Raising Awareness and Hope in the Black and African American Parkinson’s Communities – Session 3

With Dr. Hiral Shah, Wendy Lewis, Nia Mensah, Sandra Coplin, Anita Parker, and Fredericka E. Waugh

In 2021, PD Movers invited a group of Black and African Amercian individuals with Parkinson’s and their care partners to develop an educational guide for Parkinson’s designed specifically for the Black and African American community. This group of “movers” includes doctors, researchers, and teachers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and Teachers College, Columbia University. What came from those initial gatherings is a beautiful storybook filled with narratives of African American and Black individuals and care partners who are living and thriving with Parkinson’s.

In the third webinar of the series, panelists talked about the work they are doing in their faith-based communities and the importance of taking small but meaningful steps to create change.


Dr. Claudia Martinez

Hispanic Community Engagement Manager

Dr. Martinez is the Hispanic Community Engagement Manager at the Foundation. She worked with underserved communities as a primary care physician for about 10 years and was the primary care partner for her father during the years that he lived with Parkinson’s. She also ran the Hispanic Outreach Program at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center for 15 years. Claudia is passionate about building collaborations, sharing resources, and empowering the underserved Hispanic Parkinson’s community.

Wendy Lewis, MNPL

Wendy Lewis is the Chief Executive Officer at The Parkinson Council. Since her tenure, The Parkinson Council has re-invested over $5.5 million into the Greater Philadelphia region for research, comprehensive care, and quality of life initiatives.

Nia Mensah, PT, DPT, PCS

Nia Irene Toomer-Mensah advocates for children with disabilities and has been working with the pediatric population for over fifteen years. She is the Assistant Director of Clinical Education and Associate Professor at Long Island University Brooklyn’s entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. Her areas of interest include physical activity measures and implementation, aquatic therapy, neuroplasticity, utilizing outcome measures, and motor skill acquisition for children with cerebral palsy and other brain-injured populations. Dr. Mensah is a board-certified specialist in pediatrics and is a certified practitioner of Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT), which promotes critical thinking and strategic recruitment of muscles to improve function through play for children and adults with neurological deficits. Dr. Mensah’s most celebrated achievements include serving the Harlem and global community via medical outreach to underserved communities in Ghana, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Trinidad, and South Africa. She is currently a PhD candidate at Teachers College Columbia University, studying Kinesiology within the Motor Learning Program.

Hiral Shah, MD

Dr. Hiral Shah is an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in the Division of Multispecialty Neurology. Dr. Shah is most interested in learning how to overcome barriers of stigma and discrimination to improve care access for vulnerable individuals who suffer from mental health conditions and neurodegenerative disorders. This includes the assessment of cognition and mental health among those with neuropsychiatric conditions.

Sandra Coplin

Sandra Coplin is 66 years old and is living with Parkinson’s and stage three chronic kidney disease. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years ago. Sandra is a proud member of PD Movers and contributed to the PD Movers book, which tells their stories. Sandra credits faith and family as the motivations that keep her moving through any trial she encounters.

Anita Parker

Anita Parker is the Director of Community Outreach at St. Luke A.M.E. Church. She is also a licensed social worker with over 30 years of experience working in multicultural communities with individuals and families. Additionally, she is a member of the PD Mover’s. She has served on several community boards that address health disparities and social justice issues that impact communities of color.