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Muhammad Ali remembered fondly at Barrow Neurological Institute

Phoenix — Boxing legend Muhammad Ali was remembered Monday in Phoenix with an outpouring of affection at the medical facility that bears his name. The world renowned champion was one of the founders of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.

The boxing-great suffered from Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years. He died Friday in Scottsdale at the age of 74.

“I tell people… a hundred years from now, no one is going to remember any of us. They’re going to remember Muhammad Ali,” said Dr. Abraham Lieberman, one of the founders of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. Ali was Lieberman’s long-time patient and personal friend.

“He just had a presence.  He knew how to talk to people,” Lieberman added.

Lieberman recalled how he convinced Ali to lend his name to the fight against Parkinson’s disease. Knowing that Ali was a poet, Lieberman wrote a poem, asking Ali for his help. About an hour after receiving the poem by fax, Lieberman said, Ali’s wife Lonnie called and said, “he’ll do whatever you want him to do.”

Leaders at Barrow spoke lovingly of Ali, not only as someone who has advanced the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, but as a person.

“It made no difference to him what stature you had in society. He treated everybody the same,” said Dr. Robert Spetzler, director of Barrow Neurological Institute.

They told story after story of how charismatic and how kind Ali was, and how significant his contribution has been to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

“He made it really possible for many, many individuals to get care that they wouldn’t have been otherwise able to get, because of his and Lonnie’s big heart,” said Dr. Spetzler.

Doctors at Barrow said there is, so far, no cure for Parkinson’s disease. They said they’re focusing now on managing the illness and trying to keep patients from getting worse.

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