Porridge for Parkinson’s and the Marg Meikle Professorship

You may know the story but in case you don’t here’s how Porridge for Parkinson’s and UBC’s Marg Meikle Professorship in Parkinson’s Research came into being.

A Bowl Movement is born

Marg Meikle was a Vancouver woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s in June 1999 at age 43. She and her husband Noel had a son, Mac, who was just 18 months old. They wanted to help find a cure for this nasty, progressive disease and decided to be proactive.

Borrowing the idea of a breakfast benefit from friends, Noel coined the name “Porridge for Parkinson’s” and they set about hosting a simple, friendly fund raising event in their home.

“We can’t just sit around waiting for something to happen with this disease,” said Marg at the time. “The science is ahead of the money so this encourages us to get cooking.”

Porridge for Parkinson’s 2001 was an instant hit. The porridge was delicious, the atmosphere buoyant and the guests generous. Referred to by some as a “bowl movement” it became an annual event. Monies raised went to the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Institute – directly to research as Marg and Noel wished.

The coffers grow

Word got out about this unusual breakfast and interest and attendance grew, along with revenues. A silent auction was introduced, then matching funds were found.

As more and more money was raised, Marg and Noel, working with PPRI, decided to “endow”, or establish an ongoing position in Parkinson’s research at the University of BC.

By 2012 porridge-fuelled fundraising had contributed $2,000,000 to Parkinson’s research – enough to establish a “professorship”.

 What the Professorship does

Having a professorship position enabled UBC’s Faculty of Medicine to recruit a promising junior clinician-scientist in the field of Parkinson’s research. This professor’s work would accelerate UBC’s contributions to understanding Parkinson’s.

Now called the Marg Meikle Professorship in Parkinson’s Research. Dr Silke Cresswell, a clinician and scientist was appointed to the position and has held it since its inception.

Dr. Cresswell is ideal for this position. Since her appointment she has been building a clinical research program focused on the cognitive and neuropsychiatric aspects of Parkinson’s disease.

Among other projects, she is working to establish a full database of the motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s patients at the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre. This will provide the clinical basis for imaging, genetic, treatment and other biomarker and pathology studies in the future.    

The 2014 Impact Report on the Professorship has recently been published by the University of British Columbia.

One goal is achieved; another set

With the Endowment in place, Marg and Noel wanted a new project to fund. They selected one that will improve the way care is delivered at the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre.

Marg died in December 2013 of complications from Parkinson’s having established her “bowl movement”, raised millions to fight Parkinson’s and put in place a legacy to fund research into the future. Not to mention creating numberless porridge-lovers.

The current goal is to fund a $1,000,000 three-year pilot project called IMPACCT. It aims to shorten waitlist times for newly-diagnosed patients, provide more follow-up appointments and track aspects of the disease for research purposes.

A recent report on the IMPAACT project may be read here.