Dr. Marika Hohol
Twenty-eight years ago, Dr. Marika Hohol was a newly-minted neurologist trying to decide on her specialty.
She wanted something uplifting, a neurological area where emerging treatments suggested hope was on the horizon. One after another, she dismissed various options until she came to multiple sclerosis.
“These were young patients. There was an opportunity to follow them throughout life and I realized we were on the cusp on therapies,” recalls Dr. Hohol.
Decision made, she moved to Boston to zero in on MS patients at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Five years later, she moved back home to Toronto so that her children would be close to their extended family, and shortly after landed at St. Michael’s Hospital.
Since then, she’s helped countless patients get the right treatment at the right time. She’s also witnessed an army of health professionals – nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, occupational therapists and others – join her in her quest to help people with MS lead full lives.
“It’s important to have a team, because today we can do more than hold patients’ hands,” says Dr. Hohol. “It’s a whole new ball game.”
Her greatest challenge now is also the reason she chose to work with MS patients: the growth in treatments.
“When I left Boston, the first disease-modifying treatment was just coming onto the market,” says Dr. Hohol. “The challenge now is to stay up to date with the different therapies – to know when to use them and how to sequence them.”
She’s reminded on a nearly daily basis what’s at stake: When she tells patients they have MS, often they cry.
It’s an appropriate reaction, she says, and so she lets them cry for a bit, and then asks what MS means to them. Almost invariably, they fear ending up in a wheelchair
While it’s an unpredictable disease and Dr. Hohol can’t offer guarantees, she tells them that she will do her best to keep them from ever needing a wheelchair. “I’ve had patients who felt their lives were over. I tell them, ‘No, it isn’t,’” you can have a full life and realize your dreams and I will be there with you, along the way”