Kirk's Blog

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Kirk started writing articles for his blog around the time his first book was published (September 2011). Not having any other bright ideas at the time, he adopted the book title as his “brand” for the blog. Over time, Shaky Paws Grampa (SPG) has become his “identity” in the PD world. The good news is that he hasn’t had to fight anybody for it and there was no competition for the web address (understandably).

He didn’t have any clear goals in mind for the blog when he started other than to make his target audience the “PD world”, opting to write about what ever inspired him at the moment. Over time, various themes emerged:

Book or writing-related
PD-related information
Clinical research study advocacy/participation
Cognition issues
Living with PD-personal
PD meeting/conference announcements
SPG speaking engagements, media interviews, and webinars
Calls to action

Three years later, he has posted 120 articles that have been viewed by readers from over 60 countries around the world.
Kirk Hall

Notes from World Parkinson Congress 2016



WPC blogger partner


Linda and I returned last Saturday from a week in Portland for the second International PD Palliative Care Conference and the World Parkinson Congress.  I will share some of the highlights from the week for those who couldn’t be there as well as some related thoughts.

We started the week at the PC Conference at OHSU hosted by Julie Carter, one of three recipients of the World Parkinson Congress Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Parkinson Community.  Attendees included doctors, researchers, and patients from the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, and Ireland who attended the first conference held last October in Denver and other individuals interested in helping advance this cause.  Work that had been done subsequent to last year’s conference was reviewed and additional projects were identified for action.  Growing interest in this topic is evident on a number of fronts, including the inclusion of a PD Palliative Care workshop (From diagnosis to death: What palliative care can offer patients and care partners) and roundtable (Palliative care treatment options: what works best from the health professional and patient perspectives) in the WPC program.

Each of the four days at WPC provided options targeted to newly diagnosed patients and caregivers, experienced patients and caregivers with advanced interests, and the medical/research community.  The first day offered educational courses for each group.  The opening ceremony took place Tuesday evening featuring a performance by the WPC choir, announcement of the video award winner, and presentations by Brian Grant (former NBA player with PD) and Muhammad Ali’s daughter, May May Ali. Each of the remaining three days began with a discussion of hot topics and an in-depth plenary session on a particular topic.  During the afternoons, a menu of workshops and roundtables were available, each targeted to one of the three groups mentioned.

I participated with the WPC choir, directed by Judi Spencer, in singing at the opening ceremony. The song was a very moving original composition by a choir member called A World Without Parkinson’s.  I enjoyed being part of this experience for a number of reasons.  Singing, a big part of my life in the past, is something I had given up due to voice changes caused by PD.  I decided to give it another try last spring in AZ with a Tremble Clefs group led by Sunjoo Lee.  Her encouragement helped me reconnect with my passion for singing, even though my voice is not the same.  Also, there is a special, palpable connection I experience being a part of the PD community at an event like this.

The topic of the first session we attended, a team-based approach to care for PD patients, was the one I found most exciting.  Like the approach being advocated for PD palliative care, it involves participation by a team of specialists that utilize complementary expertise to provide comprehensive care for both the patient and caregiver.  I also found sessions on cognition and dementia personally interesting.  Even those that were “above my pay grade” were sufficiently intelligible for me to appreciate.  Linda chose sessions on stem and IPS cells, the role of the gut in PD, nutrition, and the autonomic nervous system including speech and swallowing. 

The highlights for me were being included on the PD palliative care workshop panel (co-hosted by Julie Carter and Ruth Hagestuen) with Benzi Kluger and Indu Subramanian and co-hosting (with Julie Carter) a roundtable on the same subject.  My role on the panel was to speak about patient-perspective on PD palliative care based on a paper I had co-written. My presentation skills have deteriorated (based on speech and cognition problems) to a point that I was quite worried about my ability to pull this off.  At the same time, I was enormously honored and excited to have this opportunity.  Accordingly, I spent a great deal of time preparing slides and a script to read (bullet points that I have used in the past no longer work for me).  Thanks to the patience and assistance in proofing and rehearsing by my wife, Linda, and a healthy dose of the Grace of God, I am happy to report that I seemed to do a respectable job.

The roundtable was attended mostly by caregivers and one patient as I recall.  After a brief overview, the group was asked what they wanted to talk about.  Questions and comments quickly focused on issues related to insurance coverage and how this service would be paid for (a subject that was also raised following the workshop).  While I agree that this is a relevant issue that needs to be resolved, it is by no means the central issue (especially from a patient perspective).  I asked them to think about what PD palliative care was meant to accomplish and what was at stake, which is to create a vision/plan for late stage that would meet the needs and wants of patients, caregivers, and families.  Once again, it seemed that our mission was accomplished.

The next WPC will be held in 2016 in Kyoto, Japan.  While in the consumer electronics industry during the 80’s and 90’s, I visited this city a number of times.  It was a great place for shopping as well as visiting temples and shrines.  I also recall visiting the Shogun’s Castle, the nexus of power in Japan for over 200 years.  It is a much more relaxing place to spend time than Tokyo or Osaka. 


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Kirk Hall

Gil Thelen inducted into Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame Sept. 14, 2016

Charlotte Observer reporter Marion Ellis once said about Gil Thelen that he “sees around corners.”  He meant that Gil had a strategic instinct about where readers and newspapers were headed and a practical vision for getting there fast and effectively.   
Gil is credited as the first editor to bring teambuilding practices and disciplines to an American newsroom in Charlotte in the 1980s. He chaired ASNE’s Change Committee, which pinpointed the reasons newsrooms were losing touch with readers. He next chaired ASNE’s Interactive Media committee, which issued the urgent call for newsrooms to embrace the internet. All that occurred in the mid-1990s. He became known as the “change guy.”   
As executive editor of The Tampa Tribune, Gil spearheaded the internationally recognized and pioneering integration of print, television and online newsrooms. Known then as convergence, it has become the norm now under various names in most newsrooms. Gil urged his colleagues to build a newsroom “where journalists can’t wait to come to work to produce a newspaper readers can’t wait to read.” The newspaper, he said, should always be the community’s “candid friend” and a “committed observer” of the community’s priority issues. That marked him as a leading and controversial leader in the public or civic journalism movement, whose practices are now commonplace and accepted as just plain, good journalism.  
It’s hard to find someone with a more interesting and colorful career than Gil’s.  A graduate of Duke University, he worked in AP’s Washington bureau as a consumer affairs reporter – a good one.  So good in fact that the magazine Consumer Reportsrecruited him.  It was a relatively new field, and he was a pioneer in it.   
Gil worked for the Chicago Daily News and The Charlotte Observer before working in Myrtle Beach S.C. as the Vice President for news and operations with the Sun News.  He then became vice president and executive editor at The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. Gil next joined The Tampa Tribune where he served as executive editor from 1998 to 2003 and Publisher from 2003 to 2006.    
Gil joined the USF faculty in 2007 as the Clendinen Professor of Critical Writing.  Among his courses were opinion writing and public affairs reporting. He also served for a time as interim director of the School of Mass Communications at USF.  Gil is an inductee to USF's Journalism Hall of Fame at the School of Mass Communications.   
Since 2006, Thelen has also served as executive director of the Florida Society of News Editors. He is credited with bringing high-quality multimedia training to Florida newsrooms.   
Gil is one of Florida’s great journalists, having won numerous personal, professional recognitions including two Pulitzer Prize nominations. Also, he was part of the team at the Charlotte Observer that won two Pulitzer Prizes for Public Service. Reid Ashe has this to say about Gil:  “I hired Gil as editor while I was the publisher at The Tampa Tribune. He had a vision of a great local newspaper and a deliberate program to create it. He hired outstanding people, coached his staff effectively and inspired them to excellence. “Gil was a great teacher, not only for his staff, but also for me. He taught me that a newsroom, just like any other organization, can set goals and measure progress. Gil had a checklist of about half a dozen things he wanted to accomplish in every edition, and he’d spend five minutes at the start of every planning meeting reviewing how we’d done in the previous edition.  “He posted the scores, with illustrative tearsheets, for every staffer to see. As a result, everybody knew what was important and saw how they did or didn’t contribute. “Gil’s newsroom had a unity of purpose that you rarely see. I am very grateful for my years working with Gil. He made it one of the finest experiences in my newspaper career.”   

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