Disorders of the brain, spine and nervous system affect more than 50 million adults in the United States. These complex conditions – from migraine headaches, autism and Alzheimer’s disease to stroke, vascular disorders, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors and more – pose vexing prevention and treatment challenges for patients, their families and their health care teams.
UCSF Nobel laureate Stanley B. Prusiner, MD, UCSF professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, received the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for science and technology, from President Barack Obama.
To tackle these challenges, UCSF has established several key centers where teams of compassionate, expert clinicians and clinical researchers work with the world’s finest basic science researchers to provide neurological and neurosurgical care that is consistently ranked among the best in the country. The rich environment also supports UCSF’s commitment to educating future specialists in this field through a training program that emphasizes quality care and innovation and that also is recognized nationally as one of the best.
Research is especially crucial to advancing the care of neurological conditions, many of which have remained frustratingly difficult to treat. UCSF is home to some of the world’s leaders in this area:
- Stanley Prusiner, MD, director of the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of a new class of proteins called prions, which leads to neurodegeneration. His work dramatically changed our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Stephen Hauser, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology – who recently was appointed to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues – is internationally recognized for insights he has uncovered about multiple sclerosis.
- Mitchel Berger, MD, chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery, is an internationally distinguished brain surgeon, and a researcher whose work with brain mapping has been critical to enhancing the safety of neurosurgery and minimizing its impact on motor, sensory and language functions.
These three scientists represent a deep roster of leading thinkers in the field. What is most striking, however, is that at UCSF, these groundbreaking researchers are closely involved with patients.