June 20, 2016
Neurologist Samuel Wiebe elected to lead international epilepsy organization
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological condition. Often starting in childhood, it causes seizures and negatively affects an individual’s quality of life. The International League Against Epilepsy is a 110-year-old volunteer organization that works to improve epilepsy research, education and care around the world. The organization’s 114 member countries recently elected the university’s Dr. Samuel Wiebe as their president for the 2017-21 term.
“I’m very happy that Canada and the University of Calgary are on the world stage in setting the standard of care for epilepsy,” says Wiebe. “We hope to accomplish great things for the people who suffer from this disease, around the world.”
The league works with all countries, from industrialized regions where state-of-the-art technology and highly trained neurologists are prevalent, to resource-poor areas where technology is lacking and treatment is typically carried out by traditional healers. With many causes such as brain injuries, infection, or injury from birth, approximately 80 per cent of people who suffer from epilepsy live in countries where few, if any treatment options are available. In conjunction with numerous international neurological associations, lay organizations, and the World Health Organization, the International League works to improve and establish standards of care worldwide.
Worldwide initiatives in education and care
“We are seen as the organization that produces the authoritative statements for standards of care, and we have a presence at all levels of care, from the health-care provider to the country health authorities,” he says. “We have large initiatives in education and care around the world.”
With a large number of initiatives in development, key projects include the development and implementation of online training programs for health-care providers and other community members dealing with epilepsy patients. For example, Wiebe is leading the organization in working with Wikipedia to enable free access to medical data for medical care or medical education in epilepsy in resource-poor countries. The organization also supports the scientific community in developing new treatments for the disease.
“The unmet needs are huge for people with epilepsy around the world,” says Wiebe. “I am honoured to have the trust of the international community to lead these efforts.”
Dr. Samuel Wiebe is a professor in the Cumming School of Medicine's Department of Clinical Neurosciences and member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, and O’Brien Institute for Public Health.