DoM Book Club discusses When Breath Becomes Air on May 4

Book when breath becomes airThe Department of Medicine’s book club will discuss Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air on Wednesday, May 4, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Searle Center Faculty Lounge. When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir written by a young neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after completing his training. The book examines what makes life worth living, the challenges of raising a child on a limited timeline, and other questions related to mortality. All are invited to attend. Read more about the book here.

Dodds writes article on recognizing stroke for Duke Health blog

Quick Stroke image from Duke MJodi Dodds, MD, recently wrote an article on how to recognize signs and symptoms of stroke, and what to do if a person has one, for DukeHealth’s medical blog. This post is a great primer for a broader audience who may be unfamiliar with stroke. Check it out here.

Triangle walks to end MS, ALS

Bedlack walk fashionably

The “Fashionably Fighting ALS” team raised more than $3000 to fight ALS this Saturday.

Crowds gathered in Raleigh to walk to end multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at two separate events on Saturday morning, raising close to $700,000 to make life better for people with these conditions. At the Triangle Walk to End MS, the team “Duke Neurology, Best in MS,” featuring Christopher Eckstein, MD, and Bryan Walker, PA-C, raised more than $2,000 out of the over $300,000 raised at the event.

Meanwhile, at the 2016 Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter of the Walk to Defeat ALS, the “Fashionably Fighting ALS” team (right) featuring Richard Bedlack, MD, PhD, Stacy Asnani, MSW, Cindy Dunn, PA-C, Mariam Wasim, MD, and many others, raised about $3,000 to fight ALS out of nearly $400,000 raised at the event. Congratulations to everyone who donated or participated in these events!

Neurology Trivia: Who first described ALS?

In honor of the recent generous donation to our ALS Clinic, this week’s trivia question looks back to 1869, the first time ALS was described in the medical literature. Which famous neurologist was the first person to describe ALS?

A) Duchenne de Boulogne
B) Paul Broca
C) Santiago Ramon y Cajal
D) Jean-Martin Charcot

Click here for the answer.

Duke ALS Clinic receives $250k to support research into ALS therapies, reversals

The LVH ALS Foundation ( has donated $250,000 to start a new research endowment within the Duke ALS Clinic. The LVH ALS Research Endowment will allow the Duke ALS Clinic to investigate therapies associated with “ALS Reversals,” cases where symptoms fade and motor function unexpectedly returns. The Endowment will also be used to investigate other potential causes of these reversals, from unknown mimic syndromes, to an individual patient’s genetics, to environmental exposures.

“The LVH ALS Research Endowment is a seed, full of exciting potential,” said Duke ALS Clinic Director Rick Bedlack, MD, PhD. “It has been sown onto the fertile ground of the Duke Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic, one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. Nurtured by our passion, commitment, and unique focus on alternative therapies and ALS reversals, I believe this will grow, eventually leading us to an amazing Duke ALS Center that helps us climb toward a cure for this disease.”

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AAN wrap-up and photos

The 68th annual American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meeting ended on Thursday, April 21. Congratulations to all of our faculty, residents, and fellows who participated. As a way of wrapping up, please enjoy the following photos featuring members of our department, and mark your calendar’s for next year’s conference  (April 22-29 in Boston).

Santoshi Billakota, MD (left), and Lisa Hobson Webb, MD authored a poter examining the use of ultrasound in carpal tunnel syndrome.

Santoshi Billakota, MD (left), and Lisa Hobson Webb, MD authored a poter examining the use of ultrasound in carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Fellow Spotlight: Ruchir Shah, MD

Ruchir Shah, MD

Ruchir Shah, MD

Vascular Neurology Fellow Ruchir Shah, MD, is the subject of this week’s Spotlight interview. Shah talks to us about what drew him to neurology,  recent advances in stroke treatment, and the mysteries of the human brain.
How did you first get interested in neurology? What drew you to the vascular neurology fellowship at Duke?

In my 1st two years of medical school I never thought about about a career in neurology, simply because I felt it was so difficult. I also shied away from neuroanatomy. My perception changed once I started doing clinical rotation and seeing different variety of patients. But to be honest the main reason that attracted me was the personality of one of my neurology attending in medical school. His analytical thinking and before any testing he was able to tell what’s wrong with patients. I can easily relate myself to his personality and thought this is the specialty I would like to do.

During my residency, I sharpened my clinical diagnostic skills and gained experience in a wide variety of neurological cases. It was my work in the stroke unit that left an indelible impression on my mind. Since the beginning of residency, my thoughts on cerebrovascular disorders dramatically changed from an irreversible pathology to a dynamic disease with a chance of potential recovery. I was fascinated and inspired by the remarkable improvement in the functional status and quality of life of my patients who had aggressive management in the stroke unit. What appeals to me most about vascular neurology is the multidisciplinary nature of the knowledge and skills required in this field.

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Staff Spotlight: Lidia Tagliafierro, PhD

Lidia T profile photo

Lidia Tagliafierro, PhD

For this week’s Spotlight interview, we turn to postdoctoral associate Lidia Tagliafierro, PhD, who talks to us about her work evaluating structural varients in SNCA gene expression, what it’s like to earn your PhD in Italy and France, and traveling through Europe, the Caribbean, and (eventually) Bora Bora.

And in addition, please check out Tagliaferro’s talk for the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, “”Using iPSC-derived neuronal model to explore the genetic regulation of SNCA in the context of synucleinopathies”on Tuesday, April 19, from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m., in room 208 of the CARL Building.

What are your responsibilities within the Department? What does a typical day for you look like?
I am a postdoctoral associate in Dr. Chiba-Falek’s lab. The main goal of my postdoctoral project is the functional evaluation of structural variants that have been identified in the SNCA gene. It has been suggested that SNCA expression levels are critical for the development of synucleinopathies, in particular for Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Multiple System Atrophy. On a typical day, I walk from my apartment to Duke, during this time I have a call with my mother in Italy. Once I get to the lab, I spend most of the time planning and doing experiments. I usually have new ideas to move on with my project, and I try to make them concrete. Usually I finish working late, after which I go to the gym. I like to spend time with my friends chatting, listening to music and having a good glass of wine.

How did you first get interested in neuroscience? What interests you most about the field?
Since I was a child, I have been always fascinated by science. I remember asking myself “why” for everything I was looking at. What fascinated me about neuroscience was when I started studying the brain and the mechanisms of communication between neurons. The communication between cells and the importance of the environment is a part of neuroscience that always interested me.

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Walk to End MS next Saturday, April 23

Walk MS logoJoin our team and the fight against multiple sclerosis by participating in the Triangle Walk to End MS, which will be held Saturday, April 23, in Raleigh’s PNC Arena. The Neurology Department is seeking team members and donations to fund patient care and research into new treatments for MS. Click here to register, donate, or join our team. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the walk itself will start at 9 a.m. If you are interested in walking with the group,  contact Bryan Walker, PA-C at

Neurology research round-up, April 2016

Bryan Research ProfileThe past few weeks have seen several new research studies published by members of the Department of Neurology. These studies have ranged from biomarkers for populations at risk for cognitive decline to the role of ultrasound in neuropathies and nerve injury, including the following studies:

Lead author Michael Lutz, MD, as well as senior author Allen Roses, MD, Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, PhD, and colleagues, wrote a review article describing genetic variants that may help predict onset of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Read the article from Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports here.

Neurocritical care fellow Marc-Alain Babi, MD, was the lead author of two new case reports in Cephalalgia and the Journal of Neurology and Neurophysiology :

Lisa Hobson Webb, MD, was the lead author of “Ultrasound of focal neuropathies,” in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, which examines the role of ultrasound in common and unusual compression neuropathies as well as traumatic nerve injury. Read it here (Ovid access required).

Rodney Radtke, MD, was the co-author of a case series examining challenges in identifying Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in adults in Epilepsy Behavior Case Reports. The article is available here

Rich O’Brien, MD, PhD, co-authored a cohort study that identified biomarkers for a cognitively normal subpopulation at greater risk for cognitive decline over time. These populations may be useful participants for future research. Read the article in JAMA Neurology here.