Originally destined to become a full-time professional volleyball player, Professor Bastiaan “Bas” Bloem, MD, PhD, changed his career path when he saw the effect multiple sclerosis, a progressive neurological disease, had on his own family.
In a blog post for The Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, author and journalist Jon Palfreman profiles Bloem, now medical director of the Parkinson Centre Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Bloem worked early in his career with renowned Parkinson’s expert J. William Langston, MD (The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s founding chief scientific advisor) and went on to develop a life-long passion for Parkinson’s and for raising awareness of the importance of allied health care options for PD patients.
Bloem teamed up with his medical school roommate, Marten Munneke, in 2004 to create ParkinsonNet, a network of highly trained medical professionals able to provide care — physical therapy, speech therapy and other allied care specialties — to patients in the community.
Palfreman’s profile notes Bloem’s initial struggles with getting ParkinsonNet off the ground:
To start with, it was a hard sell. Bloem recalls, “At the beginning many neurologists were reluctant to participate. They didn't believe in the merits of allied health interventions, and in truth they had a point, because there actually wasn't much evidence for it.” But after a decade of use, there is hard data. In the March 19, 2014 online edition of the British Medical Journal, Bloem and Munneke summarize what ParkinsonNet has accomplished. By treating patients using trained experts in the community rather than hospitals, ParkinsonNet saves some $28 million annually. It’s also produced better health for patients — one large observational study found a 55% decrease in hip fractures in cohorts treated in ParkinsonNet regions. For Bloem, it’s an example of a new collaborative culture of care where “specialized professionals and engaged patients work together to try to achieve optimal outcomes.”
Today, ParkinsonNet has 66 regional networks, 2,970 trained medical professionals and nearly 50,000 patients covering the whole of the Netherlands.
Bloem continues studying the benefits of allied care therapies, such as physical therapy and exercise, on Parkinson’s patients. In 2008, MJFF funded Bloem and Marten Munneke, PhD’s ParkFit Study, which tested their promotion of a healthy lifestyle in people with PD. Additionally, Bloem has lent his expertise to the PD community through his participation in MJFF Webinars.
Read Jon Palfreman’s entire profile of Bas Bloem on The Journal of Parkinson’s Disease blog.