Inaugural Alford Lecture focuses on treatment for Parkinson’s disease

The inaugural Bobby R. Alford Grand Rounds Distinguished Lecture at Baylor College of Medicine was held March 13, focusing on deep brain stimulation treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other disorders. The lecture series was endowed by the Diana Helis Henry and Adrienne Helis Malvin Medical Research Foundations in honor of Dr. Bobby Alford, professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery. It will be held annually with a focus on the clinical practice of medicine, particularly the fields of otolaryngology, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

“We are honored to be the recipient of funding from the Helis foundations in honor of Dr. Alford, one of our outstanding physicians and educators at Baylor College of Medicine,” said Dr. Adam Kuspa, senior vice president for research.

Alford earned his medical degree from Baylor and conducted his residency here, joining the faculty in 1962 and holding several leadership roles at the College, including chancellor, executive vice president and dean of medicine.

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Dr. Huda Zoghbi introduced the speaker, Dr. Mahlon DeLong, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, who has been a leader in the study of the basal ganglia, a region of the brain, and its role in movement and movement disorders that has led to major breakthroughs in patient care for Parkinson’s and other diseases.

She called DeLong a “wonderful citizen of the neurology community and the Parkinson’s disease community.” Zoghbi is professor of molecular and human genetics and director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.

DeLong played a key role in the development of deep brain stimulation, a surgical technique that reduces tremors and restores motor function in patients with Parkinson’s disease. He provided an overview of early surgical targets for Parkinson’s and tremor disorders, and where the future of deep brain stimulation is headed. He said that deep brain stimulation will be more tailored to individual patients and will target areas of the brain that control signs and symptoms, rather than particular disorders.

Deep brain stimulation has had a profound effect on the interest in brain research, and that interest has led to the development of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative announced by President Obama, DeLong said. It is now used as a treatment and tool for exploring other parts of the brain, including those involved in psychiatric disorders and has played a major role in bringing the study of neurology and psychology back together.

Dr. Alford and Dr. DeLong accepted commemorative plaques at the end of the presentation, and Alford offered his thanks to DeLong for his research and the hope it offers for the future.

“There has been great progress on these diseases and now there is hope for treating them,” Alford said.