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Real Talk from Participants

My Research Journey: Why I Raised My Hand to Participate Shortly After Diagnosis

Mike Kinnett headshot

Sometimes, a long-awaited diagnosis can lead to a certain sense of relief. For Florida resident Mike Kinnett, age 66, the confirmation of a Parkinson’s diagnosis answered several lingering questions, some spanning over a decade. 

A local historian and national award-winning author, Mike retired after nearly fifteen years of serving as a Park Services Specialist for the Orman House Historic State Park. Like so many others with Parkinson’s, he noticed the diminishing of his sense of smell years before his official diagnosis.  

“When I was growing up, my grandmother had lilacs, and their aroma evoked wonderful memories,” Mike recalls fondly. “But the smell began to fade in my 50s, along with my overall sense of smell. About the same time, I began ordering my food with more spice or sweet desserts because the taste of most foods seemed flat.” 

Not everyone with smell loss develops Parkinson’s, but in some cases, it is one of the earliest symptoms. (Learn more about smell loss.)   

As someone whose job responsibilities included the upkeep and gardening of a historic state park, the loss of smell and newfound fatigue left Mike feeling confused. But he chalked up his symptoms to simply “aging.” After an unrelated procedure in 2019, Mike came out of surgery with his previous symptoms and the beginning of a tremor in his left index finger. At the urging of his wife, Billie, Mike sought out answers, and at the age of 62, was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). 

Mike wasted no time in giving back. “After the PD diagnosis, we searched for any information about the disease. My wife came across The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) and insisted I get involved — she was wise,” he says. 

Mike chose not to start Parkinson’s medication at first, and discovered he was a prime candidate for MJFF’s landmark Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study.  

“Though medication was needed to ease the tremors after I'd been in PPMI for a year, I’m committed to the study for many years to come,” Mike says. “The doctors in the program have been nothing short of amazing. Twice a year they check not only my physical symptoms but also test for cognitive changes. They've made me an active participant in the search for a cure.” 

Mike currently participates in PPMI at the University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders in Gainesville, where his impact can be felt by our team of researchers. 

A husband and a father to two daughters, Mike sees PPMI as a proactive way to help those around him. Out of duty and love for his family, he has a proud place in research with hopes of making a difference for future generations. His diagnosis even inspired his family to take part, whether it be through genetic testing or answering questions on the PPMI online study platform. 

PPMI is open to anyone over age 18 in the U.S. Learn more.

If you’re recently diagnosed and not yet taking PD medication, call 877-525-PPMI or email to get started today.  

If you’re age 60 and up without Parkinson’s, request a scratch-and-sniff test.

  • Kinnett family

    Mike with his family

  • Kinnett painting

    Painting by Mike Kinnett

  • Mike in the snow

    Mike in the snow

  • Kinnett painting

    Painting by Mike Kinnett

  • Man painting

    Mike painting handmade quilt rack

  • Kinnett wooden bowls

    Woodwork by Mike Kinnett

  • Kinnett woodworking shop

    Mike's woodworking shop

  • Mike Kinnett Book Series

    Mike's book series

  • Kinnett painting

    Painting by Mike Kinnett

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