The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), in collaboration with longtime partner the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, is building a global base of movement disorder specialists to provide expert patient care and lead complementary research and drug development. Launched in 2014, The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders annually awards funding to five academic centers worldwide to each train a new movement disorder specialist over two years. Recently, the five fellows in the inaugural Class of 2018 completed training and began prestigious movement disorders careers around the world.

“The first graduating class exemplifies the aims of The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders,” says Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, in a release. “These talented and passionate professionals are committed to delivering high-quality and personalized care to their patients while standing at the forefront of Parkinson’s research. We anticipate expanding this impressive network with each graduating class.”

Answering Patient and Research Needs Worldwide

Each Edmond J. Safra Fellow is using the knowledge and skills gained in fellowship to embark on a unique career path that combines patient care and research investigation, allowing them to serve as direct links between their patients and research toward improved disease understanding and therapies.

David Breen, BSc (Hons), MBChB, MRCP (Neurol), PhD
Fellowship Site: Toronto Western Hospital; Ontario, Canada

Breen is a senior research fellow and honorary consultant neurologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. There, he is developing a new program at the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic to care for people with movement disorders and connect them to research studies. He also is leading epidemiological studies to understand risk factors for Parkinson’s (both genetic and environmental) and studying the influence of sleep on brain health, including the risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s.

Marissa Dean, MD
Fellowship Site: UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham); Birmingham, Alabama

Dean has remained at UAB, accepting a position as assistant professor of neurology. In this role, she evaluates and treats people with all types of movement disorders, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ataxia, and others. She also leads several clinical trials; her main interests are the genetics of movement disorders and underrepresented populations in Parkinson’s research (such as African-Americans).

Lenora Higginbotham, MD
Fellowship Site: Emory University; Atlanta, Georgia

Higginbotham is a senior associate of movement disorders at Emory University. She divides her time between seeing people with movement disorders in the clinic and looking for biomarkers (objective measures to diagnose and track Parkinson’s and other diseases that don’t yet have a diagnostic test) in the research lab.

Christine Kim, MD
Fellowship Site: Columbia University; New York, New York

Kim joined Yale University as an instructor of neurology to treat movement disorders patients and conduct research. She leads studies to understand the mechanisms of focal task-specific dystonia (such as writer’s cramp and musician’s dystonia) with the goal of developing novel treatment strategies. She says, “Through The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship, I learned to see the whole picture and put everything together. I don’t look at a patient or research in isolation; my eye always goes to how current treatments may be falling short and how my research can help the patients I see.”

Gerrit Machetanz, MD
Fellowship Site: University of Tübingen; Tübingen, Germany

Machetanz is a clinician-researcher at the University of Tübingen, treating patients in the Atypical Parkinsonian Disorders Outpatient Ward (a clinic he established) and serving as an investigator on Parkinson’s and other movement disorder trials. He’s working to separate the underlying mechanisms of Parkinson’s to advance personalized treatment approaches. Because German neurology and movement disorder training is structured differently than in the United States, Gerrit still has a few neurology requirements to complete. When he is finished, he plans to pursue a career at an academic university seeing patients with parkinsonian disorders and connecting this clinical work closely with research.

The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders is bridging the gap in funding to train movement disorder specialists and build the global base of clinician-researchers. By the year 2021, the program is on track to graduate 20 new movement disorder specialists around the world.

“The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders allows young physicians to train with renowned movement disorder specialists and researchers at distinguished institutions across the world,” says Lily Safra, chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and member of the MJFF Board of Directors. “We are proud of the inaugural graduating class as well as the other fellows currently in training, and look forward to celebrating their achievements in Parkinson’s care and research for many years to come.”