With much anticipation USF Health ALS Clinic opens


With heartfelt excitement, dozens of supporters, faculty and patients gathered at USF Health Oct. 27 for a ribbon cutting that signified the long-awaited opening of Central Florida’s first major clinic focusing solely on patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The opening ceremony, held at USF Health’s Carol & Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare, included some of the Tampa Bay area’s strongest advocates in the fight against ALS.

“So many in this room have been touched by ALS,” said Clifton Gooch, MD, professor and chairperson of the USF Department of Neurology and an ALS specialist. “This clinic is the perfect symbol of what can happen at USF Health, to be able to advance the fight against this disease.”


Dr. Clifton Gooch, left, and Dr. Stephen Klasko cited the university-community partnership between USF and The ALS Association for helping make the new multidisciplinary ALS Clinic a reality.

“The opening of this USF Health ALS Clinic is the beginning of a wonderful relationship, and it’s the beginning of the end for this horrible disease,” said Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, CEO of USF Health and dean of the USF College of Medicine, acknowledging the partnership between USF Health and the ALS Assocation Florida Chapter that made the clinic possible.

ALS is a neuromuscular disease that progressively paralyzes its victims, attacking nerve cells and pathways in the brain or spinal cord. Patients are robbed of the ability to walk, eat, speak, and eventually breathe. The average lifespan from the time of diagnosis is just two to five years. There is currently no known cause or cure for ALS.

Central to the new ALS clinic is the ability to build a team that can address in one location the multiple and diverse needs of ALS patients.

“Research has shown that a multidisciplinary approach to care prolongs the lives of ALS patients and improves their quality of life,” Dr. Gooch said.


Left: ALS patient Matt June and friend Jackie Loiselle listen as USF neurologist Dr. Lara Katzin leads a tour of the new clinic. Right: Local media covered the event.

The specially trained healthcare professionals at the new USF Health ALS Clinic will include neurologists, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, respiratory therapist, nurse, registered dietician, psychologist or psychiatrist, speech and language pathologist, and social worker. In addition, the clinic will offer patient education and have a research component. Directing the new clinic is Tuan Vu, MD, professor of neurology and director of Neuromuscular Division at USF Health.

Benefiting most from the opening of the clinic are the victims of ALS, like Matt June, who moved to Tampa from Ohio after learning this past summer about the opening of the USF Health ALS Clinic.

The clinic at USF “offers a glimmer of hope,” said June, 38. “The clinic simplifies things so much and keeps me from having to run from doctor to doctor. An entire team will discuss my needs and what is best for me.”

June is a military veteran with three teenage children. Veterans are two times more likely than the general population to get ALS.

This USF Health ALS Clinic was made possible by an initial $100,000 donation from Stephen Blume and his fiancée Jennifer Leavengood. Blume’s father died from ALS. The gift, presented in July, is part of the USF: Unstoppable Campaign, a comprehensive fundraising effort by USF to celebrate the energy, vision and future of one of the country’s most exciting and engaged universities. A portion of Blume’s gift was put to immediate use in hiring a nurse coordinator for the clinic, a critical point person for ALS patients in coordinating all their care across multiple specialties and in helping to administer clinical studies of investigational therapies.


Left: Local businessman and USF alum Stephen Blume, with fiancee Jennifer Leavengood, donated $100,000 to help launch the clinic. Right: Nancy Baily, president of ALS Association Florida Chapter.

“Until we find a cure, we have to do whatever we can to make people with ALS comfortable,” Blume said. “USF is the perfect location, with resources, databases, and clinical trials. We have an unbelievable homerun.”

“To help make the dream of a clinic a reality, it needed funding,” said Nancy Baily, president of the ALS Association Florida Chapter. “The tipping point was the gift from Stephen and Jennifer, a gift to his alma mater and in his father’s memory.”

The clinic will initially operate the first Friday of each month, and is expected to add days as patient volume grows.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (813)396-9478.

Story by Sarah Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications