Rose Wichmann’s path to the Struthers Parkinson’s Center unfolded one step at a time; at each step she found new ways of supporting PD patients and their families. Rose began her journey over 30 years ago in the physical therapy department at Methodist Hospital, where a small Parkinson’s center did multidisciplinary team assessments of three PD patients each week. All the physical therapists, nurses and doctors would rotate in and out of the team taking turns doing the assessments. One day Medical Director Dr. Paul Silverstein asked her to consider being the dedicated physical therapist on the team. This assignment was just one of her responsibilities that also included home care, hospice and senior programs. But the new assignment was the beginning of Rose’s journey.
The Minneapolis PD community and their mission to support PD patients and their families grew. Rose’s commitment and role grew with it. Grants from the Park Nicollet Foundation, Methodist Hospital and the Struthers family took the part time PD center at Methodist to a full-time, dedicated facility call the Struthers Parkinson’s Center. Today the Center provides medical care, support groups, clinical research opportunities, education, respite care, social services and wellness activities to people who have PD and their care partners. Today Struthers is one of 29 National Parkinson Foundation Centers of Excellence in the US and 39 globally. Rose is Center Manager for Struthers and is at the heart of Struthers and its drive to support more PD patients and their families with innovative programs and services.
“I love my job”, Rose says with a big smile. “It is my passion. I love to work with others on a team, provide leadership and administrative support to the center, write and teach.”
Over the years Rose has had the opportunity to write publications for National Parkinson Foundation, American Parkinson Disease Association, American Physical Therapy Association, and recently co authored a patient resource book with colleague Dr Sotirios Parashos called “Navigating Life with Parkinson’s Disease” for the American Academy of Neurology. She has been involved in a myriad of Parkinson’s educational programs and has done local, regional, and national travel to speak to a variety of groups.
“Struthers is my community. Most people come here to work and stay for a long time. This work is not for everyone. Staff who leave after a short time don’t always seem as connected with the PD community or see the same opportunity to serve.”
One of her favorite parts of her job is to travel the Midwest speaking to Parkinson’s (PD) support groups. Many a time Rose has met with small groups in community centers and church basements. On one particular trip to North Dakota a woman from Crosby (population of 1,100 people) called and urged her to come to Crosby to meet with them. To Rose’s surprise, a group of 110 people had gathered to hear her talk and ask her questions.
“That’s only one example of how big the need is for information and support for those dealing with PD – no matter where you live,” she said.
When asked for advice for people who have PD, their families and helping professionals, Rose said: “Living well with PD is much more than medication, and the person with PD and their care partner are the decision makers. We need to provide the right information at the right time based on what the patient and care partner tell us are their goals and what needs they have. Those things are different for everyone. It may be as simple as how to pick up a wheelchair and get it in the back of a car – or as complicated as getting them connected multiple resources (such as financial, legal and medical). We must ask, listen and offer what is needed.