Bob and Vivian Smith Epilepsy Education and Research Program

Established in 1988, the Epilepsy Education and Research Program demystifies epilepsy by teaching patients and their family members and friends about this neurological disorder. Staff provides information about what it means to have epilepsy, medical testing and diagnosis, seizure recognition and first aid, medications and side effects, practical tips on reducing the frequency of seizures, and pregnancy and epilepsy. This free consultation service is funded by the Bob and Vivian Smith Foundation. The Epilepsy Program also develops and conducts research to improve the clinical management of epilepsy.

Uplift Program

Project UPLIFT, a program designed by a research team at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), addresses the most common psychiatric disorder experienced by those with epilepsy - depression. The program is designed to be delivered to small groups (4 to 8 participants) over conference calls to help reduce negative moods among people with epilepsy using two kinds of treatment that are proven to be effective - cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness.

The program is led by Valerie Coffman - one of only two individuals trained in Texas to deliver this eight-week program. Project UPLIFT was piloted through Kelsey Research Foundation in August 2015 with patients completing the program in October.

Patients with epilepsy often face unpredictable events that can seriously and adversely affect their independence, ability to obtain employment and drive a motor vehicle, and can eventually provoke anxiety and even depression," said Michael Newmark, a board-certified neurologist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.  "Project Uplift helps patients address concerns, obtain a measure of control of their lives and learn from each other how to best confront the problems facing them. Participants have found great value in this program, where they feel more comfortable with their condition and often develop confidence in handling the stressors they face.

"When faced with dealing with this condition for the rest of my life, it made me feel angry, depressed, and confused. I felt fear and sadness," said Kerry Simpson, a 49 year old patient with epilepsy. "Project Uplift has allowed me the ability to learn more about the complexity of my condition and given me tools to keep moving forward."

Epilepsy Support Group

Kelsey Research Foundation recently hosted its first Epilepsy Support Group meeting in October 2015. The mission of the support group is to provide a forum for people with the condition and for those closest to them - loved ones and caregivers - to address their particular needs and to help them navigate the often complicated issues that arise after a diagnosis of epilepsy. The support group offers ways to cope with the condition as well as information on how to manage things like medications, work-related issues, driving and transportation issues and challenges related to medical insurance. The group is led by Valerie Coffman, LVN and Epilepsy Coordinator at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, and Lisa Rhodes, R. EEG/EPT., CLTM, Manager of Neurodiagnostics at CHI St. Luke's Health-Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center.

The Kelsey Research Foundation Epilepsy Support Group meets at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic Main Campus, 2727 West Holcombe Blvd. in Houston on the fourth Wednesday of every month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The support group is free and open to the public.

Any diagnosis of a chronic condition can be life-altering and overwhelming to patients - this is especially so for patients with epilepsy because for many of them, the condition impacts almost every aspect of their life," said Valerie Coffman. "It is my firm belief that there is strength in numbers, and a support group connects patients to others who are like them, who have had the same struggles and overcome them. There is something very powerful in seeing your own image reflected in someone else - and this can be transformative too for caregivers and loved ones.

"The support group helped me realize that I'm not alone in this quest, and that many people are fighting through the same thing that I'm going through," said Kenny Lam, a 22-year-old patient with epilepsy. "The older patients helped me realize that the hard part is only in the beginning and that everything will get better over time. I just have to believe that I have the strength to make it through every day. The meeting also helped me realize that there is strength in needing others, not weakness."