Hackensack University Medical Center Opens a Patient-Centered, State-of-the-Art Multiple Sclerosis Center

Hackensack University Medical Center, a member of Hackensack Meridian Health, will address the complex care needs of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and related disorders at the new Multiple Sclerosis Center at HackensackUMC.

“We are very excited to offer a comprehensive center for our patients who suffer from MS and we are pleased to have Dr. Florian Thomas to offer his expertise serving as the director,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., president of HackensackUMC.

Treating people with MS and related disorders such as neuromyelitis optica, transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, the new center will serve as a hub for clinical care, community engagement, research, training and education for the community.

“Though treatment options have dramatically improved over the past 30 years and changed the outlook of people with auto-immune conditions of the central nervous system that can affect the brain, spinal cord or optic nerves, they still can lead to significant disability,” said Florian Thomas, M.D., M.A., Ph.D., M.S., director of the MS Center, chair of the Neuroscience Institute and chief of the Department of Neurology at HackensackUMC.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of life and neurological function of people who live with such illnesses, to help them lead their lives to the fullest extent possible and to remain engaged in their families, their community and the workplace. We need to provide easy access to state-of-the-art, comprehensive care and have providers communicate rapidly and directly with one another about patient care issues,” he explained.

Dr. Thomas is dedicated to providing patient-centered comprehensive care that addresses each person’s physical and emotional needs. In caring for patients with chronic conditions, he and his colleagues help them (with assistance from their care partners) to self-advocate, engage in their own care, coordinate appointments with multiple providers, optimize health behavior, and maintain a positive attitude. His goal is to be accessible and to offer care models in which patients can see him and other team members during a single visit and can have subsequent appointments, for instance for MRIs, and with other specialists on the same day.

Dr. Thomas notes that people with MS are often among the best informed and most active partners in their own care. He views patients as the experts who drive their own treatment and must be empowered to communicate effectively with their health team.

Team members of the MS Center at HackensackUMC include colleagues in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and the Department of Urology at HackensackUMC. The team also works closely with psychologists to support any emotional needs.  Patients will have access to state-of-the-art care inclusive of specialized physical therapy at HackensackUMC Fitness and Wellness Powered by the Giants and infusion care treatment for medication delivery.

A practicing neurologist since 1987, Dr. Thomas previously served at St. Louis University Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and the St. Louis VA Medical Center as a tenured professor in the departments of neurology, physical therapy and molecular virology. There he founded and directed the St. Louis VA Regional MS Center of Excellence and the St. Louis University National MS Society Multiple Sclerosis Center. As a former director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service at the St. Louis VA, where he also founded and directed the Pain Rehabilitation Service, he is very familiar with the needs of people with advanced MS.

Dr. Thomas earned a Master of Arts degree in psychology, a medical and a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Bonn, Germany, a Ph.D. in experimental medicine at McGill University, Canada, and a Master of Science degree in health outcomes research at St. Louis University. He completed neurology training at Case Western Reserve University, and a neuroimmunology fellowship at Columbia University. He is board-certified in neurology, spinal cord medicine and neural repair and rehabilitation.

His work on behalf of people with MS was honored with a congressional proclamation and the National MS Society Gateway Chapter Pathlighter Award. He is widely published and lectures extensively to medical colleagues, graduate students, patient groups, and elementary, middle and high school students. Dr. Thomas speaks French, German and Italian.

Having served for many years on the health advisory and government relations committees of the St. Louis Chapter of the National MS Society, he is now active in the New Jersey Chapter of the MS Society. HackensackUMC is an affiliate of the Consortium of MS Centers (CMSC).

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