The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) was honored to host its first nationwide virtual Black MS Experience Summit from September 22-24, 2020. Being Black and living with MS in the United States brings unique challenges and experiences such as scientific and clinical differences in the disease as well as stark inequities in the healthcare system. The Summit aspired to create an experience focused on furthering social justice and building trusting relationships based on cultural perspective and responsiveness.
Throughout the 3-day interactive event, almost 600 members of the Black MS community gathered to learn and forge powerful connections. Day one featured MS specialist and neurologist, Dr. Mitzi Williams (Founder and Medical Director of Joi Life Wellness Group) as she shared information about the latest research investigating unique disease and treatment patterns and contributors to these patterns. The second day welcomed licensed psychologist, Dr. Evelyn Hunter (Auburn Psychological Wellness Center) who addressed the emotional challenges and common barriers to treatment such as stigmas and systemic healthcare disparities. On the last day, MS specialist and neurologist, Dr. Jacqueline Rosenthal (Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute) updated attendees on the latest research in MS treatments focused on minority groups as well as addressing common misconceptions around clinical trials. Themes of self-advocacy, empowerment strategies, and identifying community strengths were present throughout each session. Additionally, speakers emphasized the importance of research for diverse populations who are underrepresented throughout the Summit.
The heart of the event was the inspiring engagement that occurred during the breakout sessions led by MS community leaders. Breakout discussions allowed for interaction, connection and dialogue between speakers and participants. These sessions focused on specific experiences and interests allowing for authentic conversations and creating a safe space where participants could feel seen, heard, and understood. For more information or to get involved visit the NMSS Website.
Authored by Janell Marshall, Director of Program Implementation and Engagement at the National MS Society.