ETSU unveils Gary Shealy ALS Clinic

Published 8:16 pm Friday, April 21, 2017

One Northeast Tennessee man’s legacy will continue to live on in a facet that will affect numerous families all across the region in a positive way.
East Tennessee State University officially opened the Gary Shealy ALS Clinic on Friday, April 21. The new clinic, sponsored by the ETSU College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences, is opened every third Friday of each month from 1 to 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Quillen ETSU Physicians Building on 324 N.State of Franklin Road – across the road from the Johnson City Medical Center.
It was a special day for Faith Akin, who donated the funds to create the clinic following her husband, who the clinic is named after, lost his valiant fight with ALS just a little over a year ago.
“This is for the grand opening of the Gary Shealy ALS Clinic at ETSU,” Akin said. “This is a big deal. Previously, families with ALS patients would have to travel hours to go to clinics at other universities. Having this for our community is a really great thing and on top of that, having students train to care for patients with ALS in the Tri-Cities is great. We’re grateful for Dean Samples and ETSU for their support.”
Akin recalled the journeys she and Shealy would have to take to the University of Virginia’s clinic and how the travel tended to be difficult.
And it was a perfect way to honor “Slim” Akin said with a smile. When Shealy turned 30 years old, he decided to take a leave of absence from work to hike the Appalachian Trail.
“When you’re on the trail, you receive a trail name, and he was ‘Slim,’” Akin said. “But into his diagnosis, we knew that name stood for support, love, inspiration and miracle. It’s a very emotional day, but I know he would be excited to see this center. He always kept a great sense of humor, and he’d love to joke around.
“He would say ‘sweet,’” Akin added with a laugh when asked what Shealy would say about Friday’s ceremony.
ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and increases muscle atrophy over time.
Steve Wallace, CEO of the ALS Association of Tennessee, added having the resources of the clinic is necessary for the 30-plus families that have a loved one affected by ALS in the region.
“Providing comprehensive, multidisciplinary patient care is one of the cornerstones of our work here at the ALS Association, and this new partnership with ETSU will enable both institutions to offer even more high-quality clinical care to some of the area’s most vulnerable population,” Wallace said.
Friday’s event featured Dale and Lisa Boyd – who were recognized by Dr. Dean Samples, dean of the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences. Dale, who proudly displayed his ‘Buc Pride, was diagnosed with ALS while Carter County recently saw former East Side Elementary Principal Dr. Josh Wandell receive his diagnosis in 2013 – each man still makes an impact to this day.
Gentlemen like Shealy, Boyd, and Wandell was the main reason why all the professionals came together to offer this clinic, Dr. Samples said. Medical representatives from Physical Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Nutrition, Pharmacy, Medicine and Social Work will all be available to lend their services at the clinic.
“These professionals come together to conduct required quarterly evaluations of patients to determine their needs,” Dr. Samples said. “Each appointment lasts around two to two-and-a-half hours, and each professional spends time with the patient. After the meeting, the team of providers comes together to discuss the patient’s needs and the progress of the disease. We then make recommendations to the patient’s primary care physician regarding treatment.
ALS patients or families of patients interested in learning more about the clinic can call (423) 439-7280. Members of the public interested in donating to the clinic can make checks payable to Gary Shealy ALS Clinic and mail them to the ETSU Foundation; PO Box 70617; Johnson City, TN 37614.

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