WINSTON-SALEM – A young man’s vision and collaboration with the Department of Physical Therapy at Winston-Salem State University and the Gateway YWCA have come together to form MSfit, a free fitness and wellness program offered to people with multiple sclerosis.
MSfit is the brainchild of WSSU alumnus and former employee Brian Murrill, whose mother Patsy Murrill lives with the disease. A teacher at North Hills Elementary School, she was diagnosed with MS in 1995.
“It’s been a challenging yet rewarding experience seeing this program come together. I came up with this concept in January of 2013 to honor my mother,” said Murrill. “My original goal was to create a program that would directly address the physical and emotional needs of people living with MS.”
To bring his concept to life, Murrill developed key partnerships with the Gateway YWCA and National MS Society, along with physical therapy students and faculty from WSSU.
“MS is the most common disabling neurological disease of young adults in the U.S. It is our hope to grow this program and improve the overall quality of life of as many participants as we can. When you support MSfit, you are empowering people to move beyond their MS by giving them the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, actively co-manage their disease, and live their best lives through health and wellness,” Murrill said.
The program has three main objectives, he said:
- To provide the MS community with a free fitness and wellness program that improves life for participants and their families.
- To share results from the program with physicians to better understand the role fitness plays in managing MS.
- And to create an opportunity for graduate-level physical therapy students to get hands-on experience.
Since MSfit launched in October, it has received an overwhelming response from potential participants. The program officially opened its doors to participants on January 26 at the Gateway YWCA in Winston-Salem.
Dr. Sara Migliarese, a physical therapy professor at WSSU, said the department is excited about the partnership.
“Our third-year students performed the fitness screenings and developed exercise programs for the clients with MS, based on their abilities,” she said. Under faculty supervision, students will teach each client safe and effective exercises to perform using YWCA facilities.
“This service-learning opportunity will benefit the students, as well as the clients, and the WSSU PT Club is already involved in early fundraising activities to help support the MSfit Foundation and cover the cost of the YWCA memberships for the MS clients. WSSU is committed to the success and sustainability of this community service,” Migliarese said.
As a part of their coursework, the WSSU Department of PT will return to the Gateway YWCA once a month to reevaluate participants and document their successes.