Neurologists – Choosing the Right MS Doctor

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

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (7)
  • Amit
    3 years ago

    This illness manifests in still unknown, complex and disturbing symptoms which necessitate ears willing to listen, mind willing to comprehend and then offer a treatment in patient’s best interest. We deserve a physician who may practice medicine upon us, but never experiment it upon us. We deserve a physician who will always, without excuses, be accessible to us. We deserve a physician who will have the wisdom to challenge conventions and not consider that disability progression is a foregone conclusion if you have MS. We deserve a physician who can feel our pain without showing it to us. We deserve a physician who can actually rise above commercialism and give the right time and advice irrespective of our capacity to pay his bills. We deserve a physician who can be our friend in times of need. We deserve a physician who will listen to us and actually take us seriously. We deserve a physician who will go the extra mile to offer the best solution to us, even if that means using the non-conventional systems of medicine and therapy and not be rigid or be against it, because relief to patient is more important than the ego of his physician. Having a degree in MS is not critical, having the knowledge and wisdom to implement the knowledge of MS is!

  • Penny
    6 years ago

    I have to say that I am as lucky as you are Laura in being referred to Dr. Boster. I live in Springfield and would drive an hour any day to see him. He has taken my very aggressive RRMS and pursued various treatments, keeping me involved and informed in every way. He never rushes and never hesitates to answer the tough questions! He also has the best Nurse Practioners ever!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    6 years ago

    Penny,
    All I can say is I am so glad that you are as happy as I am. I can only wish that eveyrone get excellent care like you do!

    best, Laura

  • Eric
    6 years ago

    I have a great local neurologist. But he does not just see MS patients. I received a referral to an MS specialist at a medical university. I was a patient of both doctors, with consent from each.

    It was important to me to be able to have a local neurologist as the specialist was five hours away. I would have liked to continue to see him. Unfortunately, his client load increased to the point where the appointments went from as-long-as-needed to short 5-10 minute visits. It was disappointing.

    Having a doctor that you can trust and feel comfortable with are the most important things. Not every doctor is suitable for each client. If you do not trust or you are uncomfortable with your current doctor I encourage you to switch to another one.

    Multiple Sclerosis is not a short term illness. In all likelihood you will be seeing this doctor for years to come (But I hope that is not the case.). My first neurologist and the one that diagnosed me would not speak to my wife when we were in the office together. He didn’t treat me much better. I spoke with the office manager about it and changed doctors. He said it is a common occurrence and they were happy to help.

    I’m so glad that I did. The doctor I switched to is the same one I see today, 20 years later. It also is worthwhile to have a long term relationship if you can. As we know each other so well he has been willing to phone me instead of going into the office and he has even made a house call, no charge!

    So while I agree that there is value in seeing an MSologist, I think trust and understanding between doctor and patient are much more important.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    6 years ago

    Eric, I love that you have the two working together for your care and that you were proactive in finding the right doctor for you. too many patients just settle for whoever they are referred to and it dosn’t have to be that way. Twenty years or so is what I picture with my doctor, too.

    best, Laura

  • Dave87
    6 years ago

    I lucked into a good doc.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    6 years ago

    So much of this has to do with luck – which you and I were fortunate to have. There are too many people feeling stuck with doctors that they feel don’t understand MS or its treatment.

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