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.”