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By: Alan Smally, Patient Representative of The MSA Coalition

Like many MSA patients I was diagnosed initially with Parkinson’s disease in 2016 after one to two years of mild symptoms. The possibility of MSA was discussed and the likelihood was thought to be low. I was competing in triathlons and doing well in my age group at that time. The worsening of my symptoms prompted me to see a movement disorder specialist who diagnosed possible MSA and on follow-up visit, likely MSA.

My wife (a pediatrician) and I had retired in 2014 and purchased an Airstream RV trailer. Between 2014 and 2020 we traveled twice yearly on two-to-three-month journeys around the USA. Our travels totaled 150,000 miles. We visited most states and National Parks in the lower 48. Our RVing was curtailed by MSA.

Prior to my retirement and diagnosis, I was a doctor of emergency medicine. After growing up in Florida, I attended the University of North Carolina as an undergraduate and the University of Florida College of Medicine. The last 27 years of my career were spent in the Emergency Department of Hartford Hospital, an urban high-volume (>100,000 patients/year) and high-acuity teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. During my career, I served as Chief of Emergency Medicine at the University and Hartford Hospital, Medical Director of the Hartford Hospital ED, and Professor of Traumatology and Emergency Medicine at the University. In addition to my administrative responsibilities as chief, I was elected to Hartford Hospital Medical Executive Committee for several terms, including two as treasurer.

My greatest career enjoyment was practicing clinical emergency medicine and teaching residents in the clinical setting. Teaching physicians and other healthcare professionals was also important to me. I authored or coauthored over 50 publications in the medical literature. Awards received included residency teacher of the year award three times; Phil Stent Award for “leadership and outstanding contributions to Emergency Medicine in CT” by the Connecticut College of Emergency Physicians; University of CT Integrated Residency in Emergency Medicine Lighthouse Award for “leadership and support of residency education”; and Distinguished Service Award given annually by the Hartford Hospital Medical Staff.

Working in the medical field was very fulfilling to me. While I never expected my diagnosis of MSA, or my life to look like how it does now, I am grateful for the chance to continue to help others by serving on the MSA Coalition Board.