Rehabilitation Scientist Receives MS Group’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Published July 29, 2016

Dr. Susan E. Bennett, clinical professor of rehabilitation science at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC).

The award — presented in June at the organization’s annual meeting in National Harbor, Maryland — recognizes an individual whose decades-long commitment has driven significant advances in the care of people with MS.

“This is the first time that an individual from the rehabilitation field has received this award,” said Ms. June Halper, CEO of the organization that represents more than 10,000 health care professionals worldwide who provide care for more than 200,000 individuals with MS and their families. Previous recipients were neurologists, neuropsychologists or nurse practitioners. “Dr. Sue Bennett is a pioneer in rehabilitation practices and the role it plays in the comprehensive care of neurological disorders, especially with MS. She has also been an invaluable leader and role model for CMSC, and her unwavering commitment to enhancing the care and quality of life of people with MS, and their families, reflects the highest ideals of the CMSC and all of our allied organizations,” Halper added.

“It’s a special honor to be the first rehabilitation professional to receive the award. It caught me totally off guard. It’s one of the highest awards I’ve ever received in my professional career,” said Dr. Bennett.

At the awards presentation, Dr. Bennett thanked Frederick Munschauer and the late Lawrence Jacobs — two neurologists renowned for their work with multiple sclerosis care — for serving as mentors and sparking her career in the early 1990s.

Jacobs was a faculty member at UB for nearly 30 years whose research led to the development of Avonex, a breakthrough drug used to treat MS patients. Munschauer also worked at UB, serving as professor and chair of neurology at UB, and director of the Jacobs Neurological Institute. He shifted to industry in 2010 and is now vice president of neurology and immunology with EMD Serono, the U.S. biopharmaceuticals subsidiary of Merck.  Dr. Bennett also noted the strides that have been made over the past 20 years to care for patients with MS.

“We have come so far from 1995, when we never thought of rehabilitation in MS. We never thought of exercise in MS,” Dr. Bennett said. “It was ‘Go home, rest, don’t overheat, don’t overstress yourself.’ And of course the patients got worse because of disuse atrophy,” she said.

In addition to her appointment in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, Dr. Bennett is a clinical professor in the Department of Neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and is a physical therapist with UB Neurosurgery, part of the UBMD Physicians Group. Dr. Bennett served as CMSC president from 2012 to 2014, and was the organization’s treasurer before that. She has also operated her own practice, Bennett Rehabilitation Institute, since 1992.

“The consortium is what it’s about. It’s about comprehensive care, all of us working together to advance quality of life and the functionality of our patients,” said Dr. Bennett, who currently serves as project director for the Rehabilitation Fellowship Group and is chair of the CMSC Rehabilitation Research Interest Group.