What a year this has been! No one could have predicted that 2020 would become the most challenging and consequential year of our lifetime. Today, I’m writing to update you on how the Parkinson’s Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic has, despite all the hurdles associated with COVID-19, forged ahead in improving patient care, fostering research and educating the next generation of movement disorders fellows. I also want to express my deepest thanks to those of you who supported us in 2019 and prior years. Without your generous support, none of this work would be possible. But there is much more to be done.
While COVID-19 has proved a substantial challenge, we have made excellent progress in our work. We now offer patients critical telemedicine resources, research and education. We are currently conducting more than 30 clinical therapeutic and observational trials for Parkinson’s disease, Tourette syndrome, Huntington’s disease, Wilson’s disease, tremors, dystonia and other movement disorders.
This year we were also fortunate to recruit two new outstanding faculty members who will further support the PDCMDC’s mission of helping patients and advancing research in novel therapies:
- Steven Bellows, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, with a bachelor of engineering. He obtained his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and subsequently completed his neurology residency and a two-year movement disorders fellowship at the PDCMDC. He also is trained in the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and botulinum toxin injections for treating a variety of conditions. He is participating in several clinical research trials and developing expertise as a clinical trialist in experimental therapeutics of Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.
- Nora Vanegas, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and director of neuromodulation research, received her medical degree from the University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia. She completed her neurology residency and served as Chief Resident at North Shore University Hospital in New York. Dr. Vanegas then completed a combined clinical-research fellowship, with an emphasis on neuroimaging and neuromodulation, at the National Institutes of Health before her faculty appointment at Columbia University in New York City. After four years at Columbia, she has joined the PDCMDC, where she will work on novel neurosurgical treatments for patients with movement disorders.
We also have some exciting news about our established PDCMDC faculty:
- Arjun Tarakad, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, has been appointed director of our Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) program. In addition to his busy clinical practice, Dr. Tarakad has increased his involvement in our clinical trials program and our fellowship training program.
- Lisa Taneff, N.P., in addition to working along with our clinical faculty by providing care for patients with a variety of movement disorders, also plays a critical role in our DBS program.
- Joshua Shulman, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology, molecular and human genetics, and neuroscience, was appointed as the director of the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, a new strategic research center at Baylor. In this new role, he will broaden the scope of his contributions as a physician-scientist in the PDCMDC.
- After 24 years as the research nurse manager at the PDCMDC, Christine Hunter, R.N., has decided to retire by the end of this year. Christine, my “right-hand” partner during the past 20 years, will be terribly missed by our PDCMDC family, the department and our patients. I will forever be grateful for her many contributions, commitment to excellence and dedicated service.
- Additionally, I have been invited this year to give several lectures at various prestigious conferences and universities, including the University of Tel Aviv, the University of California at San Diego, the Einstein School of Medicine, Columbia University and Harvard University. Finally, I am honored that, based on my scientific publications, I am currently ranked No. 1 in the world in movement disorders and botulinum toxin treatment as noted in Expertscape Inc, an objective rating of world experts.
This collective expertise will continue to spur innovation and inspire the next generation of leaders in the field of Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Consequently, training fellows is one of the PDCMDC’s primary missions. Our program has trained generations of movement disorders specialists who have gone on to help countless patients. Drs. Bellows and Tarakad are graduates of our training program. Dr. Chintan Shah, one of our current fellows and a graduate of Baylor’s Neurology Residency Program, is a recipient of The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders, a prestigious award from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
As director of the PDCMDC, driving therapeutic breakthroughs is my chief goal, and securing adequate funding for our highly regarded and competitive Movement Disorders Fellowship Training Program is currently my most urgent priority. I hope you will again support us as we continue to pursue this trailblazing work in 2021.
With warm appreciation,
Joseph Jankovic, M.D.