After a thorough review, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has recognized UC Irvine Healthcare’s multiple sclerosis program for superior and innovative patient care by certifying it as an official Center for MS Comprehensive Care.

The program, which is based on the Irvine campus in the Gottschalk Medical Plaza, is one of only three in California to have earned this designation. At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, Richard Israel, president of the National MS Society’s Pacific South Coast Chapter, will present a plaque denoting the certification to program director Dr. Michael Demetriou.

In 2009, UCI received a collaborative MS research center award from the National MS Society, making it among the few institutions in the U.S. to be honored by the organization for both research and patient care excellence.

“This certification recognizes UC Irvine’s historical significance and innovative approaches to MS care, which is centered on always keeping the patient’s needs foremost in our minds,” said Demetriou, an associate professor of neurology. “This requires a team effort by staff, nurses and physicians and is best exemplified by outstanding and compassionate care.”

UCI’s MS program — one of the country’s earliest and most successful — was founded by Dr. Stanley van den Noort, a towering presence in neurology and former dean of the UCI School of Medicine whose tireless efforts brought tremendous relief to many. He was the first chief medical officer of the National MS Society, and his influence on patient care practices is still felt today.

The National MS Society began its clinical affiliation/certification program, which focuses on the patient experience, in October 2009 and today has 45 comprehensive care centers across the nation. Programs winning certification must offer patients access to a full array of medical, psychosocial and rehabilitation services to address the varied and often complex issues related to living with MS. They also must demonstrate the ability to provide coordinated and comprehensive MS care and maintain a strong collaboration with the National MS Society.

“UC Irvine has a long and rich history as a center for MS care and research excellence,” said Demetriou, whose recent studies have found that a glucosamine-like sugar may limit MS attacks by restoring a cellular deficiency that causes the disease. “The Center for MS Comprehensive Care will help us further assess this dietary supplement as an MS therapy.”

The clinic’s team also includes associate director Dr. Gaby Thai, Dr. Aimee Pierce, MS nurse specialist Diana Sistoza, nurse Judy Nguyen and medical assistant Cristina Romero.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit

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