In my last year’s annual letter, I noted that 2020 was “the most challenging and consequential year of our lifetime”. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to impact our lives into 2021 and probably beyond. Despite these challenges, partly thanks to your continued support, the Parkinson’s Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic continues to make progress in and contributions to patient care, research, and education and training. The primary aim of this annual letter is to provide a brief report on some of our activities and achievements during the past year and to highlight our goals for the future.
- Joseph Jankovic, M.D. continues to be ranked #1 expert in the world in “movement disorders” and in “botulinum toxins”. This achievement is based on over 1,500 articles published during his career. He has also published over 60 books (four in the past year), including “the bibles” of Neurology and Movement Disorders.
- During the past year, Dr. Jankovic presented several prestigious lectures, including:
- Presidential Perspectives lecture for the International Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Society
- Jack Penney Lecture, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University
- Mel Yahr Lecture at XXVI World Congress on Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders, International Association of Parkinsonism and Related Disorders
- Lectures at Columbia University, Cleveland Clinic, Movement Disorders Congress, XLV Annual Mexican Academy of Neurology, Pennsylvania Neurological Society, etc.
- Dr. Jankovic has been invited to become a member of the Inaugural Board of Functional Neurological Disorder Society, Clinician Advisory Council on Palliative Care for Parkinson’s Foundation, and other committees.
- Joshua Shulman, M.D., Ph.D. has been awarded the Derek Denny-Brown Scholar award from the American Neurological Association, recognizing outstanding basic scientific advances toward the diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases. He recently established a new Baylor strategic research center to promote cross-disciplinary collaborative and translational investigations of neurodegenerative diseases. Among many funded projects, Dr. Shulman received a $5 million National Institutes of Health grant to lead a team of Baylor investigators studying genetic mechanisms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and related causes of dementia. In collaboration with Drs. Tarakad and Jankovic, Dr. Shulman’s research team have also published research showing that biosensor devices complement standard clinical assessments for revealing Parkinson’s disease motor heterogeneity.
- Arjun Tarakad, M.D., the director of the deep brain stimulation program, has worked to expand academic collaborations with other medical center institutions including UT Health and Methodist. He also serves as chair of the education committee on the Houston Area Parkinson’s Society Medical Advisory Board, and is the primary investigator for over twenty active clinical trials at the PDCMDC clinical research trials
- Nora Vanegas, M.D. has successfully transitioned all her research studies (from Columbia University in New York) to Baylor College of Medicine, including starting the first U.S. trial of Spinal Cord Stimulation for Parkinson’s related gait problems. She also has been awarded a research project grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to support her work Investigating the neuroanatomical underpinnings of apathy in neurodegenerative diseases. In collaboration with Rice University, Dr. Vanegas (co-principal investigator) has been awarded a Michael J. Fox grant to investigate a novel neuromodulation tool in Parkinson’s disease.
- Steven Bellows, M.D. has published a study examining the clinical features of patients with essential tremor and its relationship to Parkinson’s disease. He was also invited as a faculty member in the Annual Junior Faculty Forum at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In addition to serving as the primary investigator on multiple ongoing clinical research trials at the PDCMDC, Dr. Bellows has also accepted the position of “palliative care champion” for the PDCMDC.
- In August 2021 we have added to our PDCMDC team Chi-Ying (Roy) Lin, M.D., M.P.H., who completed his movement disorder fellowship at Columbia University. Because of his interests in cognitive and behavioral aspects of Parkinson’s disease and related disorders he will serve as a liaison between the PDCMDC and the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor. We look forward to his leadership in developing collaborative research programs that will align the two centers and their joint missions. Dr. Lin’s diversity advocacy and wellness development work were recently covered by Parkinson’s Foundation and the American Academy of Neurology’s Brain and Life magazine.
- In October 2021 Charenya Anandan, M.D. also joined our PDCMDC faculty. Dr. Anandan previously completed a two-year neuromuscular fellowship at Mayo Clinic before joining the faculty of Baylor Department of Neurology in 2019. She then decided to pursue her passion for movement disorders and recently completed her movement disorders fellowship in our program. We look forward to her expertise in caring for patients with movement disorders complicated by coexisting neuromuscular diseases and also for patients with complex focal dystonias who would benefit from EMG-guided botulinum toxin injections.
- Rory Mahabir, MBA, CCRP was named our new manager of clinical research. He has been developing and expanding our clinical research team, which also includes five experienced research coordinators, needed to advance our research mission by conducting over 30 clinical trials and over 30 investigator-initiated projects!.
Our active research program, coupled with our expert and compassionate patient care as well as our educational, training, and outreach missions, position the PDCMDC as one of the most outstanding Centers of Excellence in the world. However, in order to drive these projects and initiatives forward, we need your support more than ever. Our biggest current unmet need is to secure adequate funding to provide support for training fellows who will become leaders in the field of Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. I, therefore, appeal to you to make a generous donation to our Movement Disorders Fellowship Training program through our Giving Form. Your support will also help drive our innovative research program designed to improve our understanding of Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders and to develop better symptomatic and disease-modifying therapies.
With warm appreciation,
Joseph Jankovic, M.D.