FALL 2017 HOT NEWS FROM INSIDE OMRF
L to R: Chrissy Scammahorn,
Shelli Wasson & Lydia Mitchell
The Insiders Chrissy receives treatment in OMRF’s MS Center of
Excellence, and Shelli and Lydia likewise suffer from
This trio of OMRF employees knows autoimmune diseases—a research focus here at OMRF.
firsthand the impact of OMRF’s research
In MS, immune cells attack the protective covering of
For OMRF’s Chrissy Scammahorn, the first signal of nerves in the brain, causing vision problems, tremors,
illness came when her left leg went numb. A month- paralysis, painful spasms, imbalance and cognitive
long migraine followed. When a subsequent MRI changes. In rheumatoid arthritis, joints are affected.
showed lesions scattered through her brain, it left no Lupus can strike joints, skin and multiple organs.
doubt she suffered from multiple sclerosis.
For more than three decades, OMRF has studied these
Although Shelli Wasson can’t point to clear-cut and other autoimmune conditions. OMRF scientists
origins of her MS, she can trace her issues back to have led a series of studies that have identified the
college. “I’d get sick and end up in bed for a week. genetic roots of these diseases, shown how antibodies
Doctors called it the flu, but looking back and knowing can signal the onset of these conditions, and pioneered
what I know now, it was just like an MS attack.” strategies for managing and even preventing these
illnesses. As a result of this work, the National Institutes
Meanwhile, through her work as a nurse in OMRF’s of Health has designated OMRF one of only nine
Rheumatology Clinic, Lydia Mitchell realized that her Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence.
own symptoms paralleled the ones she saw in her lupus
and rheumatoid arthritis patients. “I think about the research at OMRF every day
when I come to work,” says Chrissy. An accountant,
Each of these OMRF employees has a unique she followed her doctor—Gabriel Pardo—here when
perspective on the work that OMRF does. OMRF opened the MS Center in 2011. Part of her job
includes handling clinical billing, production reports
and other clinic-related tasks. “I’m working shoulder-
continued on page 2
The Insiders cont. success story. If it weren’t for advances in research and
the new medicines it has helped create, who knows
to-shoulder with people making progress on the very how I’d feel today?”
disease I have. It gives me a real sense of ownership to
be so involved.” As a nurse and clinical research coordinator, Lydia
cares for dozens of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Chrissy is among the more than 3,000 patients patients in OMRF’s Rheumatology Clinic. Still, when
that Tania Reyna and Gabriel treat each year in the she began to experience fatigue and pain in her hands,
MS Center. “It’s such a complex disease, and each
patient presents a unique challenge,” says Gabriel, feet and back, she chalked it
who also collaborates with up to hard work. “It just felt
Bob Axtell on a number like I was wearing out and
of research projects. “So needed rest. Nothing more,”
it’s quite rewarding to she says.
help someone unravel this
puzzling disease.” But last year, Lydia was
diagnosed with lupus and
For Shelli, who’s worked at rheumatoid arthritis. While
OMRF as an administrative she chose to see her own
assistant for 28 years, her physician instead of those
symptoms started with she works with at OMRF, she
tingling in her feet. The sees firsthand the importance
sensation would intensify of the clinical trials of
as it moved up her legs experimental therapies she
toward her waist. It came on helps coordinate. “Our
“like turning on a switch,” trial participants often see
she says. “I was so afraid. I OMRF physicians more
actually thought I might be often than their own private
having a stroke.” doctors. We run extensive
lab tests on them, and that’s
At a visit to her family one real benefit of study
doctor, he instructed her participation.”
to close her eyes while he
probed her legs. The ensuing The knowledge Lydia has
pain was excruciating, she gained working at OMRF has
says. When she opened her helped her better manage her
eyes, the doctor presented own lupus and RA symptoms.
her with his instrument of
torture: a cotton ball. “My She also uses her
skin was so hyper-sensitive, I own experience
almost couldn’t bear it,” she as a patient to
says. “Just think how it felt encourage those
to wear clothes if a simple she treats at OMRF
cotton ball could inflict so much pain.” to do all they can
to control their own
MS research has given birth to a symptoms daily.
succession of new therapies in recent
years, and Shelli’s physicians were to find “To see a patient
one that helped alleviate her symptoms. do well and feel
She says she’s only missed a few days of better really lifts
work due to MS since her diagnosis in 2000. you up,” she says. “You get to look research success
in the face and know you’ve made a difference. It’s
Today, Shelli feels fortunate to be the first face so wonderful to know that my job here is part of the
people see when they arrive in the Chapman Building. research that will one day get rid of these diseases
“I can tell a patient, ‘I know how you feel,’ and mean it. forever. What could be more rewarding than that?”
I can relate to them in ways others can’t, because I’m a
For decades, the annual United Way campaign has
2007 brought out the best in all of us. We’ve gobbled piles
of pancakes. Bought countless raffle tickets. And spent
2008 months planning the perfect Halloween costume.
But why does OMRF raise money for the United Way
United Way serves as a fundraising
organization that distributes its assets to
partner agencies in a given community
or area. Most communities in the U.S.
receive United Way support of some
kind. Agencies may include anything
from Boy and Girl Scouts to soup
kitchens or counseling services.
The United Way of Central Oklahoma
supports 120 programs throughout the
metro area. They focus on creating a
stronger community by funding social, arts,
health and education services that benefit all
age groups. OMRF was named a United Way agency
in Oklahoma City in 1959.
Through the years, OMRF has received more than $6
million from the United Way to fund everything from
lab equipment to specific research areas, like cancer,
heart disease and aging. This year’s allocation will go
to support multiple sclerosis research.
“The money has added up, for sure, but our
relationship goes way beyond the funding,” says
OMRF Vice President of Development Penny Voss.
“We are trying to do the right thing for our city, and
it’s important to be a member of that local nonprofit
community. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
In return for its support, OMRF raises awareness for
the United Way with its annual weeklong campaign.
We exceeded our goal of $25,000 last year, Penny says,
so the bar will remain high at the same goal for 2017.
“It’s always a highlight to kick off the campaign
each fall, and our activities grow in participation and
enthusiasm every year,” says Penny. “Campaign events
help boost employee
morale. And it’s also
important to remember OCTOBER IS
that our gifts to the UNITED WAY
United Way don’t just
benefit OMRF, they MONTH!
make Oklahoma City a
better place for all of us
to live. WATCH FOR
Weight Watchers: Going, Going, Gone?
For Beth Benefield, last summer’s routine biometric Beth is not alone; many others
screening was a real wakeup call. at OMRF are also loyal Weight
When she saw “pre-diabetic” on her results, she was Watchers. Still, OMRF’s class
terrified. “I have a family history of diabetes, so I knew is in danger of disappearing.
it was time to make some changes.” “If attendance doesn’t pick up
She decided to attend the weekly Weight Watchers soon, we could lose our onsite
at Work meetings at OMRF to class,” she says.
find the support she needed Beth urges anyone
to get her health back on Visit a WW Meeting! with an interest to visit any Wednesday
track. That decision, along Time: 12:15 p.m. meeting—for free. If you choose to
with Beth’s dedication to the Date: Wednesdays join the program, OMRF will reimburse
program, has made a major 50 percent of fees for employees who
impact on her life. Place: Milligan Center 206 attend at least eight meetings in a 12-
In the past 12 months, Beth Q’s: [email protected] week period. And membership also
has shed 40 pounds. Her gets you 25 LifeLab points.
glucose levels have returned Even as a self-professed “hardcore
to normal, and her triglycerides have plummeted. chocoholic,” Beth says that “Weight Watchers lets me
Beth’s husband has also dropped more than 70 pounds eat what I love, even desserts, and still lose weight.
since joining her in the program. And if I can do it, anyone can.”
Don’t let Weight Watchers leave OMRF !
Fleming Scholars reception, OMRF’s rowing team & more
OCTOBER 3-4 Health Fair
OCTOBER 27 Halloween Party
NOVEMBER 23-24 Thanksgiving Holiday