Gil I. Wolfe, MD, Irvin and Rosemary Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been selected to receive the 2015 Doctor of the Year award from the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA). Wolfe earned his AB in biology at Princeton University and his MD at the UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He then trained as a neurology resident and neuromuscular fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, where he began to focus on MG.
Dr. Wolfe is an expert on neuromuscular disorders with a special focus on myasthenia gravis (MG), the most common disease of neuromuscular transmission. Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the voluntary muscles. MG manifests itself uniquely in each patient, but typically involves symptoms such as inability to keep eyelids open; crossed eyes; weakness in hands and arms, feet and legs; trouble with smiling and other facial expressions; and, worst of all, difficulties swallowing and breathing which can lead to myasthenic crisis. MG is a rare disease affecting 70,000 people or more in the United States; it is often undiagnosed. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated to a degree in most patients, some more successfully than others.
Wolfe is also clinical chair of a major National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded international trial of a surgical procedure called thymectomy. This procedure is routinely performed on MG patients with and without thymoma, a chest tumor. The study assesses the benefit of thymectomy beyond conventional medications in helping MG patients who do not present with a chest tumor. Wolfe received planning grant support from the Muscular Dystrophy Association to develop the trial of thymectomy for MG in the late 1990s. Under the leadership of Professor John Newsom-Davis and other colleagues, including Gary Cutter and Henry Kaminski, he successfully obtained funding from the NIH to support the trial which will complete final outcome assessments in November. The trial is the longest, and one of the largest, randomized studies in the history of MG.
Since the 1990s, Wolfe has led educational programs for neurologists at the American Academy of Neurology and numerous universities. His early research focused on treatment trials and outcome measurements for MG, including the co-direction with Richard Barohn, now of the University of Kansas of a randomized, controlled, multicenter clinical trial of intravenous immunoglobulin in MG. While Dr. Wolfe is an internationally recognized research, he maintains that his most important work is his ongoing dedication to patients with MG.
Academic Med is pleased to announce the successful placement of Dr. James E. Galvin, MD, MPH, as director of the Leon and Toby Cooperman Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders with our client Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Florida. The Marcus Neuroscience Institute serves as an innovative connection for neurology and neurological care where patients benefit from the relationship with Boca Regional’s Eugene M. & Christine E. Lynn Cancer Institute.
Dr. Galvin was a professor of neurology and psychiatry and director of clinical operations at the Center of Excellence on Brain Aging at New York University Langone Medical Center. Dr. Galvin has an extensive background in neurodegenerative disorders, dementia, and cognitive aging. He has published over 85 scientific papers, is the editor for two textbooks on dementia, and leads numerous clinical trials. Additionally, his research has been funded by the National Institute of Health, the American Federation for Aging Research, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
In addition to Dr. Galvin’s position as director, he holds the position of tenured professor of clinical biomedical science and associate dean for clinical research at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. He is also tenured professor of nursing and medical director of the Louis Annie Green Memory and Wellness Center of FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.
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On July 1, 2013, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine will welcome Andrew T. Parsa, MD, PhD, as the new Michael J. Marchese Professor and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Parsa is an internationally-renowned neurosurgeon specializing in complex tumors of the brain and spine. Dr. Parsa is a prolific physician scientist who has served in a large number of leadership positions within the Neurosurgery community throughout his impressive career, including a role on the Executive Board for the Joint Section on Tumors, as well as an appointment on the Board of Directors for the Society of Neuro-Oncology. His research pursuits regarding brain tumor immunology have provided landmark insights which have resulted in the consistent funding of his research projects by the National Institute of Health (NIH) since 2002. Dr. Parsa is currently the study chair for the largest randomized brain tumor vaccine trial ever to be funded by the National Cancer Institute. Eric G. Neilson, MD, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean at Northwestern, said that Dr. Parsa is an “innovative scientist whose addition to Northwestern Medicine strengthens our position as a leader in the investigation of neurological cancers.”
Dr. Parsa completed his undergraduate degree from Yale College in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He earned both his medical and graduate degrees at Downstate Medical Center, where he initiated one of the first vaccine studies for brain tumor patients. He completed his neurosurgical training at Columbia University and has served as professor, vice chair, and Reza and Georgianna Khatib Endowed Chair in Skull Base Tumor Surgery at the University of California San Francisco for the past decade. Additionally, Dr. Parsa’s wife, Charlotte Shum, MD, will join the faculty at Northwestern as associate professor of orthopaedic surgery. According to Dr. Neilson, Dr. Parsa “is a dedicated mentor who has built a career by pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding, while Charlotte brings her exceptional talent and vast knowledge to our orthopaedic program.”
Dr. Parsa will replace the former Dr. H. Hunt Batjer as Chairman of Neurosurgery. Dr. Batjer served as the Chairman of Neurosurgery at Northwestern University for 17 years, until he returned to his alma mater to become the Chairman of Neurosurgery at University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX in September 2012.
The Obama administration recently announced a $100 million, federally funded, brain research initiative that should go before Congress in the coming weeks. Appropriately named, the new project is entitled BRAIN Initiative: Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative. The first phase of the project will take place at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, where a “dream team” of world renowned scientists “will focus on setting the appropriate goals for the first several years and different periods of time after that,” according to Dr. Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH. In addition to the NIH, two other federal agencies will be involved with the projects: the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) was the only medical specialty invited to participate in the research efforts.
The planning stage is essential for the successfulness of the new initiative. The initial projects are expected to focus on developing the technological tools that researches will need for better insight into how the brain functions. President Obama believes that this project will lead to transformative gains in brain research. Dr. Landis says that a better understanding of brain function is likely to lead to better treatments for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and other brain disorders. Moreover, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) supports the BRAIN Initiative. AAN President Dr. Timothy Pedley stated that “we are excited by the administration’s commitment of much needed support for research into the brain diseases that devastate the lives of so many people.”