ANA Plenary Session Spotlight: Michael D. Geschwind, MD, PhD, FANA | Derek Denny-Brown Symposium

What’s Next for Neurology: Groundbreaking early-career research and inspiring professional contributions

The 2022 Derek Denny-Brown Young Neurological Scholar Symposium takes place Monday, October 24, 1:15–3:15 p.m. CT at the ANA 2022 Annual Meeting in Chicago. Register now to attend!

At the Derek Denny-Brown Symposium, early-career researchers share work that is changing the neurology and neuroscience field, and the ANA honors its members’ exceptional contributions to research, teaching, and volunteer service. The Symposium is chaired by Michael D. Geschwind, MD, PhD, FANA, Professor of Neurology and the Michael J. Homer Family Chair in Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco; and Laurie Gutmann, MD, FANA, Professor and Chair of Neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine. We spoke with Dr. Geschwind about what awaits this year’s attendees.

What new research will Derek Denny-Brown Symposium attendees hear about?

Geschwind: The Symposium highlights novel, often groundbreaking work by junior investigators. It provides an opportunity to see who is coming up in the field and what their interests are. The awardees’ work is just astounding. [KP1] 

Gemma Carvill, who won the Derek Denny-Brown Young Neurological Scholar Award in Neuroscience, has done terrific research identifying new genes and determining the pathogenicity of variants of unknown significance in epilepsy. Sami Barmada won the extremely competitive Basic Science award for novel work in discovering pathways involved in ALS and FTD, including the roles of TDP-43 and other proteins. Brian Edlow, who won the Clinical Science award, developed a connectivity map for the human ascending arousal network, and works on predicting and promoting recovery of consciousness in persons with traumatic brain injury.

Grass Foundation Award winner Derek Narendra studies pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders with a focus on reducing mitochondrial damage. The Wolfe Neuropathy Research Prize went to Stephanie Eid for her cross-disciplinary work on diabetic neuropathy and therapies that affect peripheral neuropathy before irreversible damage occurs.

Why are the other, professional recognition awards given at the Symposium so important?

Geschwind: The recipients of these awards are often the best of the best, and to be able to hear about their research and paths is not only educational but also inspiring. They make us want to do even better in our own work.

For example, Bruce Ovbiagele is receiving the Audrey S. Penn Lectureship Award for program-building or scholarship to promote health equity. He has given back in a way that affects the research landscape and cultivates a more diverse group of scholars in neurology.

We give the Distinguished Neurology Teacher Award to people who have managed to bring their teaching to a national or international audience. Awardee Deanna Saylor established a postgraduate training program in neurology in Zambia that will have a lasting impact on—and probably beyond—an entire nation.

The ANA Awards for Clinical and Scientific Excellence honor careers dedicated to neurological research. Wolf-Dieter Heiss is a pioneer in the field of stroke and neurology whose work has had major impact not just in Europe but also in the United States.

We also recognize Awards for Excellence in Service to the ANA. Romer Geocadin played a key role in helping the ANA move its educational methods to online learning during the pandemic, which should have a long-lasting impact on ANA teaching and training. And for more than 20 years, Shri Mishra has served on numerous ANA committees and has been a strategic advisor, an incredible contributor, and has fostered important international collaborations.

Were there any trends you noticed among the award nominees?

Geschwind: Studying mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease, especially mechanisms that might be active across multiple diseases, was certainly a large trend this year. We’re seeing exciting work in the less-common dementias including Alzheimer's-related dementias, particularly several proteinopathies. There also were several candidates working in  neurogenetics—using the latest techniques to identify the genetic underpinnings of neurological disease, and for good reason: their work should ultimately help us learn how we might treat and even cure these diseases.

One thing to note for the future nominations is that there were several candidates who work in translational research who were nominated for one specific award but who might have also fit into another award category. When appropriate, nominators should consider nominating candidates for more than one category. Also, historically we tend to receive a majority of nominations from the higher-ranked academic institutions, but there are terrific people at lesser-known institutions doing phenomenal work. We'd encourage nominations for anyone who has made seminal contributions to their field regardless of where they were trained or work, because we really look at people based on their body of work.

See the full list of 2022 ANA awardees here.