USF Health students help author new book on Parkinson’s disease

Two USF Health students were major contributing authors to a new book providing a comprehensive description of current treatment options for Parkinson’s disease.

Madeline Snyder, a third-year medical student at the Morsani College of Medicine, and Michael Carranza, who recently graduated from MCOM with a M.S. degree in neuropharmacology and is now a student at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, helped write Parkinson’s Disease: A Guide to Medical Treatment  published in May by SEEd.

“It’s very unusual for students to produce a book this specialized.  That says a lot about their commitment and dedication to Neurology and Parkinson’s disease patients,” said neurology professor Theresa Zesiewicz, MD, director of the Frances J. Zesiewicz Center and Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease at USF, named in memory of her mother who suffered from the disease.

Madeline Snyder 300x400  PD Book_300x400
USF medical student Madeline Snyder was one of the book’s student authors

The book’s other authors were Dr. Zesiewicz and Jessica Davenport Shaw, MPH, a research support specialist in the USF Department of Neurology and a 2011 graduate of the USF College of Public Health specializing in epidemiology.

Snyder, 25, was not new to publishing. As a USF medical student and an undergraduate majoring in biology at the University of Pennsylvania, she had already authored several papers on neurological topics in peer-reviewed journals.

But those experiences weren’t as all-encompassing as producing the book, which required extensive literature reviews and other secondary research, documentation, collaboration among the authors, writing and re-writing, massive editing and re-editing.

“I read hundreds of papers,” said Snyder, who tackled the project between the first and second year of medical school as part of her ongoing scholarly concentration program in research. “The whole process gave me a lot of hope for patients, because I became aware of all the studies done over the past decades and advances in treatment being made.”

Dr. Z and Mom

USF neurology professor Dr. Theresa Zesiewicz, right, with her mother. The Frances J. Zesiewicz Center and Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease at USF, is named in honor of Dr. Zesiwicz’ mother, who suffered from the movement disorder.

The book is intended as a resource for a wide audience, including patients and caregivers as well as neurologists and primary care physicians.  Its eight chapters cover everything from diagnosis and pathophysiology to the pharmacology of anti-Parkinson’s drugs and medical treatment of motor and non-motor symptoms. 

The book’s final chapter – a question-and-answer section addressing common patient concerns – was an idea Snyder developed with the help of Dr. Zesiewicz.  Snyder says she kept note of the questions frequently asked by patients while she was in the clinic shadowing Dr. Zesiewicz, including inquiries about the potential benefit of complementary therapies like Tai Chi and yoga.

Snyder also leads a pilot study at USF investigating whether subtle changes in handwriting may be an early biomarker for Parkinson’s disease – one that may help detect those at risk for the progressive movement disorder before symptoms of tremor, rigidity and imbalance appear.

Snyder credited Dr. Zesiewicz — known as “Dr. Z” by students, colleagues and patients — with being a role model who encourages research and other scholarly pursuits seeking to improve patient care and quality of life.

“Dr. Z was definitely our guide in the adventure of putting together this book,” she said. “She brings light and energy to everything she does… She spends a lot of time with each of her patients, and they all smile when she enters the room. That’s the kind of physician I want to be.”