Justin Fields: Advocating for better care
Justin Fields, an information security specialist at ORAU, uses creative marketing skills to advocate for the fight against Parkinson’s disease.
“I had to learn how to do this,” says Fields, who at age 31 began his advocacy work with local groups and national foundations. He has seen firsthand what kind of devastating impact the disease can have, and this drives him to advocate for medical research and better care.
In 2018, Fields was named to the People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council, a national advocacy branch of the Parkinson’s Foundation, after he emerged as one of the top fundraisers in the country. In two years, through his own efforts, he raised more than $20,000. In addition, by working with local and national organizations, he helped raise about $140,000 during this time.
Fields organized local fundraising events, such as a 1980s-themed, “prom night” dance, and he continues to develop websites to help raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease on behalf of two support groups in East Tennessee. He ran in the Walt Disney World Half-Marathon as a participant of Team Fox, affiliated with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and also ran in regional 5K events.
Fields hopes his fundraising will lead to better diagnostic equipment at hospitals and medical offices beyond the major city medical centers. An accurate diagnosis can be elusive, because physicians often attribute symptoms to other illnesses and do not immediately suspect Parkinson’s disease, particularly among young patients. “Medically, patients do so much better when they are diagnosed accurately and early. They can take appropriate medication and learn exercise regimens to manage the disease,” says Fields, who has offered personal support to patients of all ages.
Duties during his three-year term on the advisory council include traveling nationally as an ambassador for the Parkinson’s Foundation. Council members provide input to initiatives developed by the foundation and help determine if these actions are the best path forward. They review communication materials for effectiveness and inclusiveness.
“It has been very uplifting, very good for me because I am the youngest member ever selected. I bring a fresh perspective,” says Fields, reflecting on his contributions. He advocates passionately for younger patients because they are often overlooked and underrepresented in support groups and clinical trials. He attends events hosted by support groups and brings about an exchange of ideas from the grassroots level to the top of the foundation. “That’s what drives me,” says Fields.
“It has been very uplifting, very good for me because I am the youngest member ever selected. I bring a fresh perspective, that’s what drives me."
-Justin Fields, an information security specialist at ORAU