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Impacting MS Patients in Puerto Rico

By Nicole Febles
March 28, 2021

Three years ago, a representative of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society gave us an orientation at school in order to create awareness about multiple sclerosis. I remember how amazed I was when she mentioned that in Puerto Rico, there are approximately 70,000 cases of MS. To me, this was a great number considering that I still haven’t met anyone with the disease on the island. This made me ponder about possible reasons why. I realized that perhaps patients might be misdiagnosed.

To illustrate, there are only about 113 neurologists that care for about 3.3 million people in Puerto Rico, and only 6 of those neurologists are recognized as MS specialists by the National MS Society. This clearly shows that there are not many clinicians to treat and diagnose all the patients that live with MS.

As a medical student and aspiring neurologist, this concerned me — it is for this reason that I applied to the Society’s Multiple Sclerosis Mentorship Summer Program. I got accepted at the Chicago site under the mentorship of Dr. Carolyn Bevan, an MS specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. 

By meeting and working with MS patients, I learned about the criteria for making an accurate diagnosis, the different types of MS, risk factors, symptom management and all the disease modifying therapies available. Therefore, I am confident that this experience provided me with the needed tools to improve my future MS patients’ quality of life in Puerto Rico. 

This opportunity to work so closely with Dr. Bevan and MS patients has made a huge impact on me. It’s given me a solid foundation on what it takes to be an excellent neurologist to help my island, which is in desperate need of neurologists and even more, of MS specialists.

Editor’s Note: Visit the National MS Society website for Spanish resources. Also watch Spanish-editions of our Ask an MS Expert series.

Nicole Febles

Nicole Febles is at the San Juan Bautista School of Medicine in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She wishes to become a neurologist and is committed to helping relieve the shortage of MS specialists in Puerto Rico.

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