MSfit Opens for People Living with MS

A young man’s vision and the collaboration between the Department of Physical Therapy at Winston-Salem State University and the Gateway YWCA have come together to form MSfit, a free fitness and wellness program offered to people living with multiple sclerosis.

MSfit is the brainchild of WSSU alumni and former employee Brian Murrill, whose mother Patsy Murrill is living with multiple sclerosis. A teacher at North Hills Elementary School, she was diagnosed with MS in 1995.

"It's been a challenging yet rewarding experience seeing this program come together.  I came up with this concept in January of 2013 to honor my mother,” said Murrill.  “My original goal was to create a program that would directly address the physical and emotional needs of people living with MS.”

To bring his concept to life, Murrill developed key partnerships with the Gateway YWCA and National MS Society, along with physical therapy students and faculty from WSSU.

“Today we have three main objectives with the first one being to provide the MS community with a free fitness and wellness program that is designed to improve the quality of life of our participants and their families. The second one is to take the results from our program and share them with physicians to better understand the role fitness and wellness plays in managing MS.  The last one is to create an opportunity for graduate level PT students to get hands on experience working with our participants.  MS is the most common disabling neurological disease of young adults in the U.S. It is our hope to grow this program and improve the overall quality of life of as many participants as we can.  When you support MSfit, you are empowering people to move beyond their MS by giving them the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, actively co-manage their disease, and live their best lives through health and wellness," Murrill explained.

Since MSfit announced the launch of the program in October, it has received an overwhelming response from potential participants.  The program officially opened its doors to participants on January 26 at the Gateway YWCA in Winston-Salem.

“The WSSU Department of Physical Therapy is excited about the partnership with Msfit,” said Dr. Sara Migliarese, a physical therapy professor at WSSU. “Our third-year students performed the fitness screenings and developed exercise programs for the clients with MS based on their abilities. 

“Under the supervision of DPT faculty, the students will educate each client on safe and effective exercise using the YWCA facilities, classes and equipment.  This service-learning opportunity will benefit the students, as well as the clients, and the WSSU PT Club is already involved in early fundraising activities to help support the MSfit Foundation and cover the cost of the YWCA memberships for the MS clients. WSSU is committed to the success and sustainability of this community service,” Migliarese continued. 

As a part of their coursework, the WSSU Department of PT will return to the Gateway YWCA once a month to reevaluate participants and document their successes.

Story contributed by Winston Salem State University
Photos by Garret Garms, WSSU photographer