Meet the WPC 2013 Ambassadors: Ryan Tripp

Ryan Tripp, a former physical education teacher and administrator, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1996, at the age of 47. He is one of the three Canadian Ambassadors for World Parkinson Congress 2013. Ryan lives in Bracebridge, Ontario.

How did you become a WPC 2013 Ambassador?

I attended the first World Parkinson Congress in 2006, in Washington, D.C. and got hooked on what it had to offer. Then I went to the second Congress, in Scotland, in 2010, on a travel grant, in exchange for volunteering to talk about the Congress before, during and after the event.

Within six months of my return, Congress Manager Eli Pollard, offered me the opportunity to become an Ambassador and generate excitement about WPC 2013 in Canada and around the world. Parkinson Society Canada CEO Joyce Gordon agreed that, in view of my Parkinson’s advocacy work here provincially, I might be of some help. I am thrilled and privileged to serve as one of the 12 global WPC 2013 Ambassadors.

How is the World Parkinson Congress different from other Parkinson’s conferences?

World Parkinson Congress is unique in being open to researchers, neurologists, general practitioners, nurses, allied health professionals, people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers. Other conferences are held specifically for neurologists or movement disorder specialists or people with Parkinson’s and caregivers. WPC provides opportunities for everyone associated with Parkinson’s to come together.

What’s new on the agenda?

For the first time, WPC is inviting health ministers, policy makers and government officials to attend a special pre-conference policy day where these delegates will talk about what is happening with Parkinson’s in their countries and describe available programs, opportunities and funding.

In another first for WPC, some sessions will be offered in French.

How do you promote WPC 2013 to people with Parkinson’s?

I describe WPC 2013 as a four-day investment in ourselves. As people with Parkinson’s, we need to sit at the table, make our voices heard and share in the decision-making. We have an opportunity to interact with the brightest and best minds in science and neurology. Montreal is a tremendous location, in terms of its diversity in the global market.

Why are you such a passionate advocate for Parkinson’s?

After my diagnosis, I felt that my life had shattered. I experienced depression, withdrawal and had difficulty doing my work. I ended up with a fractured marriage. After two years of this, with some help, I took hold of myself and began commuting once a month to attend a support group. There, I met other people with Young-Onset Parkinson’s and found I could relate to them. We forged relationships that proved valuable and important to me. This fostered my desire to be an advocate provincially, nationally, and now globally, as the Parkinson Society Canada’s mission says, to ease the burden of Parkinson’s and find a cure. I’m prepared to do as much as I can for the cause.

You talk to children about Parkinson’s. Why is that important?

With my background as a physical education teacher and education administrator, I have a particular interest in talking to children in elementary and secondary schools. I gear it to their age. I start by asking, “Has anybody heard the word, Parkinson’s?” Usually one or two have heard of it. I might ask, “Have you ever seen someone shaking?” I get the students to come up with their own questions to open up the discussion.

I think that, in any society, knowledge about major diseases is important. Children need to know that, although some medical conditions may be more serious than others, each has a tremendous effect on the person living with it. Talking about Parkinson’s can help children develop not only a knowledge base about Parkinson’s but also empathy for people living with it.

Is there anything you’d like to add about WPC 2013?

I’d like to remind everyone that registration starts in January 2013 and various key deadlines are approaching, so I encourage you to get involved and come to Montreal for the WPC 2013.