


We advocate for: 

  • Providing women with PD an environment where they can openly discuss all topics, share their experiences, and provide support to women newly diagnosed with PD 

  • Providing women with the latest information on PD medications, treatments, and research 

  • Mindful wellness as a key coping skill for women with PD 

  • Exercise as a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility, and activities of daily living 


My work with WGF has been a life changing experience.  I believe I was given PD for a reason: to help other women with PD.  My favorite quote is, “One positive thought in the morning can change your entire day’s outcome.”   



From the Nominator:

I am nominating Bill Riley for his endless generosity and positivity.  He has volunteered for multiple research studies at our center over the years, even though he lives a significant distance away and still works full time.  He also started a support group for PD in his local community, a venue in which he shares his positivity and proactive approach to PD. -Leslie Cloud, MD, MSc

From the Nominee:

“Keep moving, keep active, keep learning, keep sharing” are the words that best describe my approach to Parkinson’s. Since first being diagnosed in 2012, I have been an active member of the Parkinson’s community with a keen focus upon gaining and sharing as much knowledge as possible about the disease.  I was somewhat familiar with Parkinson’s from both my mother and her sister (my Aunt) having been Parkinson’s patients, but was both shocked and caught off guard the day my primary care doctor looked me in the eye and told me my diagnosis – since that day, I’ve really delved into reading and learning everything I can about this disease. Learning about and understanding Parkinson’s is one of our key roles as the patient – no one is more invested in this disease than the patient – and by learning all that I can, I believe that only serves to strengthen the quality of the care you receive from your movement disorder specialist and the other members of your care team. I also believe that sharing knowledge gained and information with other “Parki’s” is a key step in battling this disease.  Recognizing a need in my local community for a Parkinson’s Support Group with a positive focus, I started and run a group on the Virginia Peninsula. I attended a few support groups and my impression was if you weren’t depressed when you got there, you sure as heck would be when you left. Several of us got together, and formed our own group called On Offense. We gather each month, research topics, share information, and exchange tips on what works. Our goal is to put as many tools as possible into each other toolkit for both fighting this disease and maximizing our daily quality of life. It’s been a great experience for not only those of us with Parkinson’s, but the spouses and care partners as well.


I have noted in almost all the topics we have looked into regarding Parkinson’s that one key term keeps coming to the forefront – Exercise. It seems that no matter what topic or symptom concerning Parkinson’s that you’re looking into, that exercise and its benefits come to the forefront. It is critical that we keep moving and keep active, work on flexibility, mobility, balance, muscular strength and cardio. When someone has Parkinson’s they tend to be stiff and fatigued quite often, the easy thing to do is give yourself a pass and not exercise, but then you have to ask. “how do I improve that situation?” Exercise is key to attempting to slow progression and helpful with so many of the other challenges of this disease. In addition to the work I do in his local community, I enjoy supporting research studies conducted at the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center. In my mind it ties to the same idea of the support group and being on offense against Parkinson’s. I like the idea of contributing as a study candidate to the knowledge pool that the gifted folks in the medical community are building to find new ways to improve our quality of life and eventually find a cure for this disease. It’s rewarding to be a participant and I always find I learn just a little bit more about Parkinson’s with each study I participate in.


Overall, I wouldn’t want to say that Parkinson’s hasn’t caused me to make a few minor concessions to how I handle each day, but I’m moving, I’m active, I’m learning, and I’m certainly enjoying life to the fullest each and every day.


FRED WoodlIef


From the Nominator:

Fred Woodlief, DDS was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia.  After receiving a biology degree at The College of William and Mary, he completed his D.D.S. training at The Medical College of Virginia in 1976.  Most of his 33-year career was spent practicing family and cosmetic dentistry in a large multi-specialty group practice until his retirement in 2009.  He holds Fellowship and Mastership in the Academy of General Dentistry, a worldwide organization emphasizing continuing dental education.  He was an adjunct clinical professor for 10 years at the MCV/VCU School of Dentistry. Dr. Woodlief was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at age 56.  Dr. Woodlief is a member of the Richmond Movers and Shakers. In 2016 he began what has become a yearly involvement with the PD SELF program (Self Efficacy Learning Forum out of Denver as the lead facilitator for this 9-month course for new PD patients).


Fred has eased so many folks in Central Virginia into their Parkinson’s journey through these programs and more. He helps the newly diagnosed through the initial shock, into the “I can do this” phase. The local community is a better place due to his continued efforts. Thank you, Fred, from the bottom of our hearts.


From the Nominee:

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at age 56.  I am a member of the Richmond Movers and Shakers, a local group of PD patients who have raised over 5 million dollars towards bringing a movement disorder program and nationally known neurologists to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.  I serve on their fundraising and advisory committees and have done presentations on Parkinson’s topics at their monthly meetings. I have been serving as the facilitator of their support group since 2013.  My desire is to facilitate the education of dental providers in the special needs of patients with Parkinson’s Disease.


I am in my fourth year of serving on the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s People With Parkinson’s Advisory Council (PPAC) with two years as its co-chair; and is a Clinical Research Advocate (PAIR) with the PFD after completing their Clinical Research Learning Institute in 2011.  In 2012, I began serving as a patient advocate member of the PDF’s scientific grant review committee.  I serve as an Assistant State Director for Virginia for the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN).  I also table for the PDF at local and regional events including the Davis Phinney Foundation’s Victory Summit in Richmond in May 2012 and the annual Richmond Parkinson’s Community Day.


In 2012, I joined the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging’s (SNMMI) Patient Advocacy Advisory Board (PAAB) representing Parkinson’s Disease.  I serve on the SNMMI’s Center for Molecular Imaging Innovation and Translation (CMIIT) Industry Partners Circle as a patient advocate.  My interest is in the use of molecular imaging in the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease. I was a poster presenter while attending the 3rd World Parkinson’s Congress in 2013.  The subject was “Helping Parkinson’s Patients Get A Clear View of Molecular Imaging”.  I am active in fundraising for the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder Center and serve on the Center’s 5K Run/Walk committee and the planning committee for the Center’s Regional Advocates in Movement Disorders program.  I enjoys speaking on the topics of Dentistry, Parkinson’s Disease, patient advocacy /clinical research.  I have attended numerous continuing education courses and webinars on these topics.


In 2016, I began what has become a yearly involvement with the PD SELF program.

Bill Headshot.png

bob Scudder



Sue Knighten


From the Nominator:

Bob Scudder was born and raised in Washington, DC and raised mostly in Ohio. After receiving a bachelor's degree in Chemistry at Xavier University, he completed a 4-year Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. He then joined the Navy and worked as a dentist and served in the Vietnam War on an aircraft carrier. He left the Navy after his first tour and had a private practice for four years. He missed the Navy so much that he went back to active duty and worked another 20+ years. He then worked in the management of hospital services and later ran a psychiatric hospital. He then taught medical administration at Medical University of South Carolina for 3-4 years. From about 1996-2000, he worked with the South Carolina Research Authority with development of computer systems for health care. In his last formal career, he became an executive coach and ran programs for about ten years. He retired in 2012. Dr. Scudder was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2017. He has been a ardent participator in Rock Steady Boxing and attends classes 5-6 times per week. He just celebrated completing his 500th session! Dr. Scudder is also an enthusiastic supporter of POP and its events. 


Bob is a tremendous advocate for Parkinson's disease awareness and the role of exercise in mitigating the impact of the disease. He approaches everyone to make them feel welcome and included in Parkinson's classes and events. Bob is a true social connector who strives to include others and share with people the resources available for Parkinson's disease. Thank you, Bob, for all of your enthusiasm and gracious connection to all members of the Parkinson's disease community.

-Dr. Sarah Lageman, PhD


From the Nominee:

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2017.   In the roughly four years since diagnosis, I have continued to live a full life.  I have probably met more amazing people and made more close friends during this time than I could ever have imagined.  I consider myself to be a healthy person. I take my medications and I go on with my life. A big part of my life is exercise but then I have always been active from a physical standpoint as well as from a social standpoint.   As I am now 80 years old, I have put a good portion of my “work life” behind me and focus my life today on family, friends, some travel and, of course, exercise. I am most fortunate that, through the Power Over Parkinson's (“POP”) many programs, I have met a number of valuable friends and have used them as learning opportunities as well.  POP has developed many programs focusing on Physical activity, exercise, social events, education, etc. I consider Gary Rogliano, Founder and Chairman of POP, and his daughter Margaret Preston, POP’s President, to be valued friends and business associates and I admire their contributions to benefit the Parkinson's community.


I receive my Parkinson’s health and medical care at Virginia Commonwealth University Health’s Pavilion in Short Pump, an amazing Center of Excellence where one of its major foci is their Movement Disorder Center including its extensive exercise and physical therapy programs. Shortly after being diagnosed with PD, I was introduced to an exercise program by the name of Rock Steady Boxing (RSB). This local affiliate was established  in 2017 by Lindsay Nexsen, a hardworking and visionary Doctor of Physical Therapy.  I have been a dedicated member of RSB and the gym since early 2018 and have reached a significant goal of being its first member to have completed 500 workout sessions.  Lindsay and her cadre of experienced coaches have set the bar for many of us who strive to continually maintain and improve our health status.  Additionally, we establish and grow new friendships and experience increased socialization capacity.  I personally participate RSB’s programs as many as six days a week.


Refocusing on Power Over Parkinson’s, Gary Rogliano, our founder, has established within the POP organization, the POP Advisors Group.  Per our mission statement, POP is dedicated to supporting those with Parkinson’s through financial, physical, and socialization avenues.  When indicated, I provide background and other information through which newly diagnosed individuals can access same.  It is a distinct pleasure to both participate in the program and provide information to newly diagnosed clients.

From the Nominator:

I am nominating Sue Knighten for the PDDP.  I met Sue at a Support Group Meeting,   “Women Going Forward,” she offered her assistance to the group and has been a positive asset to the group.


Sue was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in the fall of 2014 and went for a second opinion in early 2015 and her diagnosis was confirmed. After her diagnosis, Sue moved to Richmond in 2016 from Louisiana. Since arriving in Richmond she has exceeded the meaning of volunteering and fighting her daily challenges living with PD.


She has been active with WGF since 2017 assisting in coordinating meetings and various events. She was  selected to attend the Parkinson’s Policy Forum in Washington DC in spring 2018:  3-day program sponsored by Parkinson’s Foundation and MJ Fox Foundation for training and advocacy:  bringing our message of needed support to Capitol Hill lawmakers


She Volunteered as an admin assistant in the Richmond PD Self Program for the 2018-2019 session. In December  of 2018, she attended a workshop designated to train Support Group Leaders this event was sponsored by PMD Alliance and was held in Rockville, Md.  She has also supported 2019+ admin assistant of the Richmond PD Self Program with training, substituting 2019, 2020. She has Initiated and supported the PD Self class of 2019-2000 and also served as chaplain of the Alumni group composed of all 2016-2019 PD Self participants.


Sue worked with Fred Woodlief to merge the Richmond PD SELF alumni group with the local Movers and Shakers support group to form the Richmond VA Parkinson’s Action Forum; supported group in admin functions. She also attended and supported various Parkinson’s community initiatives sponsored by different groups 2016-2021 and advocated for the importance of exercise in maintaining the health of PD patients


Sue has truly exceeded the requirements of a volunteer. I am honored to nominate her for the PDDP Award.

Susan Burns

WGF volunteer Facilitator


From the Nominee:

I have been blessed to find myself in RVA with its rich environment of support for Parkinson’s disease patients.  I feel especially lucky to have worked, played or exercised alongside the exceptional group of Parkinson’s patient advocates Power Over Parkinson’s has recognized here.   And, lastly, I am honored to be included.  I came from a community that tried to provide support for Parkies as some refer to us, but it never quite came together in a positive experience.  Between the support groups, the skilled medical care and the lovely people who are fighting this monster disease, Richmond gets an A for advocating for us.  I have added my bit in strongly encouraging all PD patients to participate in exercise programs, as a recognized avenue to positively affecting the physical and mental ramifications of PD.  I particularly try to talk to those newly diagnosed because I strongly believe that it is much easier to get yourself into such programs before PD has knocked you down too many times.  


I also have taken heed of Power Over Parkinson’s message that the exercise can be fun and use that as part of my spiel when talking with the newly diagnosed.  I personally play PickleBall and take ballroom dancing lessons, both of which have definite effects on PD’s progression:  strength, endurance, balance, etc., without actually going to exercise class at the gym.  I have a couple of friends back in Louisiana who I credit with the slow progression of my PD because they encouraged me so successfully to keep moving when I felt bad even before I was officially diagnosed.  It is much easier to continue an active life-style than to initiate it—momentum is priceless!!


Eugene "roy" Budd


From the Nominator:

I am nominating Eugene "Roy" Budd as our December PD Diplomat.  He is cc'd here.  Roy has generously volunteered countless hours of his time to participate in numerous clinical trials at our center over the years, driving back and forth from Williamsburg for every study visit.  He is a wonderful example of how to live well with PD.  He has the mindset and determination of athlete, which serves him well as he continues to live with PD.  


He is also a dog trainer, and he occasionally arrived for study visits with roughly a dozen beagles in his truck.  He and his wife JoAnn Gora are quite the force together.  When they are on a mission together, get out of the way!  I hope you have a chance to meet them one day.  


Roy, please let us know what charity you have selected?  Also, if you can send us a short paragraph about you, your experience with PD, and what your participation in trials and the PD community has meant to you, we will use that to draft the announcement that will go up on the 15th.
-Dr. Leslie Cloud


From the Nominee:

When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I was in a state of disbelief and denial. Then came the self-pity.  That turned into anger and hostility towards everyone and everything!! Once I accepted that PD was my new “normal,” I started developing strategies to cope with this progressive disease. First, my wife and I formulated a plan of action to cope with some of the effects of the disease – – installing grab bars in bathrooms, rearranging furniture so it is located to help rather than obstruct movement. Eventually, I realized there were mental, not just physical, health challenges; I needed to guard against depression. So I focused on hobbies and activities that I enjoyed; I even started my own business, training dogs. My advice to fellow sufferers: move, move, and move some more! 


The doctors and staff at the VCU Parkinson center have helped to guide me through my journey with PD. One of the best ways that I have found to be part of the treatment team is to participate in clinical trials conducted at VCU. These trials made me feel I was helping fight the disease. As a former athlete, I wanted to “get a glove and get in the game.” I wanted to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem. I wanted to help find new and effective meds that eased the journey for others. Another benefit to participating in the trials is realizing that the doctors you are working with are gaining a greater understanding of your experience with the disease. They get to know you and your challenges better. Ultimately, that helps them help you!  It’s been my privilege to work with the doctors at the VCU center for the study of Parkinson’s. 


Thomas Lincoln

January - 2022

From the Nominator:

I am nominating Thomas Lincoln for the PD Diplomat program because of his support of the local PD community and his commitment to participating in clinical research. In 2016, his family had the idea to establish a Rock Steady Boxing (“RSB”) gym to improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Tom’s wife, Maryann, and daughter, Sarah, became certified RSB coaches in December 2016 and co-founded RSB Charlottesville in March 2017. Throughout, Tom has been a core supporter and participant in RSB. He recognizes the importance of exercise in helping his PD symptoms and attends RSB 2-3 times a week. Over the years and with two location moves, over 50 boxers and 6 volunteers have participated in classes at RSB Charlottesville. He always strives to make RSB available to other patients by advocating for the program. Tom also recognizes the importance of research in improving the lives of PD patients. Over the past years he has been a research participant in PD studies at both VCU and UVA. 

-Dr. Matthew Barrett 


From the Nominee:

I was born in 1949 and raised in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. I am an alumnus of St. Paul’s School (1967) in Concord NH and University of Virginia (1971) with a BA in Art History. At both schools he was a member of the rowing team. I married my wife, Maryann, in 1979. I became a certified Land Surveyor in 1981 and opened Lincoln Surveying in 1987 in Charlottesville, VA. My wife and I were blessed with two sons and two daughters. I was an avid golfer and would always play in summer golf leagues. Once, as a speaker, I told my audience that  “my golf handicap is my job, my wife and my 4 children.”

After receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in 2011, I continued to remain active at work, at home, attended support groups, RSB classes and traveled the world with my wife. I continue to remain active in RSB because I believe it has made me stronger, helped me focus my attention, my balance, to socialize with my PD friends, and it has given me many opportunities to find out about PD treatments and research studies. As a result, I felt the importance to participate in the PD research studies that I was eligible for. I believe the research in PD today will help us better understand the disease, to design future treatments, and to greatly improve the quality of life not only for myself, but for my PD peers as well. My family and I are extremely grateful for the continued and dedicated professional care that I receive from Dr. Matthew Barrett and his clinical team at VCU.


Daphne Norfleet

February - 2022

From the Nominator:

I am nominating Daphne Norfleet for the PD Diplomat award.  Daphne has PD and has been a patient at the VCU PMDC for many years.  She is a wonderful example of the power of positivity and how to live well with PD.  She has been a huge supporter of our center over the years, participating in many of our events to raise awareness about PD.  She consistently built one of the largest teams to participate in our annual 5K, and she is always willing to help out in any way that she can.  She has also volunteered to participate in research studies.  

-Dr. Leslie Cloud


From the Nominee:

When I was diagnosed with PD, I was not surprised, as my life had been full and it was time for God to slow me down and for me to recognize how the little things in life are so important. My friends have been awesome in helping me deal with this experience. During all four of the VCU Parkinson’s Movement 5K’s they stood by me and donated thousands of dollars. Our local private school (Kenston Forest) even loaned us a bus each year so we could all ride together.  Our biggest group team “Movin’ to Keep Movin’” had 36 members walking.  I had company sponsorship each year to provide T- shirts for the team. My biggest supporters have been my  son  Cory Wright, (who provided lunch for the team every year) and husband Billy Norfleet.  I have tried to keep an upbeat attitude about this thing called PD and with God and Dr. Cloud on my side I have felt very few worries.


Joe D'Orazio

March - 2022

From the Nominator:

Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease In June of 2018. Joe also battles MS, but you wouldn’t know it with his infectious smile and positive demeanor! Joe is very active in the Parkinson's community and not only participates in all the POP events, but also positively engages with fellow members. You can always count on seeing him at events sharing laughs with others. In addition to truly being a positive force within our community, he encourages other PwPs to attend the events and supports them the best he can. Joe also arranges for sponsors to donate to POP’s annual golf tournament and is a golfing fixture at the event! Joe has donated his time as a POP Advisor to help and support others who are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s and has also shared his inspirational story via the POP Profile Series. We are fortunate to have Joe as part of our Parkinson’s community. 

-Gary Rogliano, PwP


From the Nominee:

I'm very honored to be selected as the PD Diplomat for the month of March.  My journey with Parkinson's started when I was diagnosed in June of 2018.  Over the past three plus years I have had tremendous support from my family and friends.  Along the way, through Rock Steady Boxing and POP,  I have been blessed to develop many relationships with others who are also dealing with Parkinson's.  You quickly realize, this is a disease that affects everyone differently, however, managing it through exercise, education and socialization helps to lesson the impact of this disease.


I'm extremely grateful for the POP foundation.  I've been honored to be a POP Advisor and to share my story through a POP Profile Series.  The POP Foundation is making a significant impact in the community and I'm thankful to be a part of it.  


If I'm not exercising or attending a POP function, you can find me golfing, watching my grandson, working in the yard, washing my vehicle or at Swift Creek Presbyterian Church.  

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Chris Zatkulak

APRIL - 2022

From the Nominator:

Chris is a force to be reckoned with. Over the years of knowing her, I have had the pleasure of watching her sheer tenacity in battling the disease. She has shown up to fight Parkinson’s in so many ways, particularly regularly attending the Power Over Parkinson’s HEAT exercise classes, attending webinars and educational seminars, being a fixture at POP’s Parkinson’s Activity League events, and, in May, she will be attending the PWR! Retreats in AZ to continue to learn ways to manage the disease. Her thirst for knowledge about every aspect of the disease is noteworthy and she leaves no stone left unturned. Chris has participated in studies and has volunteered her time at the VCU Motor Control Lab as they research and develop Virtual Reality software for people with Parkinson’s. Chris has raised a beautiful family who are often right by her side at exercise classes, and participate in the Power Over Parkinson’s annual golf tournament. I am not only honored to nominate Chris for our PD Diplomat Program but also to be able to watch her admirably fight back against Parkinson’s. 

-Margaret Preston, President, Power Over Parkinson's 


From the Nominee:

I’ve always had a melancholy nature.  My father had PD and seeing what he went through firsthand, my cup ½ empty nature really kicked into overdrive when I was diagnosed in 2014.   Through VCU’s movement disorder clinic, I was connected to a wonderful PT, who worked there at the time named, Jeff Hoder.   He was so encouraging, gave me hope and made me feel impowered to affect my disease, mainly through exercise.   I also couldn’t ask for a more compassionate, knowledgeable PD movement disorder doctor than Dr Leslie Cloud.  


In researching what was out there in the world of exercise for PD, I first learned about Rock Steady, run by the dynamic Lindsay Nexsen.    Then our fearless leaders at POP, Gary Rogliano and Margaret Preston began the HEAT program at Gold’s gym.  And Bobby Hand, a PT specializing in movement disorders from VCU, has another great class offering called LIFTPD.  The YMCA at John Rolfe has a PD class and there’s also Parkinson’s Dance Project.  And I have an awesome  personal movement trainer, Jennie Meharg.  So, there really isn’t an excuse for not moving, there’s only not enough time to attend all the offerings.  


I also joined a helpful forum named   Anything you’d ever want to know about the disease, treatments, drugs, studies, supplements, exercise, programs or other conferences/talks will be discussed there.   I started getting overwhelmed with information overload and so began going to a functional practice, Dr Aaron Hartman MD, to help me navigate what supplements can be truly helpful for PD. 


Taking charge of my disease to the degree I can, helps my optimism level, as does knowing there are so many wonderful people in our city that truly care and have so generously provided such a bounty of assistance, knowledge and opportunities.

paul  mug shot.heic

Paul Jalbert

MAY - 2022

From the Nominator:

I nominate Paul Jalbert for the PD Diplomat award. He continues to calmly adapt to whatever Parkinson’s disease throws at him, and he does it with a great attitude.  He is a huge supporter of the VCU PMDC and also the MJFF’s research mission, donating his time and his money to the efforts.  He is a real class act.  

-Dr. Leslie Cloud


From the Nominee:

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008, at the ripe age of fifty-seven. Quite frankly, I did not know much about the disease. And in fact, I went for a second opinion, and only then did I believe that I had Parkinson’s. When I told my father after hiding it for several months, one of his comments was I thought something was wrong with you as when we raced downhill slalom courses you would always hook the left gate, which my Parkinson’s started on my left side me. At that point, I said to myself that this disease was not going to define me and that I would keep doing the same things that I did before the diagnosis. I get up each morning and continue with my fight against Parkinson’s. I am also a huge fan and contributor to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and their efforts. I have participated in several studies at VCU that were funded by this organization. I know that most of these studies will not help me but I hope they will benefit the next generation. I used to serve on the advisory board for the VCU Movers and Shakers group for our annual 5K race to help the VCU Parkinson’s Center. As a participant in this race, I had the largest team of 90+ and the one of the largest contributing teams. 

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has made the public more aware of Parkinson’s and the visual attributes of the disease. It has been a tough and funny struggle sometimes because I strive to help the general public become aware of the attributes and be courteous. But after you know me for 1 or 2 minutes, you know I have Parkinson’s, because if you did not ask me, I would proudly tell you. 


Ken Konopky

JUNE - 2022

From the Nominator:

I have had the privilege of getting to know Ken over the last several years, as he is a constant fixture at our Parkinson’s Activity League events. With his presence, comes his infectious positivity and optimism. Those who know Ken will find him always in an upbeat mood and ready to crack a joke. He hasn’t let his Parkinson’s diagnosis strip him of his sense of humor and ability to connect with and impact others in a positive way. Since his diagnosis, Ken became active in the local PD Self group, shared his time with graduate students at VCU Health, and has also participated in studies for both VCU Health and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. He is truly a Parkinson’s Diplomat! 

-Margaret Preston


From the Nominee:

My Parkinson’s journey began in 2017 at the age of 54. What a surprise! I was in good health, an active gym member, while maintaining a typical American lifestyle. I did not know much about Parkinson’s other than it was a Neurological Disease that Michael J. Fox developed at an early age, and he exhibited movement challenges. After doing initial research, I became concerned as to the road ahead of me. Like other hurdles I’d confronted in life, I was determined to take this head on, Afterall this is who I am.


Within a week of being diagnosed for a 2nd time, I sprang into action! I was fortunate enough to begin taking a yearlong course, PD Self-Efficacy which not only provided me with the knowledge I sought but gave me the opportunity to meet others who encountered similar challenges. During this period, I was amazed how active PD communities across this nation were, whether it be the research, seminars, medications, support groups or exercise programs.


Having gained a better understanding of Parkinson’s, I wanted to become more involved in the local Parkinson’s Community.  I was also fortunate to have a medical team (VCU Health), an awesome care partner, a supportive family and friends who’ve made this journey an easier road for me to travel. My intentions were not to sit in silence but utilize my optimistic attitude with a humorous twist to advocate for new treatments and an eventual cure.    


So, whether I’m connecting with VCU Health Students in a forum setting (favorite of mine), a willingness to provide organizations like MJJF, The Parkinson’s Foundation and VCU Health with clinical research study data. These opportunities have given me the confidence needed to provide support to those who know that my fighting spirit is alive and they’re not alone. 

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