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Doctor determined to cure rare disease

Jefferson Award-winner Babak Darvish
July 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Jefferson Awards recognize extraordinary people who volunteer and make their communities a better place.This month's Jefferson Awards winner is a doctor who's made it his life's work to find a cure for a rare disease, and he's doing it all on his own time.

At Veteran's Administration Hospital in Los Angeles Dr. Babak Darvish specializes in getting patients back on their feet. But these days he's forced to do it from a wheel chair due to a rare condition that is slowly turning him into a quadriplegic.

In medical school, Dr. Darvish noticed he had difficulty playing his guitar. His brother also noticed the same muscle weakness.

"We knew there was something wrong with the muscles ... that the muscles were wasting and degenerating," said Dr. Darvish.

Nobody knew what it was. The two brothers became researchers to find a diagnosis and found it was Heredity Inclusion Body Myopathy, or HIBM.

HIBM is rare, so there is no treatment, awareness or funding. Dr. Darvish created a non-profit organization dedicated to research. He is determined to find a cure.

"Absolutely. That's something I can say with very strong conviction," said Dr. Darvish.

In ten years, they've helped uncover the genetic cause of HIBM and created a simple diagnostic test. But his passion to help isn't just for people with HIBM, he wants all his patients to strive to be their best.

"It's nothing but to bring you up to a point where not only are you recovering physically, but mentally you also recover ... that's him," said Manuel Perez, a hip replacement patient.

"Dr. Darvish is one of the most giving people in life," said Crystal Barker, who nominated Dr. Darvish for the award because of his ability to inspire.

"He's one of the best patient advocates for any patient on the floor. And he has a lot to give the world," added Barker.

"Even when things may not be available at the present time, with hard work and with taking the right measures and steps, I think you can always succeed, said Dr. Darvish.

Dr. Darvish knows a willing spirit can conquer all.