Offering the Best Possible Care

 
As a clinical fellow at the Toronto Western Hospital Movement Disorders Clinic, Dr. Emily Swinkin will learn more about how to use techniques like deep brain stimulation and an intestinal gel called Duodopa to better treat people with complicated cases or those in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. She looks forward to building strong relationships with her patients and giving the time to understand the way Parkinson’s affects all aspects of their lives. Swinkin’s research is made possible through Parkinson Canada’s National Research Program and funded by Pedaling for Parkinson’s in honor of Hartley Richardson for $50,000 for one year.

Dr. Emily Swinkin was just 11 years old when she got a Christmas present that started her on the road to medical school.  

History News: Medicine, the book her uncle gave her, described breakthroughs in medicine throughout history, from trepanning to the invention of X-rays and the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics.

“It made me excited to think about how much science and medicine has evolved over time and how I wanted to be part of that one day,” says Swinkin.  

Today, Swinkin is a neurologist embarking on her first year as a Clinical Movement Disorders Fellow with the University Health Network, working at the Toronto Western Hospital Movement Disorders Clinic. Her goal is to learn more about how to help people with complicated cases of Parkinson’s disease and refine her skills in treating movement disorders.  

Swinkin will gain experience in deep brain stimulation, a treatment that involves inserting electrodes in the brain to deliver electrical pulses that can help control the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s such as tremors, stiffness and slowness.    

She’ll also learn more about Duodopa, an intestinal gel infused directly into the intestine to improve the way levodopa works, by extending the amount of time the drug can continuously relieve Parkinson’s symptoms.    “While I don’t think I’ll be like the medical revolutionaries in that book, I do really love working in a field that is so rapidly changing because I get to constantly learn new things while being able to offer the best care to my patients,” Swinkin says.  

Throughout her fellowship, Swinkin also hopes to spend time studying how people in the end stages of Parkinson’s disease feel about medical assistance in dying, and whether they have access to this intervention.    

Swinkin is drawn to working with people with Parkinson’s disease because she enjoys developing relationships with her patients and their families over time.   “I find that very rewarding,” she says.   One of her first patients left an indelible impression.   The middle-aged man with Parkinson’s disease had a tremor in his dominant hand, which cost him his job as a cameraman.  

“What struck me was that he was so stoic, but it was having a huge impact on his life,’’ she says. “I wished there had been more I could have done for him.”   

Swinkin hopes she can build similarly strong connections with other patients throughout her fellowship.       

“I do really love working in a field that is so rapidly changing because I get to constantly learn new things while being able to offer the best care to my patients.”    

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