In 2011, Dr. Jeffrey Tramonte stepped out of his comfort zone in the hopes of starting an ALS clinic in Round Rock. This year, the Emory Bellard ALS Clinic at Baylor Scott & White Health commemorates a decade of serving Texans with ALS.
Discovering the Impact of Multidisciplinary Care
Dr. Jeffrey Tramonte first encountered ALS more than 15 years ago during his training at the University of Virginia. There he joined a Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship that provided heavy exposure to EMG’s and neuromuscular patients. There was an ALS clinic on site where the fellows actively participated. “That was my first exposure to a multidisciplinary ALS clinic,” Dr. Tramonte shared. “I really felt like we were making a difference in the care and the lives of those patients. That was sort of the initial impact on me personally.”
In 2005, he joined Baylor Scott & White Round Rock, just Scott & White at the time, as the Director of Neurology. Dr. Tramonte noted that while they didn’t have an ALS Clinic at the hospital, ALS patients visited occasionally. His team offered initial diagnoses and second opinions, but “for long-term care, we’d refer those patients out,” he shared. Knowing the benefit of multidisciplinary ALS clinics, Dr. Tramonte considered the possibility of creating one in Round Rock.
A Serendipitous Beginning
Dr. Tramonte recalls one fateful Friday afternoon when famous football coach, Emory Bellard, visited his lab for an EMG. Soon after that test, Bellard was officially diagnosed with ALS in February 2010. Dr. Tramonte knew the local family needed multidisciplinary care, but the nearest ALS clinic was hours away. He’d soon step out on a limb to change that.
“I did something I’ve never done before.” Dr. Tramonte asked the Bellard family if they wanted to sponsor an ALS clinic and name it in Emory’s honor. He was shocked when they said, ‘Yes!’ From there, the process moved rather quickly. “Within days he was getting me in touch with Coach Jackie Sherrill,” he shared. “He was integral in helping to rapidly put something together.”
In November 2010, the 12th Man Kick Off Team Foundation honored Emory Bellard at their annual scholarship dinner. There, the Foundation and their guests raised $100,000 and announced the creation of a new ALS clinic in his honor. Dr. Tramonte noted that seeing all the people there who were impacted by Emory Bellard inspired him.
The donations came from other coaches that came after him, other football players and other lives that he touched…you can imagine the impact this head coach had.
Just months later, the Emory Bellard ALS Clinic at Baylor Scott & White Health opened. “It rapidly came together, it was really incredible,” Dr. Tramonte shared.
Celebrating a Decade of Milestones
This year marks 10 years since the clinic started. “I’m really proud of the work that we do and the team that we have, and the care and compassion we provide to not only the patients but to their family as well,” Dr. Tramonte noted.
As he reflected on this anniversary, he remembered their accomplishments from over the years. “I think our milestones are being an ALS Association Certified Clinic.” This network of clinics gives Texans with ALS better access to evidence-based multidisciplinary care.
He explained how the clinic also participates in the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), contributing critical data for research. And at one time the clinic in Round Rock briefly hosted a clinical drug trial. “I’m optimistic about the future of ALS, and the research that’s being done, and the search for a cure,” Dr. Tramonte shared.
Most importantly, he joyfully commented how the clinic has improved its quality of care over the last decade. “We’ve gotten much better over the years at collecting the data we need to collect, providing the care as efficiently as possible, being sensitive to the needs of our patients and their families.”
The Life-Changing Impact of Multidisciplinary Care
Dr. Tramonte emphasized that when a patient’s care is not centralized to one location or team, it’s disjointed. There are problems with communication between providers, consistency of care, and other issues that are detrimental to the patient. “Getting your care under one roof, it’s one-stop shopping if you will…we’re making sure that we’re addressing all of their needs,” he noted.
Access to multidisciplinary care is scientifically proven to extend the lives of those living with ALS. For over 15 years, Dr. Tramonte himself has witnessed firsthand how it improves quality of life for his patients. He’s a firm advocate for this model and hopes to continue improving his clinic until one day, there is a cure for ALS.
Taking a step back from where this all started 10 years ago to where we are now, we’ve seen an incredible expansion of our clinic. There’s been a lot of enthusiasm for ALS. If we continue along that trajectory, you can only imagine that we will only continue to get better.
Watch Dr. Tramonte discuss more of the benefits of multidisciplinary ALS care in this exciting panel: ALS Clinical Care and the Future of Research!