Dr. Rubin Goes the Distance for ALS Research

Dr. RubinDr. Adam D. Rubin has seen the destructive effects of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, both personally and professionally. So it makes sense that the 44-year-old laryngologist would blend his love of running with his desire to find a cure for this devastating disease.

That is why Dr. Rubin planned to run his first New York City Marathon on Nov. 4 to raise funds for ALS research. And while the run was canceled following Hurricane Sandy, Dr. Rubin is continuing to fundraise and will run the Anthem Richmond marathon on Nov. 10 in Virginia.

Donations will go to the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNRD) at the University of Michigan Health System, a laboratory directed by Dr. Eva Feldman with which Dr. Rubin has been affiliated for years.

So far, Dr. Rubin and his teammates (friends who will also be running) have received donations of nearly $9,000. That far surpasses his initial expectations when he started training in August for the grueling 26.2 mile race. Now, the determined doctor has set his eyes on raising $15,000 through CrowdRise, an online fund-raising site.

“It started off as a challenge for me, but I also thought it was a great opportunity to do a fundraiser as well. It’s been a lot of fun,” except for some aching legs and knees, Dr. Rubin said. “When I first started this, I didn’t know what to expect. In a lot of ways, now I’m more passionate about the fundraising than the running.”

This run – along with his work with U-M – are dedicated to his own patients and to the memory of a family friend who recently lost his battle with ALS, Dr. Rubin said.

“We recently lost a wonderful neighbor, Dr. Eric Baron, to the disease process,” Dr. Rubin stated. “He was a brilliant physician, entrepreneur and father. He battled the disease for eight years, making every effort to stay alive as long as possible to watch his infant daughter grow. He remained positive and determined, and truly touched the heart of all the people around him. He remains an inspiration to me and my family.”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a disease of the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement. It causes the death of these motor neurons within the brainstem and spinal cord, Dr. Rubin explained, and is a progressive disease that usually leads to death within five years of diagnosis. As neurons die, patients lose the ability to voluntarily move body parts, and eventually, to breathe. When the brainstem is involved, patients lose the ability to speak and swallow. All the while, patients suffering from this disorder stay completely aware of their bodies deteriorating.

Although there currently is no effective treatment for ALS, Dr. Feldman is leading the first FDA-approved human clinical trial of a stem cell treatment for ALS, which is taking place at Emory University in Atlanta. Contributions to Dr. Rubin’s run will go toward improving the procedure and expanding the clinical trial.

As director of the Lakeshore Professional Voice Center PC in St. Clair Shores, the laryngologist said he sees three to five patients a year who come to him believing they have voice problems only for Dr. Rubin to find they have early indicators of ALS.

A native of Huntington Woods and a graduate of the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Rubin’s own basic science interests include using gene therapy to regenerate nerves of the larynx that have been damaged by injury or disease. He began his collaboration with Dr. Feldman, who is also the director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at U-M, as a resident, during which time he received the U-M Merle Lawrence Basic Science Research and the John L. Kemink Clinical Research Awards.

Many of Dr. Rubin’s donations have come from colleagues, family and friends whose lives have been touched by ALS in some form. He also has spread the word about his fund-raising efforts through social-media outlets such as Twitter (@VoiceDocintheD) and Facebook.

“You might think of it as a rare disease, but a lot of people have a connection to it,” Dr. Rubin said. “It’s amazing – everyone has been incredibly supportive.”

For more information or to donate to Dr. Rubin’s cause, please go to:  http://www.crowdrise.com/adamnycrun/fundraiser/adamrubin