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2014 Annual Dialogue on Multiple Sclerosis: it is not a hopeless disease

Electronic Graphic for Dialogue

Thank you to everyone who was in attendance at this year’s Annual Dialogue on Multiple Sclerosis which took place on the morning of October 29 at the Madison Concourse Hotel. We were joined by about a hundred individuals from around the state, including representatives from our two partner organizations for this event, the National MS Society – Wisconsin Chapter and the Wisconsin Well Woman Program.

It was through the collaborative work of our partner organizations that made this event possible – with their encouragement and support, we were able to join together and shed some light on this often debilitating health issue.

Multiple Sclerosis is a complex disease with a complex diagnosis. While there are many theories about the cause of MS, the main cause is still unknown. What is more, it’s been found that women are 2 to 3 times more affected by the disease than men and that the incidence of MS dramatically increases as you move further away from the equator into the northern areas of the world. In Wisconsin, the incidence is about 500 per 100,000 people, compared to areas near the equator, which are as low as 1 per 100,000. However, in the past 30-50 years significant advancements have been made in the areas of diagnosis, treatment and therapy. Living with MS is now a far less daunting task.

From left: Peggy Mat-Siewert, Colleen Kalt, Dr. Colleen Hayes, Dr. Christopher Luzzio

From left: Peggy Mat-Siewert, Colleen Kalt, Dr. Colleen Hayes, Dr. Christopher Luzzio

In light of this exciting time in the area of MS research, we were thrilled to welcome our four esteemed panelists, all of whom provided their own informative and eye-opening perspective on this often complex auto-immune disease.

Our first speaker for the day was Colleen Kalt, President & CEO of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National MS Society. Colleen began her career with the Society in 1982 as a volunteer. Today, she has thirty years under her belt as the President. During her time at the Society, she has vigorously advocated and supported the work of scientists and clinicians in MS research. With her help, we now understand just how far we have already come over the short period of 30 years and how near we are to making some major breakthroughs.

“30 years ago, they were telling MS patients to do nothing. They told them to go home, rest, and not move.”

-Colleen Kalt, President & CEO of the National MS Society

Our second speaker was Dr. Christopher Luzzio, an Assistant Professor of Neurology from the School of Medicine & Public Health at UW-Madison. Dr. Luzzio not only is a Neurologist who sees and treats MS patients daily, but he is also a Machinist and an Engineer who specializes in manufacturing devices that aid disabled individuals, including those who have suffered a loss of bodily movement as a result of MS. At the Dialogue he shared the importance of therapy and exercise, emphasizing that through pursuing a healthy lifestyle, many MS symptoms can be made manageable, and in some instances, slow the progression of the disease down.

Dr. Colleen Hayes, a Professor and Researcher in the Department of Biochemistry at UW-Madison shared her perspective on Multiple Sclerosis, focusing in particular on her research which indicates a correlation between Vitamin D levels and the diagnosis of MS. She explained the correlation by illustrating the extreme differences in incidence close to the equator and north of the equator. She is conducting ground-breaking research in an area of study that has proved incredibly difficult for most scientists and researches to try and understand. We are grateful to her for her continued work in this area.

Dialogue Collage

Lastly, we had Peggy Mat-Siewert join us to give insight on what it is like to be a Caregiver of someone with this disease. For Peggy, it was her husband, John, who struggled with MS for about 14 years before losing his battle in 2010. In her talk, Peggy emphasized the importance of being open about struggling with the condition and also encouraged getting involved in community activities related to MS. She participated in many MS Awareness bike rides through the Society and has been an inspiration to thousands of other caregivers out there who are dealing with the same difficulties. You can find her and her late husband’s story on CaringBridge.com. 

If you were unable to attend the event but are still interested in the topic, you can take a look at our website, there you will find each speaker’s presentation slides. A white paper of the event will also be available sometime early this winter.

View the full-length video of our recently premiered "Multiple Sclerosis: Wisconsin Perspective"

View the full-length video of our recently premiered
Multiple Sclerosis: Wisconsin Perspective

Also on our website is a new video created in collaboration with the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, titled, Multiple Sclerosis: Wisconsin Perspective. This video features two of our panelists from the Dialogue, Dr. Colleen Hayes and Dr. Christopher Luzzio, both of whom speak about the basic characteristics of the disease and the progress that is being made in research and therapy. It’s only about 15 minutes long and covers many important points on the topic of MS. Take a look and feel free to share it with your family and friends.


Thanks again to all who were able to attend and support this very important women’s health topic. Our desire is that all attendees were able to walk away with a better understanding of MS and its challenges, while also leaving with a sense of hope: in the words of Dr. Luzzio, Multiple Sclerosis does not  have to rule your life. Through exercise, healthy eating habits, therapy, and support from the MS Society, family and friends, it can be a very manageable disease.

For more information on MS and ways to get involved in advocacy or receive support, please visit the National MS Society – Wisconsin Chapter website. They are doing incredible work all around the state of Wisconsin and would be happy to work individually with you.


A special thanks to our sponsors:

UW Health & Unity Logo




 Acorda Therapeutics      Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin

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