PSC Funded Student Becomes Next Generation of Parkinson’s Specialists

Dr. Barbara Connolly, Assistant Professor, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.
Dr. Barbara Connolly, Assistant Professor, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

Parkinson Society Canada (PSC) funds doctors and clinicians early in their careers, nurturing the Parkinson’s specialists of tomorrow. One such specialist, Dr. Barbara Connolly, received the Nora Fischer Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship in 2011.

Trained in Toronto under Dr. Anthony Lang, Dr. Connolly now provides her world-class skills and expertise to patients in the Hamilton, Ontario area, where Parkinson’s specialists were in short supply.

“Before I moved to Hamilton, there was only one movement disorder specialist in the entire area, so I’ve taken my knowledge to an underserviced community. I take referrals from local doctors to manage patients with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders so they get more specific care,” said Dr. Connolly, now an Assistant Professor at McMaster University, Department of Medicine.

Interested in medicine from a young age, Dr. Connolly feels her clinical fellowship from PSC played a significant role in getting her to where she is today. In the coming years, Dr. Connolly looks forward to taking the educational process full circle, teaching young students the movement disorder expertise she learned from Dr. Lang.

“I think I have something more to offer my patients thanks to my training. When I was applying to the fellowship program at Toronto Western Hospital – University Health Network, funding availability was an issue, in part due to the economic downturn. The fellowship grant from PSC gave me the funds I needed to pursue my goals,” added Dr. Connolly.

McMaster University is reaping the benefits from Dr. Connolly’s education as a resident neurologist. Dr. Connolly was initially attracted to the opportunity in Hamilton due to the infancy of the residency program.

“I was excited by how new the program was. I knew I could make the residency program into what I wanted it to be. The city also needs more movement disorder specialists so it seemed like a perfect fit for establishing my practice. There’s a lot of opportunity in Hamilton right now,” Dr. Connolly added.

Working out of Hamilton General Hospital, Dr. Connolly has a long-term goal of adding a variety of related and allied health professionals to her team to better serve people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative and movement disorders. About 70% of her current patients have Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Connolly, who keeps her skills current by reading movement disorder journals and attending relevant conferences, is hopeful that developments in neuroprotective medication and cutting-edge early diagnosis methods can be used in tandem to provide a better quality of life, and delay symptom advancement later in life, for people with Parkinson’s.

“If we can identify Parkinson’s early and then medicate to stop its progression, that would be an important step forward for Parkinson’s research and treatments,” Dr. Connolly said.

Even though her fellowship grant from PSC was clinical in nature, Dr. Connolly was still able to participate in many research programs during her time under Dr. Lang in Toronto. Now that Dr. Connolly is settling into her new role in Hamilton and McMaster University, she fully expects to get more involved in research in the future.

“New research excites my patients. They are keen to participate and have an opportunity to make a difference,” said Dr. Connolly.

She has nothing but words of encouragement for her students of today and tomorrow.

“I would encourage anyone interested in Parkinson’s research and related specialties to do it. Parkinson’s is a common illness and with an aging population we’ll need more and more specialists serving those patients. Fellowships are the best way to learn the field,” said Dr. Connolly.

With doctors like Dr. Connolly taking leadership roles in Parkinson’s treatment, research and education, the patients of our aging population are in good hands.

Parkinson Society Canada is the only organization that specifically funds Parkinson’s research in Canada. Together with regional partners, our National Research Program invests in Canadian research from the ground up. Many projects are geared to the discovery stage, which lead to other funding opportunities and new treatments relevant to Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about the National Research Program, contact Julie Wysocki, Director, National Research Program at or 1-800-565-3000 ext. 3382.