Multiple Sclerosis Research

MS Research at Shepherd Center includes both clinical trials and rehabilitation and wellness intervention trials. We support basic and applied MS research efforts. Our researchers ensure these efforts are scientifically sound, safeguard the welfare of research participants, and aim to advance the field of rehabilitation medicine.

MS Rehabilitation and Wellness Research Studies at Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center engages in research to improve clinical outcomes and the quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

In 2012, the MS Rehabilitation and Wellness Research Program began as part of the Eula C. and Andrew C. Carlos MS Rehabilitation and Wellness Program at Shepherd Center. Our research mission supports the MS clinical program and aims to improve the function, health, wellness and quality of life for all people with MS. To that end, our MS researchers conduct studies to better understand the effects of rehabilitation (both physical and cognitive) and exercise interventions for individuals with MS, with a specific focus on those with mobility challenges or barriers to access to rehabilitation interventions. Our research also addresses how interventions affect vocation and quality of life for these individuals. We disseminate research findings (knowledge translation) to people with MS, as well as MS healthcare providers, caregivers and payers. By sharing our research and findings, we help to optimize function and quality of life for all people living with MS.

Health and Wellness in people with Multiple Sclerosis

Clinical Trials in MS Research & Studies

Our MS research activities also include clinical trials related to cutting-edge therapies such as investigational medications, new cell therapies and new devices to patients in the MS Institute at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. We support basic and applied MS research efforts that are scientifically sound, safeguard the welfare of research participants and have the potential to advance the field of rehabilitation medicine.

Ismari Clesson, RN, MSCN, CCRP, director of clinical research, and her team of clinical trial nurses and coordinators oversee 12 clinical trials related to MS.

Learn more about MS-related research trials at Shepherd Center.

PCORI Research Study: Exercise Programs for People with Multiple Sclerosis

Shepherd Center is currently the lead site of an exciting new study exploring methods of exercise delivery and their effects on multiple sclerosis. This new study is made possible by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), who awarded $5.7 million in research funding to the project.

The study, “Comparative Effectiveness of an Exercise Intervention Delivered via Telerehabilitation and Conventional Mode of Delivery,” evaluates the effectiveness of different types of exercise programs for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The project compares exercise programs provided at gyms or rehabilitation facilities with a telerehabilitation program available to patients at home. The goal is to increase the accessibility and sustainability of exercise options for people with MS, which can in turn lead to increased opportunities for MS treatment at Shepherd Center.

Co-Principal Investigators, Deborah Backus, PT, Ph.D., director of multiple sclerosis (MS) research at Shepherd Center, and Robert Motl, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and associate director of research for the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative, lead a team of investigators across the country.

Learn more about this study here.

If you are interested in participating in MS Research, fill out our Research Intake Form.

Our MS Research Team

Shepherd Center’s unique research program integrates clinical and research endeavors. This team, led by Deborah Backus, PT, Ph.D., FACRM, consists of physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, exercise specialists, physicians and collaborators from a variety of fields and institutions. This integrated team endeavors to answer meaningful questions and translate findings into clinical practice.

Deborah Backus, PT, PhD, FACRM
Director of MS Research
Phone: 404-350-7599
Email: Deborah.Backus@Shepherd.org

Guy Buckle, M.D., MPH Director, Imaging Research, Physician PI
Louise Palmer, MA Research Scientist and Project Manager, STEP for MS Trial
Tracy Walker, WOCN, FNP-C MS Clinical Outcomes Specialist
Joy Williams, PT, DPT MS Research Fellow
Marina Moldavskiy, BS Exercise Specialist/Research Coordinator

MS Clinical Program Team

MS Research Team of Collaborators, Past and Present

  • Robert Motl, Ph.D. - Professor & Director of Research in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • STEP for MS trial investigators
  • Kevin McCully, Ph.D. - University of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia, USA
  • Laura Rice, Ph.D., MPT, ATP & Jacob Sosnoff, Ph.D. - University of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA
  • Can Do MS
  • iConquerMS
  • Abiodun Akinwuntan, Ph.D., MPH & Hannes Devos, Ph.D. - Georgia Regents University, Georgia, USA
  • Ilse Baert, Ph.D., & Peter Feys, Ph.D. - Universiteit Hasselt, Biomedical Research Institute, Belgium
  • James Krause, Ph.D. - Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina, USA