In the 2:00:2 r.ie, .ork Tinles E.esiseller Luck)
Man, actor Michael J. Fox opens the memoir on
his struggle with Parkinson's disease by reliving Featured Scholar:
the moment he first experienced symptoms of Harvey Montijo
the illness while lodging at the University
Center Hotel in Gainesville during the filming of 2003 - . .
1991's Doc Hollywood. 2003 - 2004 University Scholar
Mentor: Dawn Bowers
"That morning-November 13, 1990-my brain College of Public Health and Health Professions
was serving notice: it had initiated a divorce
from my mind," Fox writes. "Efforts to contest
or reconcile would be futile; 80 percent of the
process, I would later learn, was already
complete. No grounds were given, and the
petition was irrevocable. Further, my brain was
demanding, and incrementally seizing, custody
of my body, beginning with the baby: the
outermost finger of my left hand."
The deadly disease first manifested itself in the
young star through the uncontrollable shaking
of his left pinkie finger. Only 30 years old at the
time, doctors passed it off as a harmless
tremor. It wasn't until seven years later that he
was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's
disease. Of the 1 to 1.5 million Americans
affected by Parkinson's, about 10-20 percent
are diagnosed before age 50 and half of these
before age 40. Moved by Fox's rare struggle
with the disease, University Scholar Harvey Montijo started volunteering in the lab of his mentor Dawn Bowers, an
associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology and the Department of Neurology,
researching Parkinson's during his sophomore year.
"In his book, Michael J. Fox told how he had Parkinson's while working on the show Spin City, but no one knew," Harvey
says. "He would take medication that would allow him to go out there and act, but because a patient cannot stay on these
drugs continuously, he wasn't able to take them while off the set. When I met Dr. Bowers and found out she was doing
research on Parkinson's medication, I was sold."
After a year of volunteering in the lab, Harvey became a University Scholar during his junior year, 2003-2004. For his
project, he studied the effect treatment drugs have on the memory of Parkinson's patients. "People often don't realize
that Parkinson's slowly kills the brain," he says. "People usually see the motor part-the shakes and tremors-and not
the mental part, but Parkinson's patients have a really hard time thinking clearly."
Harvey went into the homes of 17 subjects, as well as 19 controls, and conducted a battery of working memory tests.
Each subject was matched with a control patient on intellect and education level and performed five computerized tests,
each increasing in difficulty.
"We found that on the easier tests they performed just as well as everybody else," Harvey says. "But when you get to
the harder tests, even though their speed while on medication is the same, the accuracy is a lot lower than the normal
patients'. So we know that they can code information, but they can't handle as much of it."
A health science major, Harvey is slated to graduate in spring 2005 and is busy applying to medical schools. During his time
at UF he has volunteered for Hope Lodge, the American Cancer Society and Florida Diabetes Camp. Though he knows he
wants to be a doctor, he is unsure whether he will make a career out of working with Parkinson's patients but hasn't ruled it
out. "My father is an orthopedic surgeon and, though I love neurology, I also like orthopedics," he says. "I am just going to
wait until I get into medical school and decide. They say you change your mind ten times before you get out anyway, and
you have to decide what you want and not what others want for you."
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