Ice Bucket Challenge
University of New Mexico President Robert G. Frank and several other UNM administrators took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Aug. 27, 2014.

The frenzy of ice bucket challenges sweeping across social media and the country could have a far-reaching positive effect on ALS research, according to UNM neurologists who run the state's only center devoted to the treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

University of New Mexico President Robert G. Frank and several other UNM administrators took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday, getting drenched with ice water to raise awareness for the neurodegenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord. 

"ALS is a terrible disease. The mind remains intact even as the body fails," said Dr. Christopher Calder, medical director of outpatient neurology at UNM Hospital and vice chair of the UNM Department of Neurology. "These challenges are helping to educate people about the disease and how to treat people suffering from it. That can only lead to good things."

Wednesday's Ice Bucket Challenge at UNM helped raise money and awareness for the ALS Association's New Mexico Chapter – the ALS Center at UNM works in conjunction with the association's local and national organizations.

Approximately 30,000 men and women in the US are affected by ALS, which affects the nerve cells that control voluntary movement. Patients experience muscle weakness and wasting, slurred or thickened speech, muscle cramps and twitching, and sometimes periods of uncontrollable laughing or crying.

The focus at the UNM ALS Center is on an interdisciplinary approach to health care for the patient. In a single appointment, patients can see a number of skilled specialists including:

– neuromuscular nurses who oversee and monitor patient care, coordinate research projects and work with community agencies and insurance companies

– speech therapists who can suggest appropriate exercises for swallowing and who can provide assistive equipment.

– occupational and physical therapists, who provides new approaches to managing tasks of daily life.

– nutritionists who evaluate patients' diets for optimum health and energy.

– social workers who assist with community and support services.

– respiratory therapists who monitor pulmonary functions and makes adjustments to respiratory equipment.

– neurologists and neuromuscular specialists who focus on evidence-based care and treatment.

Recent advances in research and improved medical care is extending the lives of ALS patients.

For more information about ongoing studies, call the UNM ALS Center at (505) 272-3194.