Iowa Eagles give $144K to UIHC for MS research

BY JOE HITCHON | JUNE 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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While the mission for all Eagle members is "people helping people," for Jake and Barb Roush, this past year's fundraising effort for the battle against multiple sclerosis had a special significance.

When Jake Roush became the 2011-12 Iowa president of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, the decision to select MS patient care and research at the University of Iowa as the state charity of the Iowa Eagles was an easy one — daughter Lori suffers from MS, and she has received care at the UI Hospitals & Clinics for 20 years.

The Iowa Eagles club presented the UIHC Neurology Department with a check for $144,113 for multiple sclerosis patient care and research on the evening of June 23 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

The check was the result of a yearlong, statewide fundraising effort on the part of the Eagles — which included fish frys, bake sales, cakewalks, and auctions — and was presented to E.T. Shivapour, a UI clinical professor of neurology specializing in MS, and Asgar Zaheer, a UI associate professor of neurology.

"You could never meet a more caring and compassionate doctor than Dr. Shivapour," Barb Roush said at the ceremony. "It was after seeing all that he does for his patients, even out of his own pocket, that made us want to help his patient-care program and also support the research of Dr. Zaheer."

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory neurological disease that blocks nerves from sending signals to and from the rest of the body. The parts of the body that do not receive these signals cannot function, causing them to fail and can result in paralysis, sensory loss, and pain.

According to the National MS Society, health officials estimate that 400,000 individuals in the United States are afflicted by the disease.

The money donated from the Eagles will be divided between the patient-care efforts of Shivapour and a research team led by Zaheer.

Zaheer and his researchers have been pioneers in the field, and they have developed an antibody that stops the negative effects of a protein called GMF, that, when overproduced by the brain, causes the inflammation that triggers MS.

"We accept this generous donation with a great sense of responsibility," Zaheer said. "Every day, my lab works very hard to find ways and means to advance the knowledge of MS disease, and this generous donation will go a long way."

After years of testing on mice, the researchers are now ready to test the antibody on human MS patients, and the money donated by the Eagles will be vital to this effort.

For Shivapour, the money donated to his patient-care program will benefit many patients and meet many of their needs.

"My job will be to provide the patients with whatever they need that they cannot afford," he said. "If it is a hospital bed, a cane, or even a scooter, I will make it happen with the money the Eagles have donated."

This is not the first time the charitable efforts of the Eagles have been donated to the UIHC to support medical research.

"I have been working with the Eagles for six years now, and it is just an extraordinary grass-roots and charitable organization," said Brenda Duello, the executive director of development at the UI Foundation. "They have been making charitable donations to the UIHC in a number of fields for more than 30 years."

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