The Rocky Mountain MS Center was founded in 1978 by Dr. Jack Burks and N. Daren Writer. Mr. Writer was diagnosed with MS in 1974. He was told, “there was nothing anyone could do about MS,” and to “go home and put his affairs in order.” This was unacceptable to this exceptional man of action and business leader. He sought out a brilliant, young neurologist who was dedicated to finding the cause of MS and a cure for the disease. Like Mr. Writer, Dr. Burks believed something could be done for people living with MS. Together they created a single, comprehensive facility to treat people with MS and find the cause and a cure.
Initially affiliated with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and the Denver Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, in 1988 the Rocky Mountain MS Center moved to the campus of Swedish Medical Center, in Englewood, Colorado. In 1992, the Rocky Mountain MS Center broadened its continuum of care by merging with MS Community Resources (formerly known as the MS Society of Colorado, Denver). This merger enhanced community services with the addition of hydrotherapy and a specialized adult day program, the Rocky Mountain MS Center King Adult Day Enrichment Program (KADEP). KADEP continued to expand and relocated in 1994 to a new home at the Marycrest Campus in Northwest Denver.
From the beginning, the Rocky Mountain MS Center conducted basic science research. In the first years of operation, Rocky Mountain MS Center scientists isolated a corona virus from MS brain tissue. Using that virus, they subsequently produced animal models of demyelinating disease. In 1993, Rocky Mountain MS Center scientists identified a particular immune cell (a specific T cell) in the spinal fluid of newly diagnosed MS patients. This contributed to the mounting evidence that T cells are involved in orchestrating the onset of MS.
Rocky Mountain MS Center founders N. Daren Writer (left) and Dr. Jack Burks.
The Rocky Mountain MS Center is also home to the Brain and Tissue Bank. This brain and tissue bank was one of the first and remains one of the largest in the world. The bank supplies MS tissue samples to scientists and researchers throughout the world who conduct MS research.
The Rocky Mountain MS Center was chosen as a testing site for most of the major clinical trials that explored treatment interventions for people with MS. Based on those and other studies in the early 1990s, it became possible to directly treat the disease, not just manage the symptoms. These immunomodulating medications alter immune system function in a way that slows the progression of MS.
In 2008, the Center joined with the University of Colorado and the University of Colorado Hospital to create the Rocky Mountain MS Center at Anschutz Medical Campus. By bringing together the experience and exceptional work in patient care and cutting-edge research that have distinguished these organizations for many years, we have created a world-class and comprehensive center for patient care and research that serves the Rocky Mountain region and has a national and international reach.
The Center also opened the Potomac Street Clinic in 2008. The Clinic offers specialty patient care to the uninsured and those on Medicaid.
In 2010, the MS Center purchased a former elementary school located in Westminster. The King Adult Day Enrichment Program and MS Center administrative offices relocated to the building after many renovations. The new 30,000 sq. ft. facility includes a fully accessible fitness center, computer lab, outdoor gardens, and a full-size gym.
Many nationally recognized MS experts are current and former Rocky Mountain MS Center employees. The Rocky Mountain MS Center continues to attract national recognition for its programs and initiatives. The Rocky Mountain MS Center is not to be confused with other non-profits serving the MS community in Colorado nor is it a chapter of any national organization. It is an independent Center of excellence for people living with MS in the Rocky Mountain region in need of clinical care and education, and a valuable national and international resource for cutting edge MS information and research.
The Rocky Mountain MS Center is best known for excellent, individualized care. MS is more than a medical diagnosis and people living with the disease and their families need more than traditional medical intervention. Patients, caregivers and the community rely on the Rocky Mountain MS Center for comprehensive treatment, professional resources, and information on the latest research advances.
Due to the many generous gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations, the Rocky Mountain MS Center continues to fulfill its mission: to help people living with MS and their families lead a quality life by providing individualized care, support, education and research. The days of being told to “go home, and put your affairs in order” are over.
Today, there is more help and hope for those with MS than ever before.