What will it take to continue the growth and success of the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center? This question is my new charge as the interim director. I am excited to serve as director during this time of transition. I am committed to building upon the foundation developed by Dr. Jim Bennett and the dedicated staff of the Center. Without Jim’s leadership and vision we would not be at this exciting juncture and there is much to be proud of as we seek to fill his shoes and serve those battling Parkinson’s and movement disorders throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.
I have been a member of the movement disorders community here in Richmond for 13 years. I have served as the director of the Southeast Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Center (PADRECC) at the McGuire Veteran’s Affairs Hospital, the model that inspired the original group of Movers and Shakers to advocate for VCU’s Center. I am also a research investigator, with clinical and laboratory research interests, including developing a highly accurate diagnostic tool for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders utilizing eye-tracking technology and investigating novel approaches to ameliorate as yet, largely untreatable secondary dystonia.
Over the last two months, I have met with School of Medicine leadership and with PMDC staff to develop a comprehensive short-term vision and goals for the Center. The Center and its programs will not be diminished in any way; rather, we will continue to grow the Center. Recruitment is currently underway to hire a fourth movement disorder neurologist and I am pleased to announce that a second neuropsychologist will join our staff later this spring.
The Center already has a number of excellent physician-scientists whose talent I plan to help further enhance. I would like to also highlight for you just a few of the accolades:
- Led by Dr. Claudia Testa’s efforts, the Center has received designation as a Center of Excellence from the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
- Leslie Cloud has received School of Medicine Excellence funds through the Department of Neurology to develop a smart phone app to permit simplified electronic tracking of clinical Parkinson’s Disease (PD) symptoms. Also, as part of the major VCU Institutional Clinical and Translational Science Award, Dr. Cloud is investigating a new drug designed to improve the absorption of levodopa pills by enhancing stomach emptying.
- Sarah Lageman, neuropsychologist, has recently published a number of important studies, including a March publication in the Geriatric Nursing detailing her findings from critically investigating issues of caregiver burden. She continues her close relationship with the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
I look forward to serving the community in the role of interim director. All of us at the Center remain steadfast in dedicating ourselves to caring for those with movement disorders and to advancing the Center’s important efforts in research, training, and education. Thank you for your continued support.
Mark S. Baron, MD
Professor of Neurology, VCU
Interim Director, VCU PMDC