Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Faculty Member Honored by MS Society

Gabe Byars, assistant professor in Salt Lake Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, has been chosen to receive the “Above and Beyond” award by the Utah-Southern Idaho chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Byars’ early connection to MS arose from clinical experiences as an occupational therapist, having very limited education about MS. “When I encountered individuals with MS clinically, I felt overwhelmed,” Byars said. “MS can be a clinically challenging condition. The impacts of MS are extremely varied. Some individuals are most impacted by fatigue or muscle weakness. Others have cognitive impairments or pain or spasticity. And MS is a degenerative disease. This means that over time people anticipate a decline. What could I do to help this wonderful person? Many clinicians are stymied by this dilemma, but I took it as a challenge.”

He learned how rehabilitation interventions could help improve function and quality of life for people with MS and how helping those patients manage symptoms while remaining independent paid huge dividends. “They embraced their lives and did what was meaningful to them – childcare, work, golf, walking the dog,” he said. “These simple tasks helped them continue to improve, becoming healthier and happier. This is what occupational therapy is all about.”

Salt Lake Community College, Byars noted, offers a wonderful service to the community through the occupational and physical therapy pro bono clinics. These clinics offer free therapy services to individuals who are uninsured, underinsured, or underserved at SLCC’s Jordan Campus and throughout Utah through the College’s Telehealth clinic. “Unfortunately, too many individuals with MS are uninsured or underinsured, particularly for physical and occupational therapy,” Byars said. “I have worked with the MS Society to have the SLCC pro bono therapy clinics included as Partners In Care, providing individuals with MS an opportunity to receive necessary rehabilitation services. I have also presented at local and national conferences for professionals and the general public. My role as an educator includes my work at SLCC educating our students. The SLCC occupational therapy assistant students receive training with current knowledge and best practices and have the opportunity to work with individuals with MS. Our students will become the future leaders in MS care.”

Byars has been involved with the MS Society for the past 3 years. He has worked with the MS Society and the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers to become an expert in MS care. Byars obtained an advanced certification as a Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Specialist (MSCS) and served on the Healthcare Advisory Committee (HAC) of the Utah-Southern Idaho chapter, helping to improve access to quality care for individuals with MS and ensure that all individuals with MS have access to necessary medications, treatments and qualified professionals through advocacy, networking and education. He has worked with the MS Society to provide educational programs for professionals and the general public.

“I am honored to receive the Above and Beyond award from the MS Society, recognizing my service to the MS community,” Byars said. “However, as pleased as I am to receive this award, it also highlights the needs still in the community. The SLCC pro bono clinic can only treat a handful of individuals with MS, leaving thousands of individuals in need still lacking services. I hope this award inspires others to serve individuals with MS. Together we can much better meet their needs and promote quality of life.”