Meet Our ALS Center's New Co-Director

July 26, 2021 Kelby Johnson

Dr. Nicholas Olney

"I grew up in Portland and have been looking for ways to come back."

Where did you complete your training?

I went to University of California San Diego for undergrad and majored in Biochemistry and Theatre. I was accepted into University of California San Francisco for medical school and did my my thesis on Pseudobulbar affect in ALS patients.  I completed my medicine internship at Highland Hospital in Oakland and did my Neurology residency at University of California Los Angeles.  I then went back to UCSF for a fellowship focused on neurodegenerative disease and research.

How did you become interested in ALS?

My father was diagnosed with ALS soon after I completed undergrad. Upon hearing the news I quickly bowed out of my job in biotech and moved home to become a caregiver.  This personal experience got me interested in ALS research and clinical care.

What is one piece of advice you would like to give to patients with ALS?

Continue to set short and long term goals.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Keep up the fight.

What is one piece of advice you would like to give to caretakers?

Hang in there and know your limits.  Being a caregiver can be extremely challenging and emotional but it can be rewarding as well. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy time with my family and collecting records.  I look forward to doing more outdoor activities like hiking and fishing, now that we are in Portland.

What do you think will be the next major advance in ALS treatment?

I am excited that biotech is interested in developing ALS treatments.  I like that the gene therapies have a good rational target for treatment.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party, alive or dead?

As a former playwright and now a physician, I always thought it would be interesting to talk with Anton Chekhov, who was a Russian playwright/physician at the turn of the 20th century.

What has been the highlight of your career?

I think being Co-director of the Providence ALS Center of Excellence is an amazing honor.  I look forward to the future.


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