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What do Parkinson's Disease and the Horse Industry have in common?

Ann Hanley.

Ann Hanley and Dr. Craig Van Horne

Since 2016, with help from her friends in the horse industry, Ann has raised $1 million to help fund the essential research needed to find better treatments option, and eventually a cure for this devastating and incurable disease. Hanley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 49. “I pretty much lived the gamut of everything that you could possibly expect when you hear a diagnosis like this one. And it wasn’t easy,” Hanley said.

But instead of letting fear get her down, she’s focusing her energy on lifting other patients with Parkinson’s up. “Each time the patient comes into the clinic, I sit with them, I talk with them, I educate them,” Hanley said. “I do whatever it takes to keep them going, one foot after the other, one day after the other, to make sure they never quit, they never give up.”

That includes following them into the operating room and sitting with them through Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery – a technique that can relieve Parkinson’s symptoms for some patients.

Hanley shadows Dr. Craig van Horne, a neurosurgeon with the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, as he sees his patients. Even as Ann made a difference in the lives of literally hundreds of Parkinson’s patients, she felt she could do more. “There’s no Big Pharma paying for this, and when you don’t have Big Pharma behind you, it takes funding. I’m anxious for a cure and my skin is in the game. I kind of stepped back and asked, ‘How can I help these brilliant people achieve their dreams?’”

Ann Hanley, Dr. Craig van Horne, Dr. George Quintero, Dr. Greg Gerhardt
Ann Hanley, Dr. Craig van Horne, Dr. George Quintero, Dr. Greg Gerhardt

So as the wife of WinStar Farm’s General Manager David Hanley, she reached out to the thoroughbred community to raise money in support of Dr. van Horne’s research.

The industry enthusiastically embraced her efforts. Fasig-Tipton, Coolmore Farm and WinStar Farm teamed up to host “Night for A Cure,” raising around $300,000 for Ann’s fund with a dinner, entertainment and an auction that featured some unusual equine-themed items, such as a framed American Pharaoh halter and a breeding season to Mshawish (Medaglia d’Oro), a recently retired Grade I winner on dirt and turf.

“I can’t begin to thank the many wonderful people who have loved and supported me with this cause,” Hanley said. “It has brought attention to our cause and allowed us to raise funds that will ultimately speed us on our way to better treatments and a possible cure for this devastating and incurable disease.”

Dr. van Horne has been exploring a novel approach to Parkinson’s treatment by transplanting peripheral nerve tissue into the brain during a regularly scheduled DBS procedure. Called “DBS+,” the technique has shown remarkable results, with a majority of patients seeing a significant reduction in disease progression.

“This kind of research science can take years and lifetimes. Patients, myself included, don’t have time, the clock constantly ticks and we are very aware of it,” said Hanley.

“As a front seat spectator in this research I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to these doctors. With this new funding we can move ahead with the next phase of our research, which will help confirm the promising results we’ve seen thus far.”