Up Front: Strategic Planning and Continued Development

Photo of Gina Ross Murdoch
Gina Ross Murdoch

By Gina Ross Murdoch
MSAA President and CEO

With the arrival of autumn, I am reminded of how quickly the seasons pass by with so much activity going on at MSAA. This activity includes the many past achievements that were reached during our 2018-2019 fiscal year… current directions such as strategic planning, continued development of existing programs and new initiatives, plus the recent addition of new professionals joining MSAA… and future activity as we approach our 50th year of dedicated service to the MS community.

Before I expand upon some of these exciting topics just mentioned, I do want to comment on our very important cover story topic for this issue of The Motivator. The term “pediatric MS” refers to any young person under the age of 18 who is diagnosed with the disease. At one time, children in this age group – particularly preteens and younger children – were thought to be too young to develop MS. However, researchers and physicians alike are now all too aware that MS can occur even in very young children and needs to be among the suspected illnesses when a child presents with MS-like symptoms.

The good news is that the medical community has gained a great deal of information on pediatric MS, including how children are affected differently than adults, what treatments are proving to be the most effective in this age group, and how parents and other adult figures in these young people’s lives may help them to thrive despite the challenges posed by MS. I hope that this article will shed light on the many factors involved and help the MS community to come together in support of this growing population.

Moving on to our last fiscal year, which concluded in June, we were able to achieve many urgent goals in serving the MS community. Among them, we launched two new educational initiatives, which included our inaugural podcasts, plus our “What’s New in MS Research” online, bimonthly articles. In addition, MSAA received several distinguished awards for our educational materials. For information on our current educational materials and programs, please see Program Notes.

Before introducing our new professionals who have joined MSAA, I must first announce the retirement of a long-time medical advisor and supporter for MSAA. Dr. Jack Burks, who has worked with us for decades, has officially retired from his work at MSAA as chief medical consultant. While we will miss him greatly, we wish him much enjoyment in his personal pursuits. On behalf of MSAA, I would like to thank Dr. Burks for his decades of service to the MS community, providing expert perspectives, guidance, and support for our mission. For more details on our farewell to Dr. Burks, please see this issue’s Ask the Doctor column.

I am very proud to announce a new chief medical officer (CMO) for the organization. Barry A. Hendin, MD, a highly accomplished neurologist who specializes in MS, has assumed the role. Dr. Hendin currently practices medicine at Phoenix Neurological Associates, Ltd., where he has been a neurologist for the past 45 years. He also holds the position of director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Banner University Medical Center and is a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Arizona Medical School. Prior to Dr. Hendin’s appointment as CMO, he presented at several of MSAA’s patient educational programs. 

I am also happy to announce two new additions to our Board of Directors, Audrey Allsopp and Ann Baird Bishop. Ms. Allsopp is a workers’ compensation practice leader and claims consultant with Conner Strong & Buckelew, an insurance brokerage, employee benefits, and risk management consulting firm. Ann Baird Bishop, Esq. is a workers’ compensation lawyer with Hall Booth Smith PC, a full-service law firm. MSAA welcomes Dr. Hendin, Ms. Allsopp, and Ms. Bishop to our MSAA family!

I would like to conclude this issue’s Up Front column with a special note about the upcoming year. In 2020, MSAA will be recognizing our 50th Anniversary of “Improving Lives Today” for the entire MS community. During this milestone year, we will be looking back on the impact MSAA has had during its 50 years of service… as well as ahead to how we can improve more lives in the future. Our thanks to all who have been a part of making MSAA the innovative, compassionate, and dynamic organization of today and tomorrow.

Gina Ross Murdoch is a seasoned executive in non-profit management. Her career includes leadership positions with chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the American Diabetes Association. Earlier, she spent 14 years overseeing development activities at a large chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, leading explosive growth initiatives and ground-breaking strategic projects. An active member of the community, Ms. Murdoch has held several town positions and volunteers for her college alma mater, Drew University.