Parkinson’s Foundation Appoints Four New Members to People with Parkinson’s Council

NEW YORK & MIAMI (July 27, 2021) — The Parkinson’s Foundation has appointed four new members to its People with Parkinson’s Council. The council consists of people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and care partners who continue to ensure that the perspective of people living with Parkinson’s is included across all Foundation programs and priorities.

“The People with Parkinson’s Council is essential to helping us understand and address unmet needs within the PD community,” said John Lehr, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation. “We welcome our four new council members who are dedicated to helping us make life better for people with Parkinson’s.”

The advisory council’s newest members have diverse professional skills and experiences. They include:

BJ Bement

Benjamin ‘B.J.’ Bement, Baton Rouge, LA: Benjamin is a Navy veteran and former Chemical Plant Operator. Diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2013, he now advocates for the needs of the PD community on Capitol Hill. Benjamin serves as co-chair of the Parkinson’s Foundation Moving Day Baton Rouge event and is passionate about getting newly diagnosed individuals involved in local activities.

Mark Kelm

Mark Kelm, Minneapolis, MN: Mark is an Army veteran and Episcopal Priest. Since receiving a Young Onset Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2016, he has become a strong advocate for the PD community. Mark is active at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and serves on the Community Advisory Board for Struthers Parkinson’s Center, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.

Paula Flisnik

Paula J. Flisnik, Marcy, NY: Paula is a Global Ambassador and Foundation District Coordinator for the Lions Clubs International, where she has received an International Bronze medal for her support in raising over $300 million. She previously served as Director of Community Relations at the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011, Paula encourages others to live life to the fullest. 

Tonia Smith

Tonia Smith, Cincinnati, OH: Tonia is a wellness coach, personal trainer and public health advocate. She manages a Health Promotion and Worksite Wellness program for a local health department and leads a coalition which works to improve health outcomes in underserved communities. Tonia is a care partner for a family member who is living with Parkinson’s.

In addition to the four new People with Parkinson’s Council members, the council has appointed Tom Manak of Glen Ellyn, IL, as the chair of the council and Lisa Cone of Wheat Ridge, CO, as vice chair of the council.

“The People with Parkinson's Council offers real life insights to Parkinson's Foundation leadership from those living with or caring for someone with PD,” said Tom Manak, People with Parkinson’s Council chair. “Having served as the full-time care partner to my late wife, I understand the importance of providing that voice to the Foundation to help advance PD research and ensure quality care.”

In 2006, the Parkinson’s Foundation became the first organization to establish a patient leadership group instrumental to developing programs and research initiatives. A total of 15 People with Parkinson’s Council members guide Parkinson’s Foundation priorities, identify unmet needs, provide input on programs and serve as liaisons to the community.


About the Parkinson’s Foundation
The Parkinson’s Foundation makes life better for people with Parkinson’s disease by improving care and advancing research toward a cure. In everything we do, we build on the energy, experience and passion of our global Parkinson’s community. Since 1957, the Parkinson’s Foundation has invested more than $400 million in Parkinson’s research and clinical care. Connect with us on Parkinson.orgFacebookTwitterInstagram or call (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636).

About Parkinson’s Disease
Affecting an estimated one million Americans and 10 million worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and is the 14th-leading cause of death in the U.S. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for Parkinson’s and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. alone.

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