Man finds hope after 10 years of battling Parkinson’s disease, depression

John Proios was a healthy man who used to sell insurance. He had a well-paid job and a vibrant life until he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 55.

“First thing I sense is that when I was typing on the keyboard,  my left pinky would not type,” Proios said.

At the time he didn’t take it seriously. However, Proios  told his friend, a neurologist, and he recommended that Proios see a local medical specialist.

Going to the doctor, he did not know his life would change forever. Proios was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and for him the diagnostic was surreal.

“I was upset and I was scared,” Proios said.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic movement disorder with an unknown cause and no cure. Nearly 1 million Americans live with the chronic disease.

Since his diagnosis, Proios has dealt with depression for 10 years.

“Depression just stops you from living. You don’t want to,” said Proios. “You think in your brain you should want to do this — I should get up, get up, I should go out, I should ride my bike and I should exercise. Well, I don’t want to.”

But Proios said these days are the best he’s ever had after 10 years of Parkinson’s disease and depression.

“Depression is very common in Parkinson’s disease,”said Robert Hauser, a USF Health doctor who specializes in Parkinson’s. “It affects about 50 percent of the patients sometime in the course of the disease. And it is taught that a lot of that has to do with chemical changes in the brain.”

Tampa Bay area doctor’s service to kids helps create future healthcare professionals

It started 10 years ago when a Tampa Bay area doctor began giving back to underserved children.

For Dr. Dexter Frederick, a primary care physician at Bayside Clinic, passion to create the next generation of excellent healthcare professionals motivated him to found the B.E.S.T program.

“The B.E.S.T program is actually my story where I had the dream of becoming a doctor one day,” said Frederick. “B.E.S.T is an opportunity for me to give of service of what I have gotten through.”

B.E.S.T stands for Brain Expansion Scholastic Training. Frederick developed the program to put middle- and high-school students on track for academic success in service and health care.

The Tampa Bay Lightning crowned him as a community hero and donated $50,000 to the B.E.S.T. program.

“It’s people in the community that made me a community hero,” said Frederick. “Without sponsors, parents, volunteers and dedicated students, I would not be a community hero.”

Partnerships with local hospitals, resource centers, medical schools and community members help the program run smoothly.

Frederick’s knowledge, determination and professionalism attract many volunteers to help middle- and high-school students accomplish their dreams.

“Dr. Frederick is the man; he is the go to person for everything — for medical knowledge, for community knowledge,” said Tiffany Smith-Sutton. “He has a true passion to help the students, and that is what brings me to B.E.S.T to volunteer.”

Frederick is a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has two daughters, but his wife insists that he has also fathered the B.E.S.T program.

Despite being busy as a primary care physician, he will always find time to serve and to give back to the community.

“It’s a need, it’s necessary and it should be done,” said Frederick.

Since the inception of the program, more than 100 students have graduated.

The program is in session year-round, and parents who seek to enroll their children must apply through the organization’s website.

Frederick holds parents and volunteers meetings every two weeks at Florida Hospital Tampa on Fletcher Avenue.

Jamaal Hardee, a USF medical student, has been working with Frederick and the B.E.S.T program since 2013. He praises Frederick for his mentorship and dedication to service and for ensuring children’s futures are bright.

“As a student physician, Dr. Frederick is a role model and mentor that teaches me the importance of giving back to the community,” said Hardee.