Cellist Doctor uses Music to Raise Awareness and Funds for Spondylitis Association of America

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A recent effort by an emergency room doctor who is also a Julliard-trained cellist has people who are affected by ankylosing spondylitis and its related diseases singing his praises.

A recent effort by an emergency room doctor who is also a Julliard-trained cellist has people who are affected by ankylosing spondylitis and its related diseases singing his praises.

Dr. Eric Roter, a physician at Ohio's Kaiser Permanente's Cleveland Heights Medical Center, decided to use his musical talents to raise funds for medical charities through a program he calls "Bach to Health."

As part of the program, Dr. Roter performs a series of cello solos set against a backdrop in New York City, where he attended both music and medical school. The performances, which highlight facts about each disease, are available on YouTube as well as on the website http://www.bachtohealth.org.

Following success raising funds for well-known diseases, Dr. Roter took the suggestion of his wife, a Rheumatologist, who urged him to consider raising awareness of lesser-known diseases and funds for her favorite charity -- the Spondylitis Association of America (SAA).

Dr. Roter understands the power of music to heal and refers to the suites by Johannes Sebastian Bach as "the heart of cello literature." The series includes 36 movements, each of which is dedicated to a different national medical charity.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of spinal arthritis that usually strikes between the ages of 17 and 35, when patients are "young, bullet-proof and 20-feet tall," according to Laurie Savage, Executive Director of SAA. "When Dr. Roter dedicated Suite No. 4: Sarabande, to SAA, it was music to my ears."

The disease -- often called "bamboo spine" for the way in which it can fuse the vertebrae of the spine -- is the most overlooked cause of persistent back pain in young adults and can also lead to damage in the eyes, heart and lungs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ankylosing spondylitis and its related diseases affect as many as 2.4 million Americans -- more than multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and Lou Gehrig's disease combined.

"Our biggest challenge is to create awareness for the disease, so people who have persistent back pain can seek an accurate diagnosis, especially young people," Savage said. "Because most of the damage caused by ankylosing spondylitis occurs in the first 10 years, early diagnosis means early treatment to improve quality of life."

About Ankylosing Spondylitis

Spondylitis is the term used to refer to a group of chronic, inflammatory diseases that generally strike young people between the ages of 17 and 35. Typically, spondylitis causes pain and stiffness and, in the most severe cases, can result in a total fusion of the spine and/or neck, leading to disability. Although spondylitis primarily affects the spine, it is not uncommon for the disease to impact the joints of the shoulders, hips, knees and feet, as well as cause inflammation of the eye. More rarely, because AS is a systemic (whole body) condition, other organs such as the heart and lungs can also become involved.

About the Spondylitis Association of America

The Spondylitis Association of America (SAA) is the only nonprofit organization in the US dedicating all of its resources to improving the lives of people with ankylosing spondylitis and related diseases. Established in 1983, SAA is committed to increasing awareness of spondylitis, providing information and support to patients and their families, and ultimately, working to uncover a cure for the disease.

SAA produces the most comprehensive library of spondylitis resources available in the US -- including books, DVDs, CDs, brochures and other publications; an 800-page interactive website, spondylitis.org; a quarterly, advertising-free news magazine, and a network of nationwide Educational Support Groups to educate and support people living with this chronic illness.

At the forefront of every major milestone achieved in spondylitis education, research and advocacy in the last 25 years, you will find the Spondylitis Association of America.

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Melissa Velez
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