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OHSU physicians with multiple sclerosis to lead team in MS fundraiser

Docs will run 10-kilometer obstacle course in MS Society’s June 18 “Mud Run MS Portland”

As faculty members and family medicine physicians at Oregon Health & Science University, Elizabeth Steiner and Fran Biagioli know well the world of patients struggling with health issues.

They also have a very personal perspective on that world — because both Steiner and Biagioli have multiple sclerosis.

But both Steiner and Biagioli have chosen to challenge their multiple sclerosis head on. And it's in that spirit that they've joined forces to become a juggernaut team getting ready for Mud Run MS Portland, a June 18 fundraising event for the National MS Society.

The run will feature a 10-kilometer military-style obstacle course in which participants will be crawling over walls, up and down hills, commando style under netting and very often through the mud. The event — open to everyone — is meant to symbolize the obstacles people with multiple sclerosis can face in their day-to-day lives.

“Research in MS is progressing at a remarkable rate, and funds raised by events like Mud Run MS get us ever closer to a cure,” said Lisa Roth, president of the National MS Society’s Oregon chapter. “Doctors Steiner and Biagioli are an inspiration to those impacted by the disease. MS clearly has not stopped them from moving forward, and neither will 6.2 miles of muddy obstacles.”

Steiner and Biagioli first decided to run the race separately and figured they would raise a few hundred dollars from friends and family. They've since joined forces to form the "MS Squared — Mud Slinging for MS" team. And they've now raised more than $13,000 in contributions — the most of any team registered for the event. Their goal: raising $25,000 through the event.

Both Steiner and Biagioli remain very healthy and active, and both routinely exercise to help fight their MS.

Routine exercise is an important way that people with multiple sclerosis can fight the disease and ease its symptoms, said Dennis Bourdette, M.D., who is Steiner's physician and is director of the OHSU MS Center, one of the nation's premier MS patient care and research centers.

"Elizabeth does a great job of staying active and exercising. Besides the general health benefits, exercise can really help people deal with their multiple sclerosis,” Bourdette said. “People with MS who exercise experience decreased fatigue, reduced stress, less depression and improved balance and strength.”

"Dennis and the staff at the MS Center are exceptionally responsive in helping me with my questions and concerns about my MS," Steiner said of the OHSU MS Center. "I also love that the MS Center physicians and researchers are on the leading edge of MS research in the nation and world. They are actively engaged in making the future brighter for those of us with MS."

Both Steiner and Biagioli see the MS Mud Run as not only a way to raise awareness about MS, but to let people know that people with MS can fight the disease very successfully.

"It brings an awareness to the community," says Biagioli. "And I think it's hopeful — especially for people who are recently diagnosed — to know there are people who aren't in wheelchairs who have MS."

"I know I'm lucky," says Steiner. "And what I do want to say is: really focus on what you can do and don't look at MS as a life sentence. Because it doesn't have to be. You can really do lots of cool stuff."

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