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Meet Dr. Marcia Felker

Dr Felker

Marcia Felker, MD, is a child neurologist and Director of the Pediatric Neuromuscular/Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Clinic at Riley Children’s Health.

Recently, Riley Children’s Foundation announced a $5 million gift to propel the Duchenne muscular dystrophy program at Riley Children’s Health into one of the best in the country. The donation is from three siblings and their spouses whose family has been affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy: John Ackerman and his wife, Kathy; Barbara Nicholoff and her husband, Brian; and Leslie Ackerman.

We had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Felker about the muscular dystrophy clinic, this gift and what keeps her going.

What makes the Pediatric Neuromuscular/Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Clinic at Riley Children’s Health special?

The pediatric neuromuscular clinic at Riley is the most comprehensive in the state, and the only one recognized by the Muscular Dystrophy Association as an official Care Center, providing excellent, comprehensive care to our patients.

In our clinic, specialists from eight different areas meet to care for young people and children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Rather than make many trips a year to Riley for individual appointments, our families can often come to clinic only twice a year, with much of their testing done the same day as their visit.

What is Duchenne muscular dystrophy and how will the Ackerman/Nicholoff gift impact how Riley treats these patients and families?

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle disease in which your heart muscle and skeletal muscles slowly lose function. This leads to the inability to walk, to use your arms, and problems with breathing and your heart pumping. Older children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and adults often use motorized wheelchairs and travel can be very difficult.

The Ackerman/Nicholoff gift will help these children in many ways; including improving our coordination of their many needed appointments and tests, helping those from far distances arrive here, as well as looking at cutting-edge cardiac care and research in gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Look ahead 10 years – how will things be different for Duchenne patients at Riley Children’s Health?

In 10 years, my dream is that all children with Duchenne will be diagnosed via Newborn Screen, the quick blood tests that all babies have at birth to determine if they an illness that would benefit from being treated right away.

We will see babies with Duchenne from across the Midwest for their care, due to the help these families will get from the Ackerman/Nicholoff gift, and will be able to offer them gene therapy, hopefully stopping this disease before it shows any symptoms.

How do you see the impact donors have at Riley?

Donor gifts to Riley really help us fill in holes in care that aren't covered by insurance. Gifts allow us to take more time with patients and to really streamline medical care that can otherwise be fragmented and hard for families to navigate. Donor gifts allow us to dream of and explore new treatment possibilities!

What’s your “why”?

This is an exciting time to be a Child Neurologist. We have more and more treatment options for so many progressive diseases that we could previously only diagnose and support families through. There is always more to learn and there are always more ways to help our patients.

As part of the projected program growth, Riley Children's Health has formally applied for the prestigious designation of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) Certified Duchenne Care Center. Thanks in part to donors, Riley physicians like Dr. Felker are able to continue their work toward ensuring all Indiana children have access to highly personalized, expert care close to home