S. Thomas Carmichael, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology
Frances Stark Chair
Welcome to Department of Neurology at the David School of Medicine at UCLA. For only the third time in 30 years UCLA has a new Chair of Neurology. This is a remarkable duration of excellent and rarified leadership. Previous Neurology Chairs John Mazziotta and Robert Collins built a deep and highly acclaimed department. Marie-Francoise Chesselet recently served as an outstanding Interim Chair. I am honored to follow these academic leaders as the new Chair of Neurology at UCLA.
Neurology as the Future
America enters a pregnant moment in medical care and disease treatment. As our population ages and the era of molecular medicine delivers greater cures and increased life expectancy, human disease is re-born as a problem with the brain as its limiting factor. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, stroke, neuropathies and brain cancer are all age-related diseases. Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and sleep disorders are neurological illnesses with an age component. Clinical care in neurology embraces the challenges of maintaining brain function in aging, preventing cognitive decline and treatment of these neurological conditions. One might argue that if heart disease or cancer is successfully treated, but a longer life produces a functionally degraded or demented state, what is the use of this longevity? With the aging U.S. population and disease treatment successes, Neurology has emerged as the medical specialty with the future imperative. UCLA Neurology will lead the way into this future with innovative research into nervous system function and disease, advanced patient care for neurological illness and education of the future leaders in clinical care and neurological research. The past is an indicator of success in UCLA in this vision and the future is bringing new research and clinical programs to enlarge and strengthen our efforts to cure neurological disease.
UCLA Neurology Poised to Lead the Way
UCLA Neurology is a robust department with extensive research, clinical and educational programs strategically positioned to lead into the future. How does one measure these things? UCLA Neurology is a large and deep department with 135 full-time faculty and 54 voluntary faculty. In research activity, we have been in the top 10 in Neurology departmental NIH funding since the early 1990s. Research output from the Department places it in the top 5 in the field in terms of publication numbers, citations and specific citation metrics (such as H index). On the clinical side, UCLA Neurology has inpatient services in the state-of-the-art Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The Neuro ICU is a large 26-bed unit with 3 Tesla MRI and CT-PET scanners. Adjacent Stroke, General Neurology and Epilepsy services occupy spacious floors which, like the hospital in general, have the openness and natural light that was part of the original design by I.M Pei. Together with the neighboring outpatient Neurology Clinic, a strong focus on quality of medical care places the UCLA Health System as #1 in the West and #5 in the U.S. UCLA Neurology extends beyond the Westwood Campus to include the West Los Angeles and Sepulveda Veterans Administration Medical Centers and the Los Angeles County Olive View Medical Center. Overall, this clinical UCLA Neurology network provides clinical care, research and educational opportunities to one of the most ethnically, economically and socially diverse patient populations in the country. On the educational side, UCLA Neurology education has matching focus in size and quality. We have recently extended our medical student clerkship. There are over 125 Neurology trainees as graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and clinical fellows, a highly ranked residency program and unique educational channels, such as the UCLA Neurology Resident NINDS R25 research program that funds a dedicated clinical or basic science research track in the residency.
UCLA Neurology’s Unique Collaborative Environment
UCLA Neurology is part of a larger neuroscience environment. The Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery have faculty with joint appointments, joint research projects and collaborative research publications that reflect the inter-disciplinary nature of neuroscience research. For example, autism research, new treatments in brain cancer or brain repair breakthroughs require faculty that move through disciplines such as genetics, clinical trials and viral gene delivery with the resources and energy of each discipline and the support of all neuroscience-related departments. The collaborative environment of UCLA in general and UCLA Clinical Neurosciences fosters such movement across departments and disciplines. The UCLA Neuroscience Theme is a multi-disciplinary structure that integrates basic neuroscience research across departments including Neurobiology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry, to facilitate collaborative interactions, common grants, recruitments and retentions. The Department of Neurology has faculty in the Neuroscience Theme and works closely with Theme Leaders in collaborative research studies that span basic to translational to clinical science. Clinical research in the Neurology Department is further strengthened with database, statistical and infrastructure support from the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. These interactions within UCLA Neuroscience enlarge the Department of Neurology to add intellectual diversity and vitality to its research programs.