Chad Mickelson is running 600 miles from the southeast corner of Minnesota to the northwest tip of the state. He has completed a marathon before, but he’s never attempted anything this strenuous. His motivation stems from a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS); MS is a progressively degenerative neurological disorder where the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, potentially resulting in symptoms such as limb weakness, numbness or tingling, lack of vision in one eye and balance issues among others. 

Flavia Nelson, MD, a University of Minnesota Physicians neurologist and Director of the MS Division, completed a fellowship in MS and has dedicated the last 17 years of her life toward treating patients with the disease, while also researching magnetic resonance imaging and cognition. 

“MRI’s are very important in this disease because the MRI may show activity even while he (Chad) doesn’t look like he’s having any symptoms. We monitor the MRI to make sure there aren’t any new or active lesions, which are spots in the brain (or spinal cord) that signify a battle between the immune system and the brain,” said Nelson.

Care for MS has steadily improved through research, but receiving an early diagnosis and quick treatment are still crucial. “I would encourage people to seek help if they are experiencing neurological symptoms suggestive of MS” said Nelson.

Upon completion of his run, she will develop a treatment plan tailored specifically to Mickelson’s symptoms and disease severity. He will have several options, including a clinical trial for stem cell transplants or high-efficacy medications. Researchers at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota are working to understand which treatment plans produce the best long-term outcomes. Stem cell transplants are invasive and expensive, so discovering whether or not they’re worth pursuing needs to be demonstrated through evidence.

What I would like people to know is that MS is now treatable and outcomes have improved. If patients are able to involve an MS expert in their care, it’s helpful because since it’s a chronic disease, a lot of decisions need to be made along the way; and sometimes those decisions are going to change the outcomes. It’s also a complicated disease and not that easy to manage, so it’s better to have an MS expert in your corner, hopefully patients realize that we have a team of MS experts here in the twin cities.

Flavia Nelson, MD, Neurologist


Increasing awareness about MS is also a motivating factor for Mickelson. He noted, “The run itself is a personal thing for me, I was going to do it no matter what, but MS does affect a lot of people here in Minnesota. It’s been really interesting how many strangers I met during this run who have a family member or friend with MS. Additionally, there are a lot of people living with MS you might not even realize.” 

A 600 mile run isn’t for everyone, but Mickelson’s journey isn’t to show off, it’s an example of the fight that many MS patients demonstrate on a daily basis.

“My theme for this is ‘try,’ that’s all we can ask sometimes,” Mickelson said. “Every day, I go out there and compare myself to who I was yesterday, and I’m trying to be better than that, which I guess would be the message: that we can be more than we were yesterday so we owe it to ourselves to try.”

To support MS research and to see more of Mickelson’s journey, visit his website at or his Facebook page @TrybyChadMickelson

To request an appointment with Dr. Flavia Nelson please call 763‑898‑1080 for Maple Grove clinics, 612‑626‑6688 for Minneapolis, or visit this link.