Neurologists – Choosing the Right MS Doctor
By Laura Kolaczkowski—June 6, 2013

The question often comes up as to why I feel it is important to be seen by a neurologist who only treats people with Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve written many times about my medical care, but this is the first time I publicly identify the doctor I trust for my care – and I do so only after I made sure it was ok with him.

When I was first suspected of having Multiple Sclerosis, thanks to leg numbness and a pretty classic MS MRI, my primary care physician answered my question ‘who would you want to treat you?’ and  she referred me to the MS Clinic at Ohio State.  She likes our local neurologists, but feels strongly that people with MS are best treated by neurologists who see no one but people with MS, and those don’t exist in my home town.

As luck would have it, the neurologist she wanted me to see at OSU had lengthy wait times to get an appointment and as I was despairing about having to wait another 3 months to see her, the scheduler gave me a different option – there was a new neurologist in their MS Clinic and he could see me immediately because he didn’t yet have any other patients. My thinking was I would see him and then eventually switch to her care – and that is how I came to be a patient of Aaron Boster.

Columbus, Ohio, is not exactly the next town from my home but it is definitely closer than heading to Cleveland to be treated at their MS Clinic.  It takes me about 90 minutes to drive to the Ohio State MS Clinic, and I do this once a month for my Tysabri infusion.  I could see a general neurologist in my town, but I continue to choose to be Dr. Boster’s patient because he is what I have nicknamed an MSologist. Cardiologists, Gastroenterologists and Urologists all have a medical term in their specialty name that tells you what they do, and I think MS doctors need their own distinctive moniker as well and MSologist seems to fit.

Now that I am diagnosed and settled into a routine, I could have my Tysabri treatment done in my hometown, but I continue to make the drive to OSU.  You might be asking ‘why?’ at this point and my answer is fairly simple – I have confidence that my medical team at OSU knows what they are doing.  Confidence and positivity are two key elements needed to live with a chronic disease.

Neurology is a large and complex field and encompasses many disease processes besides Multiple Sclerosis – it includes Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, migraines and epilepsy, to name a few. General neurologists see and treat patients with any of these disorders. Multiple Sclerosis and its treatment is complex and the field is constantly evolving and I want to be treated by an MSologist who stays current with the research, treatment and care.  Dr. Boster tells me he reads literature on MS virtually every night- if he were a general neurologist he might read about a different disease each evening. The medical staff that works with Dr. Boster and the other clinic doctors all specialize  in MS. When I talk about a symptom or a drug side effect, they immediately understand and can help me with suggestions and provide answers.

I collaborate on MS projects with a local neurologist, who recently received his Consortium for Multiple Sclerosis Care certification, and he regularly takes me to task that I don’t need to travel to Columbus for MS care – he says I can get just as good of medical attention here; if I believed that were entirely true, I would certainly make the switch, saving both the time I have to take off from work to travel, and the money spent on gasoline. Despite the local neuro’s certification, he still treats other disorders in addition to MS and in my view he has a diluted MS knowledge base.  His practice, as good as he might be, makes me think of the saying – Jack of all trades and master of none.  Dr. Boster is a master of one type of medical treatment, and that happens to be what I need –someone who understands the nuances of MS.

If my situation were to change and I was unable to do the monthly travel for my MS treatment, I would at least want to have semi-annual or annual checkups with Dr. Boster to review my treatments and track the progression of my MS. He has offered to coordinate my care with the local doctor and during a recent relapse he worked out my Solumedrol drips to be done with the local neuro.  I did that because it seemed unnecessary to make that trip to Columbus multiple days in a row.

Dr. Boster has the stellar reputation to be called on to do second opinions and I have two friends who consulted with him to verify what their own neurologists have diagnosed. He has also told me more than once that he wouldn’t be offended if I wanted to go elsewhere for a second opinion to check out his diagnosis and treatment plan. I am of the opinion that an MSologist has that special confidence and knowledge base to be able to  share their patients with other doctors and not be territorial or feel their authority is being challenged.

The other key point to the care I receive is Dr. Boster practices at a teaching hospital/university. He is not involved with the daily operation of a practice – someone else in the University hierarchy oversees those concerns. He has the luxury of focusing on his patients, treatments and trials, without worrying how he will meet payroll for his staff or pay the mortgage on the building. His appointments are scheduled in 30 minute blocks whereas I often hear other people say they get 10-15 minutes with their neurologists who are in private practice.  The private docs have to worry about revenue, whereas the doctors at colleges are not burdened with the operational money worries.

Not once have I regretted my decision to remain in Dr. Boster’s care and hold the wish that every person living with MS has this same type of specialized care – MS takes all the big guns we can aim toward it, including our doctors. I hope I have given you some ideas to help you to pick wisely.

wishing you well,

Laura

Profile photo of Laura Kolaczkowski

About Laura Kolaczkowski

Laura is active in the national and local MS community, facilitating patient programs including MS research and an MS Aquatics program. She is also a presence on the internet at MS patient sites and maintains her blog at InsideMyStory.com. Laura has a particular research interest in the use of internet information by people with MS and how that knowledge is shared in the patient-doctor relationship.

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