San Francisco VA researcher receives top Veterans Affairs Award

By Steve Tokar

Michael Weiner, MD -----

Michael Weiner, MD, a pioneering brain imaging researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), is a recipient of the 2006 William S. Middleton Award from the
Department of Veterans Affairs.

The award—the VA’s highest scientific honor—is given in recognition of outstanding achievement in biomedical research. It was named after the physician who served as the VA’s Chief Medical Officer from 1955 to 1963.

Weiner is director of the Center for the Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIND) at SFVAMC and a professor of radiology, medicine, psychiatry, and neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

He will receive the award officially on May 15, 2007 in a ceremony in Washington, DC.
As a 2006 recipient, Weiner will receive $50,000 per year for three years in research support, a cash award of $5,000, an announcement of the award in a prestigious scientific journal, and an inscribed plaque commemorating his scientific achievements. SFVAMC will also receive a plaque honoring Weiner’s achievements.

Weiner is to be recognized for his “exemplary service to the VA and to the biomedical profession” as well as his contributions to the field of clinical magnetic resonance imaging.

Weiner, a nephrologist by training, joined SFVAMC in 1980 as chief of hemodialysis. In the same year, he first worked with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology to obtain images of a kidney in a living rat - one of the earliest biological applications of NMR. He went on to establish the magnetic resonance imaging program at SFVAMC, and has had a hand in the development of clinical magnetic resonance brain imaging techniques used around the world.

Currently, Weiner is the primary principal investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a nationwide, multicenter clinical trial designed to establish a brain biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease. He is also the principal investigator of the SFVAMC Neuroscience Center of Excellence, a research collaboration between the VA, the Department of Defense, and the Northern California Institute for Research and Education (NCIRE) that focuses on improving diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other neurological conditions faced by combat personnel. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called the Neuroscience Center of Excellence “critical to the work of veterans’ health research.”

“I am honored to receive an award named after Dr. Middleton, whom I knew 35 years ago, when I was starting at the VA,” said Weiner. “He was instrumental in implementing the system of affiliations between VA medical centers and medical schools, such as the affiliation between SFVAMC and UCSF. This collaboration has been of incredible mutual benefit to the VA and doctors around the United States.”

Weiner noted that the award “recognizes the accomplishments of the outstanding scientists and staff, past and present, of CIND, and the continued participation of our research subjects, as well as many years of support by the VA.” He also acknowledged the research support of NCIRE.

This year, for the first time, two VA researchers have been designated to receive Middleton awards—and both recipients are University of California faculty members. Also being honored is Roland C. Blantz, MD, chief of nephrology at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and a professor of nephrology at UC San Diego.

NCIRE - the Veterans Health Research Institute - is the largest research institute associated with a VA medical center. Its mission is to improve the health and well-being of veterans and the general public by supporting a world-class biomedical research program conducted by the UCSF faculty at SFVAMC.

SFVAMC has the largest medical research program in the national VA system, with more than 200 research scientists, all of whom are faculty members at UCSF.

UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.