And his impact has entirely covered the waterfront. With so little published in the medical literature, Doug learned to offer the highest quality of clinical care by ‘learning on the job.’ He developed the best approaches for acute therapy and for managing symptoms through experience. Of course, he was informed by all his experiences with people with multiple sclerosis, but he had to determine how TM was different from MS, and how his strategies had to be applied recognizing those differences. He had no guidebook or map to determine his direction; he had to create it. And he did. And every clinician and every patient is benefitting from this work. You get to be an expert through the process of acquiring experience. Doug set out the shingle, and people with TM came to him in droves, from across the country and from around the world. It took a very special person to transform experience into clinical expertise, and that is precisely what Doug accomplished.
Doug is also an academician. He understood and accepted the obligation to train physicians and scientists in the discipline that he was basically creating – a specialization in rare neuro-immune disorders. He trained and mentored Dr. Benjamin Greenberg who has gone on to open a TM and NMO Center at UTSW, and he trained and mentored Dr. Michael Levy who became the director of the NMO Center at Johns Hopkins.
As there was very little research on TM before Doug, he came into the discipline with a relative blank slate, and just an enormous hill to climb when it came to need. From diagnostic criteria, to disease process, to effective acute therapies to symptom management to restorative therapies, Doug was aware of the challenges and set about attempting to make a difference across all of them. Doug was and is a great collaborator. The interests of science and the interest of making a difference for the community have taken precedence over personal ambition. Doug has always been an advocate of sharing scientific work for the benefit of patients; this is not a characteristic universally shared in academia. Doug not only embodied this higher value, he has encouraged it in his students and colleagues.
In addition to his work as a clinician, as a teacher and as a scientist, Doug has been a tireless advocate for our community and for The Transverse Myelitis Association. Doug serves on both our Medical and Scientific Council and on our Board of Directors. Whatever we ask of Doug, he never says no. He has been a critical player in almost every symposium, he’s missed only one camp in all the years we’ve been offering our camp and education program, he participates in reviewing prospective fellows and research grants, and perhaps, most importantly, he offers such wise and genuinely caring counsel to the board, the officers and the staff of the TMA.
Doug’s work has taken him into the world of research, drug development and the pharmaceutical industry. He is no less a part of our work, our efforts and our community. He is a fierce advocate for research in our discipline and always vigilant for any opportunities. His involvement in the TMA remains as strong and active as in the past, and he remains entirely committed to making a difference for our community. And Doug is always the biggest kid at camp.
Dr. Douglas A. Kerr has been a godsend for our community. We have so much respect and appreciation for his intellect, his creativity, his passion, and his care. And we are so grateful for all that he has given and gives to our community. You are a mensch, Dr. Kerr, and a wonderful friend. Pauline and I feel entirely blessed to have this exceptional human being in our lives.
Sandy Siegel, PhD