For Area Researcher, MS Brings A New Focus
WOODBRIDGE, Conn. — When medical scientist Olympia Hadjimichael’s daughter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), there was no question she would get involved in the fight — even if that meant looking for more ways to get involved and even changing the focus of her research.
“After her diagnosis I lost interest in my original work … and because MS research is the only way to find a cure I became interested in working to develop a patient registry in order to facilitate research and clinical trials,” said Hadjimichael, a coordinator for the sixth annual Women Against MS (WAMS) luncheon event in Branford, Conn., Friday, June 6.
Now retired from her career as an epidemiologist and MS researcher, Hadjimichael continues to work for a cure through her involvement with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter.
“Events like WAMS are the way to raise the funds we need to further research,” said Hadjimichael, who lives in Woodbridge, Conn.
Hadjimichael’s daughter, Thespina, was just 21 and graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her first symptom was the loss of sight in both eyes — a common condition for people with MS, but it usually affects only one eye at a time, said Hadjimichael.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Thespina, live with multiple sclerosis. There is currently no cure for this chronic and often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
Statistically, three times as many women are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as are men. As a result women across the nation now come together to learn, through inspirational personal accounts, about the effects of this potentially debilitating disease and the latest advances in treatment and care. These same women join together to raise critically needed funds to facilitate scientific research to find a cure. The money raised also provides for vital programs and services offered by local chapters. Since 2001 these dynamic groups have been known as Women Against MS or WAMS.
Bestselling novelist Jacqueline Mitchard will be a keynote speaker at the June 6 WAMS luncheon in Branford. Mitchard authored the critically acclaimed “The Breakdown Lane,” a novel about living with the sudden onset of a chronic illness. Mitchard’s own lifelong friend, Jeanine, was diagnosed several years ago with multiple sclerosis.
Local news anchor and reporter Jocelyn Maminta, WTNH News Channel 8, will serve as mistress of ceremonies at the luncheon. Maminta, who joined the station in 1993, co-anchors the weekly news with Keith Kountz at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She also regularly reports on health-related topics and medical breakthroughs.
Last year the Greater New Haven luncheon raised more than $35,000. Over the past four years, Greater New Haven and Greater Hartford WAMS luncheons have raised more than $500,000.
After many years of helping raise awareness and funds to support MS research, Hadjimichael and her family have learned that the movement against MS must start with individuals.
“The only way we can hope for a cure is if we get involved ourselves,” said Hadjimichael.
For more information on attending the WAMS luncheon, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, please contact Kristen Mauro, senior development specialist, at (860) 714-2300, ext. 224, or visit http://www.ctfightsms.org/.
NOTE TO MEDIA