Leslie Cloud, M.D., M.Sc., arrived on campus this summer excited to be part of the new VCU Parkinson’s Disease Center. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity, unparalleled really, to focus on Parkinson’s disease and to focus on research,” she says. As an assistant professor of neurology, Cloud will have clinical and teaching duties as well.
Cloud earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia and after her neurology residency at Emory University, she spent three years as a movement disorders fellow there focusing on clinical research. Her research interest, which she brings to the MCV Campus, is the gastrointestinal symptoms that accompany the neurologic deficits in Parkinson’s. “They are very prevalent and very bothersome,” she says, but the causal mechanisms and clinical implications are not well understood.
The GI symptoms also are intriguing because they may result from similar processes that damage nerves in the brain, occurring simultaneously in the nerves that control the gut. “Some people think that Parkinson’s disease may start in the GI tract,” Cloud says. “Gastrointestinal symptoms may thus have something to tell us about the basic mechanisms of onset and progression in Parkinson’s disease.” That means that GI symptoms could potentially help doctors make earlier diagnoses and offer earlier treatment.