University of the Pacific
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Hope for the Weary
Internationally recognized research conducted by
faculty and students in the Pacific Fatigue
Laboratory is giving hope to those with debilitating
Feb 17, 2012
The Pacific Fatigue Lab (PFL) is a research, clinical and
teaching laboratory that studies fatigue-related illnesses
such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic
Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). Founded in 2007, PFL is
operated through the Department of Sport Sciences.
CFS/ME is an incurable, debilitating illness that is difficult to
diagnose. At PFL, individuals with CFS/ME - often
dismissed as malingering or depressed by family members,
insurance companies and even physicians - are receiving
objective, clinical validation that they indeed have a
disabling illness, important for both psychological and
Revolutionizing the Field of CFS/ME Research
PFL provides a comprehensive disability evaluation that
measures heart, lung and sympathetic nervous system
function, metabolic function and cognitive processing time.
Testing includes an 8-12 minute exercise stress test.
However, a difference in Pacific's testing protocol is that
patients are also re-tested the next day. This factor has
revolutionized CFS/ME research.
*Those with CFS/ME are the only patients who score
significantly worse the second day,* says Staci Stevens
'91, '97, PFL founding executive director. Research has
proved that, regardless of health level, a person will score
about the same on both days when taking a stress test two
days in a row. *CFS/ME patients do not recover normally
from physical exertion.*
From test results PFL researchers provide an extensive
evaluation to help the patient manage their illness and to
educate physicians and attorneys. For some, it is a
financial lifesaver; helping them obtain disability benefits
they were previously denied. Each patient also receives an
heart-rate monitor to help them manage exertion levels and
prevent a flare-up.
PFL is the only place that offers this comprehensive service,
and only two centers have implemented its exercise testing,
one at Ithaca College in New York and one at a university in
the Netherlands. Consequently, the lab has drawn patients
from as far as Chile and Japan. This includes people with
illnesses other than CFS/ME, such as HIV, multiple
sclerosis and cancer, who increasingly must prove they are
unable to work.
*We do have a reputation that goes beyond the United
States, which is quite unique for a small institution like
this,* says Christopher Snell, sport sciences professor and
PFL scientific director. Stevens and Snell have both served
on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee, which
Snell has chaired for the past three years.
Students Gaining Real-World Experience
Both undergraduate and graduate students are involved
through every aspect of the research and testing process.
Students work with patients, review medical history,
measure height, weight and blood pressure, conduct the lab
testing, and compile the results into a report.
Many of the students have presented their research at major
conferences. Larson recently presented his research at the
International Association of CFS/ME (IACFS/ME)
conference (http://www.iacfsme.org/). Graduate Harnoor
Singh '07 has presented research at the American College
of Sports Medicine (http://www.acsm.org/) conference and
was named Student Researcher of the Year at the
IACFS/ME annual meeting.
Singh and Larson agree their experiences in the Pacific
Fatigue Lab are invaluable preparation for their future in
health-related careers. Singh, now in medical school, was
particularly affected by clients' frustration at being
repeatedly dismissed by doctors. He says it has taught him
the importance of listening and being sensitive to patients.