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iSpecimen Outside of the Office: Ride Along as our Bike MS Team Furthers Multiple Sclerosis Research

July 28, 2016

iSpecimen Bike MS Team

As is often the case for mission-driven healthcare companies, many of our staff members are deeply committed to advancing healthcare not only inside of the office but also outside, on their own time. We previously highlighted the work of Jill Mullan, our COO, who volunteers in medical research studies. This week we talked with Doug Williams, Chief Technology Officer, and Dawn Michelle, Senior Director of Supply Operations, who recently participated in the Bike MS: Cape Cod Getaway 2016 to raise money for multiple sclerosis (MS) research. Both Dawn and Doug are avid bikers and chose to ride 150 miles for this cause.

2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS – an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Bike MS is the largest multiple sclerosis benefit ride in New England, with participants biking from Boston to Provincetown over two days, raising funds to further research for the disease.

There is currently no cure for MS but thanks to benefits like Bike MS and the efforts of individuals like Doug and Dawn, advancements in treating and understanding this complex disease are made every year. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: Could you tell us about why you decided to participate in Bike MS?

Doug: Bike MS is the largest charity biking event in the country, so you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. To date, they have raised over a billion dollars to stop the progression of MS. So not only do you get to ride, something we’re both passionate about, but you are helping further research and it feels like the money we raise is making a real difference.

Dawn: I personally know so many people with MS, from my high school friend to my husband’s grandmother and even the spouse of one of our coworkers at iSpecimen. While there isn’t a cure available yet, the recent advances in treatments are hopeful and show that we’re making progress. By participating in events like Bike MS, it feels like I’m making a meaningful contribution towards finding a solution and ending the disease.

Q: Did you have to train for the event? If so, could you tell us some specifics of what your training regimen looked like?

Doug: Since we’re both cyclists we’re always looking for events to keep us motivated. I live at the end of the Minuteman Bikeway and commute to iSpecimen each day. It’s ten miles each way, which adds up to around 100 miles per week. I also try to do 30-50 mile weekend rides. Since the Bike MS ride happens early in the summer, it serves as motivation to get through the hot weather and keep riding. We’re pretty competitive and like to finish on the first wave of riders and we don’t want to just finish in the back of the pack.

Dawn: I work with a coach. He has me riding anywhere between 100-150 miles per week. Mostly I’m three weeks on for faster riding paired with one week slower rides for distance. When I put something like the MS ride on my calendar, my coach makes sure he has some kind of prep designed to get me ready and we work from there.

Q: Can you tell us about your Bike MS Team and its connection to the cause?

Doug: We ride as part of Team Holdfast. The MacLeod family leads our team and “Hold Fast” is their family motto from Scotland – we actually wear jerseys with the family tartan. Their mother has MS and their father has participated for over twenty years. It’s very inspirational to ride with an affected family and be a part of their personal investment in the cause.

Q: Could you tell us about the day of the ride – was it an emotional experience riding for a cure?

Doug: In general, what was really amazing is that you are riding 150 miles over two days and there are people supporting you each step of the way. You see families out in front of their houses and on the corner cheering you on. They will be there for hours and hours, it’s very motivating.

Dawn: It’s also incredible that there are people with MS biking alongside you. They bike with a jersey that says “I Ride with MS” but otherwise, they look like regular cyclists. It serves as a moment for you to think: Wow, treatments are really working.

Q: What were your fundraising goals and were you able to meet / surpass them? 

Doug: Both of us became members of the VIP Club, which requires you to raise at least $1,500. Combined, we finished just north of 3,000 total dollars.

Dawn: My original goal was to raise $500 but then I exceeded that immediately. Incredibly, through the support of my friends and family I was able to raise $1700.

Q: iSpecimen uses the term “philanthropic patient” regularly, what does it mean to you?

Doug: I think for us the idea of the philanthropic patient is what drives us to work at iSpecimen. It’s the idea that we can help cure these diseases. We try to make it part of our personal and professional lives. I donate blood, for example. It’s something that is very important to us, whether we contribute by donating or participating. It’s another way to see things forward.

Dawn: I agree with Doug. Also, one of our coworkers met us at the halfway mark this year and now, he’s going to go out and buy a road bike so he can join us next year. It’s pretty neat to see the philanthropic mindset catch on.