USF awarded Parkinson Research Foundation Center of Excellence

– New center will expand care, education and research at USF Health’s North campus –

The new Parkinson Research Foundation Center of Excellence at USF Health is staffed by, l to r, Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos; Kelly Sullivan, MSPH; Lisé Casady, MSCN, ARNP-C; and Dr. Theresa Zesiewicz.

Tampa, FL (Sept. 22, 2008) — The Parkinson’s Research Foundation will establish a new PRF Center of Excellence at USF Health to expand research, programs and services for Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers, primarily in the greater Tampa Bay area. The center has already received funding and future commitments for $175,000 from PRF.

“Parkinson’s is so tricky to treat effectively, and unfortunately too many patients with this age-related neurodegenerative disease don’t have the opportunity to see neurologists who specialize in movement disorders,” said Larry Hoffheimer, chairman and founder of the Sarasota-based PRF. “We want to work with USF to reach out to a wider patient community and improve their quality of life through education and the highest standard of care. That includes research to determine what medications and therapies work best.”

The grant will allow USF Health to increase clinical services, conduct more clinical trials and further support basic and translational research on its North campus. The PRF Center of Excellence’s daily Parkinson’s clinics are expected to move into the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare by the end of the year.

The PRF Center of Excellence’s core members Juan Sanchez-Ramos, PhD, MD, professor of neurology and the center’s medical director; Theresa Zesiewicz, MD, professor of neurology and the center’s director of clinical research; Lisé Casady, MSCN, ARNP-C, an adult nurse practitioner specializing in Parkinson’s disease; and Kelly Sullivan, MSPH, a neuroepidemiologist and associate in research.

“Because of our state’s elderly population, the numbers of people with Parkinson’s disease in Florida, particularly mid-Florida, continues to grow by leaps and bounds,” said Dr. Sanchez-Ramos, the Helen Ellis Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Disease Research at USF. “USF has a wealth of expertise in movement disorders. With this PRF award, we now have the resources to complement the existing Center of Excellence on our South campus and offer convenient access to patients in North Tampa.”

“As the daughter of a mother who is severely affected by Parkinson’s disease, as well as a neurologist, I am grateful to the PRF for supporting USF in this endeavor,” Dr. Zesiewicz said. “The PRF Center of Excellence will allow us to provide outstanding care and clinical research to Parkinson’s disease patients in the north Tampa Bay and mid-Florida area.”

“We are extremely grateful for this generous support from the PRF and very proud of their designation of this center as a PRF Center of Excellence, which is an acknowledgement of the excellent clinical care and research in Parkinson’s disease being done by two of our outstanding faculty members, Drs. Juan Sanchez-Ramos and Theresa Zesiewicz, on the North Campus of USF Health,” said Cliff Gooch, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology. “This support is critical for us to expand our work in Parkinson’s disease, and will help ensure a brighter future for patients with this disease in Florida and beyond.”

This will be the second privately-funded Parkinson’s Disease Center of Excellence for USF. The USF Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, directed by USF neurology professor Robert Hauser, MD, has been a National Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence since 2005. Located at Harbourside Medical Tower on the USF Health South campus, it is one of the country’s leading sites for testing new medications to combat movement disorders and evaluates new surgeries and innovative cell-based therapies that may offer hope for patients who no longer benefit from drug therapy.

The new award will help establish a PRF Mid-Florida Chapter co-directed by Dr. Sanchez-Ramos and Dr. Zesiewicz. The chapter will support and educate patients and their families, providing the latest information about Parkinson’s disease care and research.

The PRF Center of Excellence will host the first in a series of patient conferences, “Parkinson’s Disease: What does the Future Hold?” 10 a.m. to Noon, Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute, 4001 E. Fletcher Ave. The inaugural meeting of the chapter’s patient support group will be noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at USF Health’s Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare, 13330 USF Laurel Drive.

The award will also fund a post-doctoral research fellowship to train future generations of Parkinson’s disease experts. The PRF Center of Excellence is recruiting its first physician-scientist for the position. The fellow will see patients with Dr. Sanchez-Ramos and Dr. Zesiewicz and work in the laboratory of Dr. Sanchez-Ramos, who studies neurodegeneration, neurotoxicity, and the potential of adult stem cell therapies to delay or prevent Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

For more information on the PRF Center of Excellence at USF, click here.

About the Parkinson Research Foundation
PRF is a nonprofit health organization providing Parkinson’s disease research, information and advocacy. PRF is an IRS-recognized 501c3 organization and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. The mission of the organization is to cure Parkinson’s disease and to improve the lives of all people affected by the disease.

About USF Health
USF Health is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida’s colleges of medicine, nursing, and public health; the schools of biomedical sciences as well as physical therapy & rehabilitation sciences; and the USF Physicians Group. With more than $360 million in research grants and contracts last year, USF is one of the nation’s top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.