American Stroke Association honors outstanding contributors to stroke, research

American Stroke Association Award News

February 12, 2014 Categories: Scientific Conferences & Meetings, Stroke News

Embargoed until 8 a.m. PT/11a.m. ET Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 12, 2014 — Three pioneers in stroke research, two new investigators and an emergency medicine researcher will be honored by the American Stroke Association at the International Stroke Conference 2014.

  • Marc Fisher, M.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will receive the David G. Sherman Lecture Award for his lifetime contributions to the stroke field.
  • Patricia Hurn, Ph.D., of the University of Texas System, will receive the Thomas Willis Award for basic science investigations in the field of stroke.
  • William J. Powers, M.D., of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, will receive the William Feinberg Award for Excellence in Clinical Stroke for ongoing contributions to clinical science investigation and management of stroke.
  • Evan D. Allen, M.D., M.B.A., of Florida Hospital Neuroscience Institute, will receive the Stroke Care in Emergency Medicine Award.
  • David Y. Hwang, M.D., from the Yale School of Medicine, will receive the Robert G. Siekert New Investigator in Stroke Award.
  • Francesco Blasi, Pharm.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, will receive the Mordecai Y.T. Globus New Investigator Award.

Fisher will give the Sherman Award Lecture — “Considering the Future of Academic Vascular Neurology” — at 11:35 a.m. PT Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The Sherman Award honors a prominent stroke physician and internationally recognized leader and researcher in stroke prevention and treatment. It is bestowed on a senior American Heart Association Stroke Council Fellow with outstanding contributions in the basic or clinical stroke field in their lifetime.

Vice chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Fisher co-authored what may be the most important paper in stroke research. In 1985, he and colleagues showed that clot busting (thrombolysis) with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) reduced tissue death in animal models of stroke. This landmark paper led to clinical trials of tPA, the only FDA-approved treatment for acute ischemic stroke.

Fisher also helped develop the diagnostic procedures to differentiate between irreversibly-damaged brain tissue and functionally-impaired but salvageable tissue with perfusion-diffusion weighted magnetic resonance tomography.

“The translation of these fundamental concepts into clinical application was also led by Dr. Fisher and revolutionized the management of acute stroke in the last 25 years,” said Wolf-Dieter Heiss, M.D., director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Cologne, Germany.

Moreover, Fisher is lauded as an organizer and collaborator. He created the Stroke Therapy Academic Industry Roundtable (STAIR) conferences, a collaboration of leading scientists from industry, academia and government to stimulate open exchanges that have enhanced the process of clinical stroke trials. The first STAIR conference, held in 1999, has been re-convened about every two years, with the 8th conference in 2013.

Fisher is editor-in-chief of the American Heart Association journal Stroke and has served on the editorial boards of numerous neurology journals and edited or co-edited more than a dozen text books.

“Dr. Fisher’s lifetime contributions of investigation, management, mentorship and community service in the stroke field are outstanding and unparalleled,” said Pak H. Chan, Ph.D., the James R. Doty Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences at Stanford School of Medicine.

Hurn will deliver the Willis Lecture — “Sex, Stroke and Innovation” — at 11:40 a.m. PT Thursday. Feb. 13.

The Willis Award recognizes an American Heart Association Stroke Council Fellow who has “actively engaged in and has made significant contributions to basic science research (animal/cell models) in stroke.” It honors Thomas Willis (1621-1675), a pioneer physician who provided the first detailed descriptions of the brain stem, cerebellum and ventricles along with hypotheses on their function.

Hurn is the vice chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Texas System and Research Professor in Neurobiology at the University of Texas Austin. Among her contributions to the stroke field is a better understanding of gender differences and the role of sex steroids in brain biology as they pertain to stroke and cerebrovascular disease. As an ICU and trauma nurse for 11 years before pursuing a Ph.D. in physiology, she observed that many underlying diseases are different in men vs. women and not readily explainable by social or environmental factors. Her early animal experiments showed that adult female animals are protected when stroke occurs — providing new and unique insights into the effect of gonadal steroids or the cerebrovascular system and on stroke outcomes in animal models.

“Her work has significantly increased our understanding of the effects of estrogen on the cerebral circulation, on platelet activation, on angiogenesis, and on apoptotic signaling,” said Rona G. Gifford, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and neurology at Stanford School of Medicine. “She identified sex differences even in isolated brain cells.”

Some of her other work has focused on cerebral ischemic injury in mechanisms of experimental injuries relevant to stroke, cardiac arrest and head injury. She elucidated aspects of pH-mediated mechanisms of brain injury and demonstrated a pH threshold for brain injury during reperfusion.

Powers will give the Feinberg lecture — “Hemodynamics and Stroke Risk in Carotid Artery Occlusion” — at 12:03 p.m. PT Friday, Feb. 14.

The Feinberg Award is named for Dr. William Feinberg (1952-1997), a prominent stroke clinician-researcher and American Heart Association volunteer who contributed to a fuller understanding of the causes of stroke. The award recognizes a Stroke Council Fellow actively involved in patient-based research who has made significant contributions to clinical stroke research.

Powers is the H. Houston Merritt Distinguished Professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C. His career has been dedicated to improving the outcome of patients with stroke and cerebrovascular disease.

His early work helped establish concepts of blood pressure auto-regulation and acute blood pressure management in stroke, influential on the choice and timing of anti-hypertensive therapies and the consideration of acute vs. chronic blood pressure control.  He later identified patterns of blood pressure control in intracerebral hemorrhage and noted that the tissue surrounding the hemorrhage is not ischemic. Powers spearheaded studies suggesting chronic hemodynamic impairment from occlusive cerebrovascular disease.

“His efforts have defined many aspects of stroke clinical care, and have developed a type of rigorous and evidence-based clinical care delivery that has been a key influence on several generations of neurologists,” said S. Thomas Carmichael, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair for Research and Programs in the Department of at UCLA.

The three other awards recognize noteworthy research presented at this year’s International Stroke Conference. All applicants must be AHA council members.

The Emergency Medicine Award is for the highest scoring abstract. Allen, medical director of the Florida Hospital Stroke Program, will present abstract 213: “Stroke Severity Adjusted EMS Triage Has Benefits for Bypassed Primary Stroke Centers” at 10:46 a.m. PT Thursday, Feb. 13. The work, conducted in Seminole County, Fla., documents how adjusting EMS triage based on stroke severity effectively directed severe strokes to Comprehensive Stroke Centers that better manage complications than Primary Stroke Center without in-house neurosurgery.

The Siekert Award is named for the founding chair of the International Stroke Conference and is presented to an outstanding young scientist. Hwang is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology at Yale School of Medicine. He is recognized for abstract 211: “Subjective Judgments of Physicians and Nurses Are More Accurate than Formal Clinical Scales in Predicting Functional Outcome after Intracerebral Hemorrhage.” The study, which Hwang will present at 10:59 a.m. PT Wednesday, Feb. 12, found that common clinical scales designed to predict functional outcome and mortality for ICH patients were not necessarily better than the early clinical judgment of physicians and nurses. Hwang will also give a talk at the Junior Investigator Session I entitled Understanding Priorities of Surrogate Decision Makers for Patients with Intracerebral Hemorrhage.” This presentation will be at 3:30 p.m. PT Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The Globus Award is named for the late renowned cerebrovascular researcher and is given to a researcher in training. Blasi, post-doctoral Research Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, will present abstract 212: “In Vivo Molecular Imaging of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis Using a Fibrin-binding PET Probe” at 10:32 a.m. PT Thursday, Feb. 13. The rat study demonstrated that a fibrin-specific imaging probe for clot detection is suitable for molecular imaging of clots and clot-busting in vivo, and represents a very promising candidate for translation to clinical study.

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