Sarah Flanagan Wesley, MD, MPH, is a neurologist who specializes in treating patients with autoimmune diseases that affect the central nervous system (CNS), ranging from multiple sclerosis (MS) to diseases such as neurosarcoidosis, neuromyelitis optica (NMO), and autoimmune encephalitis. She treats patients who have other autoimmune inflammatory diseases that affect the eyes, brain, and spinal cord. Dr. Wesley also offers botulinum toxin (botox) injections for spasticity and migraine.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the nervous system, which involves nearly all parts of the body, from the brain to the spinal cord to your gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Wesley says. “A number of my family members have been affected by neurological diseases, which is one of the main reasons I was interested in studying neuroscience.”
Dr. Wesley recalls that when her aunt received a diagnosis of MS in the 1980s, doctors at the time could not offer any effective treatments. “We have seen a surge in the number of available medications and many advances in the understanding of MS and other autoimmune diseases, some of which we didn’t even know existed 10 years ago,” she says.
At Yale Medicine’s Multiple Sclerosis Program, Dr. Wesley is proud to be part of a “one-stop shop” that allows patients to be evaluated by different specialists during one visit, if necessary. They also work with patients to ensure that they receive the drugs they need. “Our philosophy here is that you must get ahold of the disease early on so that it doesn’t progress, and we are fortunate to have the infrastructure to give our patients the most effective treatments early on,” Dr. Wesley says.
No matter which condition she is treating, Dr. Wesley takes time to consider different therapeutic pathways based on the stage of disease and the patient’s unique health situation. “Having rapport and trust is very important for long-term management,” she says. “Often, we’ll talk about multiple options, and, over the course of one visit or even three, we’ll make decisions about their treatment plan.”
Dr. Wesley is an assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine, where she conducts research on MS, NMO, and autoimmune encephalitis. Her focus areas include the genetics of primary progressive MS and the effects of cancer immunotherapy on autoimmune diseases such as MS.