Eva L. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N.Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology / Director, Program for Neurology Research & Discovery / Director, ALS Center of Excellence
Stacey Sakowski Jacoby, Ph.D.Managing Director, PNR&D
Mike Ritter, M.D.Managing Director, ALS Center of Excellence
Eva L. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N.
Throughout her career, Dr. Eva Feldman, the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan, has made it her mission to use scientific discoveries to understand and cure human diseases.
In January 2008, Dr. Feldman was named the first Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, which was created to support fundamental research into a wide range of human diseases. Under her leadership, the Taubman Institute funds senior-level scientists in a diverse spectrum of diseases – adult and childhood cancer, ALS, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hearing loss. She served as director through June 2017 and remains a Founding Scholar of the Institute.
In her own work, Dr. Feldman is on the forefront of applying stem cell research to human disease. Most notably she is the Principal Investigator of the first human clinical trial of intraspinal transplantation of stem cells in patients with ALS, which has completed Phase I and Phase II trials, and included 30 patients.
In addition to running an active clinical practice at the University of Michigan, Dr. Feldman directs a team of 30 scientists who collaborate to understand and find new treatments for a wide variety of neurological diseases, including ALS, diabetic neuropathy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
She has published over 380 original peer-reviewed articles, 61 book chapters and four books. Dr. Feldman has over 25 years of continuous NIH funding and is currently the Principal or Co-Investigator of major National Institutes of Health research grants, three private foundation grants and one clinical trial focused on understanding and treating neurological disorders, with an emphasis on ALS and diabetic neuropathy. She is Past President of the American Neurological Association and the Peripheral Nerve Society.
Dr. Feldman has received many honors, including induction into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine, the Endocrine Society’s Aurbach Award for Outstanding Translational Research, and the Esteemed Women of Michigan Award. She has also received the Early Distinguished Career Award and the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from the University of Michigan, along with several scientific achievement awards in the field of diabetes. In 2010 she was elected to the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, and she has been listed in Best Doctors in America for more than 20 consecutive years.
Among Dr. Feldman’s greatest accomplishments is her training of both scientists and neurologists. Nine scientists have received their Ph.D. degrees under her, she has trained more than 100 postdoctoral fellows and neurologists to specialize in the understanding and treatment of neuromuscular diseases, with an emphasis on ALS.
Stacey Sakowski Jacoby, Ph.D.
In her current role as Managing Director of the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, Dr. Jacoby’s responsibilities include supporting the operation of the organization and managing scientific programs and communications.
Dr. Jacoby received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology & Genetics from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, in 2006, where her graduate research training focused on the biochemical characterization and analysis of post-translational modifications of proteins involved in serotonin biosynthesis. She then joined the laboratory of Dr. Eva Feldman at the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2006, and advanced to Research Investigator in 2011. In the Feldman laboratory, her research was focused on understanding the mechanisms of motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and examining the neuroprotective mechanisms of growth factor therapies using primary cellular models of ALS. She also developed and utilized zebrafish models of ALS to examine and investigate disease onset and progression. Dr. Jacoby served as Deputy Managing Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan from 2011 to 2017, and returned to the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery as Managing Director in January 2018. Dr. Jacoby (Sakowski) is the author/co-author of more than 30 manuscripts.
Mike Ritter, M.D.
Dennis Michael (Mike) Ritter, M.D. is the managing director of the ALS Center of Excellence at Michigan Medicine. He has oversight of the strategic direction of the Center and its Board of Directors. In addition to providing leadership at the executive level, he collaborates with board members to foster public awareness of ALS, expand marketing efforts through written and visual materials, and assist with the fulfillment of fundraising goals.
Prior to joining the ALS Center of Excellence in 2018, Dr. Ritter served as the medical director of the Preoperative Assessment Clinic at Mercy Medical Center in suburban St. Louis for 27 years. At Mercy Medical Center, a 900-bed hospital, he established and managed one of the highest volume pre-operative clinics in the country. He was also on staff at St. Luke’s Hospital in St Louis.
His first academic posting was at Emory University where he was an assistant professor and director of liver transplantation for the anesthesia department. He was recruited after several years to St. Louis University, where he became the director of liver transplantation. He was then invited to enter private practice by former colleagues, and was a member of Western Anesthesia Associates at Mercy Medical Center.
A native of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, Dr. Ritter is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with a B.S. in microbiology. He attended University of Michigan Medical School and graduated in 1983. He began a general surgery/orthopedics internship at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He transferred to an anesthesiology residency in his second year, and remained at the University of North Carolina until completion. Dr. Ritter then completed a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in liver transplantation and critical care and did research in the areas of hematology and coagulation on patients with chronic liver disease. He also studied in England in the area of cardiac anesthesia and transplantation.
Michael J. Brenner M.D., F.A.C.S.Associate Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
Brian Callaghan, M.D.Fovette E. Dush Associate Professor of Neurology
Stephen A. Goutman, M.D., M.S.Associate Professor of Neurology / Associate Director, ALS Center of Excellence
Norman D. Hogikyan, M.D., F.A.C.S.Chief, Division of Laryngology, Rhinology & General Otolaryngology / Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery / Professor of Music
Osama Kashlan, M.D.Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Stephen I. Lentz, Ph.D.Laboratory Director / Research Assistant
Lisa McGinley, Ph.D.Research Assistant Professor of Neurology
Benjamin Murdock, Ph.D.Research Assistant Professor of Neurology
Parag G. Patil, M.D., Ph.D.Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery, Neurology, Anesthesiology and Biomedical Engineering
Rodica Pop-Busui, M.D., Ph.D.Professor of Internal Medicine
Amro Stino, M.D.Clinical Assistant Professor / Director, Peripheral Neuropathy Clinic / Co-director, Autonomic Lab
Michael J. Brenner M.D., F.A.C.S.
Dr. Brenner’s clinical and academic interests in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery focus on optimizing patient outcomes and quality of life after nerve injury and facial reconstruction. His laboratory research in cranial nerve injury involves study of axonal guidance, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and the use of stem cells with tissue engineered constructs. Translational projects investigate novel approaches to nerve reconstruction, methods to enhance nerve regeneration and improving reinnervation.
Dr. Brenner received his medical degree from the Northwestern University Medical School. He completed his residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Washington University-Saint Louis and a fellowship in facial plastic surgery at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine.
Brian Callaghan, M.D.
Dr. Callaghan’s research has focused on the metabolic factors that are associated with neuropathy. He has completed four observational studies that have demonstrated that hyperglycemia, obesity, and the number of metabolic syndrome components (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels), but not hypertension or dyslipidemia, are associated with neuropathy. This has led to a proposed interventional study of surgical weight loss and/or high intensity interval training to determine if either intervention can prevent nerve injury. If successful, either intervention would be the first disease modifying therapy for neuropathy. In February 2018, he published “Diabetes and Obesity Are the Main Metabolic of Peripheral Neuropathy,” in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.
Dr. Callaghan has investigated ways to improve the efficiencies of healthcare delivery within neurology with a focus on peripheral neuropathy and headache. Additionally, he has studied the utilization and costs associated with neurologic testing, prescriptions, and neurologic visits with implications for payment reform.
As part of his research efforts, Dr. Callaghan has mentored two undergraduates, 13 neurology residents, two neuromuscular fellows, two international residents, and two graduate student research assistants. He is nationally recognized through the American Academy of Neurology (three committees and the Drug Price Task Force), American Diabetes Association (Diabetic Neuropathy Chair and grant reviewer), American Neurological Association (Health Services Research Special Interest Group co-Chair), and Neurology journal (co-section editor of health services research website).
Dr. Callaghan completed his M.D. and neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He performed his clinical and research fellowships at the University of Michigan.
Stephen A. Goutman, M.D., M.S.
Dr. Goutman is a neuromuscular-trained neurologist with clinical and research expertise in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Dr. Goutman’s major research interest is identifying non-genetic causes of ALS and specifically why the State of Michigan has some of the highest rates of ALS in the country. Additionally, Dr. Goutman is Associate Director of the ALS Center of Excellence at Michigan Medicine, an ALS Association Certified Center of Excellence. Inspired by his patients, he leads a team of providers that strive to deliver comprehensive and compassionate care to persons with ALS and their families.
From a research standpoint, Dr. Goutman is focused on identifying causes of and treatments for ALS. He leads research efforts that are funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control aimed at discovering environmental risk factors in the onset of ALS. To investigate these factors, Dr. Goutman and his team collect epidemiologic surveys and biofluids from individuals with and without ALS. To date, the research has shown a link between ALS and legacy pesticides, an important finding that may help solve the mystery of ALS. One of Dr. Goutman’s articles received widespread attention for finding a connection between ALS and organochlorine pesticides.
Dr. Goutman is a site principal investigator of several multisite clinical trials focused on identifying new ALS treatments and causes and is an active participant with the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) to improve care for ALS. He received a 2016 Young Investigator Award by the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Motor Neuron Diseases.
Dr. Goutman also helps direct the University of Michigan ALS Biorepository which provides essential resources to ALS researchers within and external to the University of Michigan enabling studies into areas of ALS genetics, epigenetics, and immunology.
After obtaining a degree in neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Goutman completed his medical degree at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and his neurology residency and neuromuscular fellowship at Cleveland Clinic. He received a Master’s in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Goutman Publications
Norman D. Hogikyan, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Dr. Hogikyan’s clinical and academic interests are in the human voice, voice disorders and laryngeal (voice box) surgery. He and his otolaryngology colleagues have a well-established collaboration with the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery. Areas of investigation include laryngeal paralysis and reinnervation, peripheral nerve grafting, bulbar manifestations of ALS, and use of stem cells and growth factors in neural regeneration.
Dr. Hogikyan graduated from the University of Michigan magna cum laude with highest distinction in cellular and molecular biology. He went on to medical school at the University of Michigan and graduated cum laude with distinction in research. While in medical school, Dr. Hogikyan was awarded a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute-National Institutes of Health Research Scholar fellowship to work at NIH in a molecular genetics laboratory. He went on to complete his residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis, and a fellowship in Laryngology with Dr. Robert Bastian at Loyola University of Chicago. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1995.
Osama Kashlan, M.D.
Dr. Osama Kashlan is a neurosurgeon with a clinical practice focused on all aspects of spinal disease and a special interest in minimally-invasive spinal surgery. With the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, he is partnering with Drs. Eva Feldman and Lisa McGinley on a National Institutes of Health-funded study to understand the therapeutic effect of stem cells in Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple studies have supported the feasibility and shown beneficial effects of transplanting stem cells into the brain of mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, and Dr. Kashlan now aims utilize his extensive skill set and expertise in neurosurgical approaches to push this research further. The ultimate goal is to translate this therapy to humans, and to find a cure for this terminal illness.
From 2015-17, Dr. Kashlan contributed to the PNR&D laboratory while pursuing his master’s degree and residency at the University of Michigan. Following a fellowship year at Emory University for spine surgery, he returned to U-M in Fall 2018 as a clinical assistant professor.
Dr. Kashlan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering in 2006 from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he received the Exemplary Student Award from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. At Emory University, he earned his medical degree in 2010 and performed his fellowship in 2018. At U-M, he received his Master’s in Public Health in 2016 and completed a neurosurgery residency in 2017. During his time in Ann Arbor he received numerous accolades, including the Dean’s Scholarship from the School of Public Health, the Neurosurgery Academic Excellence Award, the McGillicuddy Resident Leadership Award and the Consultant Award from the Department of Emergency Medicine.
Stephen I. Lentz, Ph.D.
Dr. Lentz is a Research Assistant Professor in the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes of the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Lentz is also the Laboratory Director of the Morphology and Image Analysis Core in the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center. He actively collaborates with the Program for Neurology & Discovery in its study of diabetic neuropathy. Current research uses high resolution confocal microscopy to examine the effects of high glucose on mitochondrial dynamics and biogenesis in sensory neurons.
Dr. Lentz received his Ph.D. in cellular and clinical neurobiology from Wayne State University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, investigating the effects of growth factors on peripheral nerve outgrowth. He came to the University of Michigan in 1998 and has served as the Morphology Core Laboratory Director since 2001. He has authored or co-authored 16 peer-reviewed research articles.
Lisa McGinley, Ph.D.
Dr. McGinley’s research is centered on developing stem cell treatments for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Her other research interests include the development of image-based biomarkers as efficacy indicators and novel methods to track stem cells in real-time after transplantation to the brain. Most recently, she published “Human neural stem cell transplantation into the corpus callosum of Alzheimer’s mice,” in the October 17 issue of Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. Her other research interests include developing imaging-based biomarkers as efficacy indicators and novel methods to track stem cells in real-time after transplantation to the brain.
Dr. McGinley received her PhD in regenerative medicine from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She joined the University of Michigan Department of Neurology in 2013.
Benjamin Murdock, Ph.D.
Dr. Ben Murdock focuses on the immune system and its role in the destruction of the nervous system. His primary project involves the immune system and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), particularly the role of natural killer (NK) cells and CD4 T cells in controlling disease progression. Natural killer cells protect the body from infection and cancer, but also kill dying cells. Previous research has found that the molecule that protects the body from its own natural killer cells is missing on motor neurons during ALS, and the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery has recently found that the number of natural killer cells increases dramatically as ALS progresses. Conversely, PNR&D has found that CD4 T cells, the master control cells of the immune system, begin to disappear from the blood during ALS and that this disappearance correlates with rapid disease progression. Previous studies in mice have found that removing these cells dramatically accelerates the rate of disease. Dr. Murdock’s research therefore attempts to slow disease progression by interfering with natural killer cell function or by enhancing CD4 T cells.
Dr. Murdock’s research has gained national attention and recognition in recent years. He has been funded by multiple agencies including the CReATe Consortium and Target ALS, and he is a co-investigator with Dr. Eva Feldman on a National Institutes of Health R21 grant examining the role of NK cells in ALS. He has also been an invited speaker at conferences and institutions in Cambridge, Miami, Chicago, Toronto, and Michigan. His findings have resulted in preclinical ALS trials utilizing immune-modulating pharmaceuticals. Should the preclinical trials be successful, these drugs will be tested in Phase II clinical trials in ALS patients.
Dr. Murdock received his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Michigan in 2010. He subsequently joined the University of Michigan Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine to examine the role of the immune system in promoting and preventing chronic pulmonary lung infections. He joined the University of Michigan Department of Neurology in 2014 to examine immune mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration, particularly ALS.
Parag G. Patil, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Patil’s clinical interests include brain tumors, epilepsy surgery, hydrocephalus, neurovascular disorders, spasticity surgery, neurosurgery for pain, peripheral nerve surgery, radiosurgery, spine surgery, and movement disorders surgery.
His research interests include brain-machine interface, neuroprosthetic devices, intraoperative electrophysiology, motor and cognitive human systems, neuroscience mechanisms of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), and clinical outcomes in functional neurosurgery.
Dr. Patil joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 2005. A native of Pennsylvania, he attended MIT where he received a Bachelors of Science in electrical engineering. After graduation, he was awarded a Marshall Scholarship to study philosophy and economics at Magdalen College, Oxford University in the UK. On returning to the US, Dr. Patil pursued combined medical and doctoral studies in biomedical engineering at The Johns Hopkins University as a fellow of the Medical Scientist Training Program of the NIH/NIGMS. His doctoral dissertation focused upon the presynaptic regulation of voltage-gated calcium channels, and for this work, he was awarded the Michael Shanoff Research Prize for the most outstanding research contribution in the School of Medicine.
The study of signaling between neurons led to a strong clinical interest in neurosurgery. During residency at Duke University, he was awarded an NIH postdoctoral fellowship to help develop brain-machine interface neuroprosthetic devices, which read electrical signals directly from the brain and control external actuators, such as robotic arms. This research was featured in Time magazine and on the cover of Neurosurgery. Following residency, Dr. Patil obtained additional clinical expertise through a fellowship in functional and deep brain stimulation surgery with Dr. Andres Lozano at the University of Toronto.
Rodica Pop-Busui, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Pop-Busui is the Larry D. Soderquist Professor, a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine in the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes (MEND), Co-Director of the Michigan Peripheral Neuropathy Center at U-M, and Vice-Chair, Clinical Research at the University of Michigan. She is actively involved in both basic-translational and clinical research in diabetes and diabetes complications, with a focus on diabetic autonomic and peripheral neuropathy. Dr. Pop-Busui’s basic research project is concerned with the role of Cycooxygenase-2 activation and oxidative stress in peripheral nerve dysfunction in diabetes is funded the National Institutes of Health. She is principal investigator in multiple clinical trials funded by National Institutes of Health, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Industry.
Dr. Pop-Busui is a recipient of a Fulbright Award in 1995, American Diabetes Association Endocrinology Fellow of Excellence Award in 2001 and of the University of Michigan Clinical Science Scholar Award in 2005. She serves as member of the Council for Clinical Research of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and of the Peer Review Committees of the American Heart Association. Dr. Pop-Busui received her M.D. and Ph.D. summa cum laude at the University of Timisoara in Romania. After completing internal medicine training and obtaining board certification in Internal Medicine in Romania, she completed postgraduate training in diabetes at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield UK and a Fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Michigan and joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in July 2005. She has authored peer-reviewed articles and book chapters related to diabetes, diabetic autonomic and peripheral neuropathy and diabetes complications.
Amro Stino, M.D.
Fadhl M. Alakwaa, Ph.D.Research Investigator
Stephanie Eid, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Fellow
Sarah Elzinga, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Fellow
Claudia Figueroa-Romero, Ph.D.Research Investigator
Rosie Henn, M.D./Ph.D. Doctoral Student
Bhumsoo Kim, Ph.D.Senior Associate
Phillipe O’Brien, Ph.D.Research Investigator
Amy Rumora, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Fellow
Fadhl M. Alakwaa, Ph.D.
Fadhl M Alakwaa, PhD. is a research investigator for the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, Department of Neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School. He is a computational biologist with over 10 years of experience in bioinformatics and computational biology. Dr. Alakwaa’s main research interest is to apply established or innovative computational, bioinformatics or statistical algorithm to find meaningful patterns in complex multiscalar omics-based data (metabolomic, microbiome, methylation, etc) in complex diseases like ALS, neuropathy and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The long-term research goal of Dr Alakwaa’s research is to improve outcomes for patients with neurodegenerative disease by developing methods to improve personalized medicine and implementing these methods into clinical practice.
Dr. Alakwaa earned a PhD degree in Biomedical Engineering from Cairo University in 2009, and started his first faculty job as an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Science and Technology, Yemen. He then completed his postdoctoral training in the University of Hawaii (Epidemiology Department, 2016-2018) and University of Michigan (Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, 2018-2019).
Stephanie Eid, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephanie Eid joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery as a postdoctoral fellow in August 2017. Her research interests revolve around exploring the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathology of diabetic neuropathy, one of the most debilitating complications of diabetes. Dr. Eid is particularly studying oxidant production and its role in the onset and progression of nerve damage in diabetes. She is using cellular and animal models of diabetes as well as nerve biopsies from diabetic patients to demonstrate how diabetes leads to increased oxidant production in the nervous system. Understanding how these oxidants contribute to nerve injury in diabetes will help design therapeutic interventions to slow or prevent diabetic neuropathy development.
Dr. Eid has presented her research at many national and international meetings, including the American Diabetes Association, the Peripheral Nerve Society, The American Society of Nephrology and Keystone Symposia. She was awarded a training scholarship from Paris Descartes University and was the recipient of travel grants from the Peripheral Nerve Society and from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to attend scientific meetings.
Her research work has been published in seven high-reputation, peer-reviewed journals such as Antioxidant and Redox Signaling and Scientific Reports.
Dr. Eid obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree (physiology) from the American University of Beirut She then completed a joint doctoral degree in neuroscience at American University of Beirut and Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité. During the pursuit of her Ph.D., Dr. Eid was supported by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Council for Scientific Research.
Sarah Elzinga, Ph.D.
Examining the bioenergetics of diabetes, Dr. Sarah Elzinga researches the underlying mechanisms of neurological complications of prediabetes and diabetes.
With an understanding that patients have low levels of systemic inflammation, changes in glucose and insulin metabolism, and varying circulating lipid concentrations, Dr. Elzinga is working to understand how in early disease these factors work together to promote further damage. Her goal is to understand how immune system pathways respond to damage at the cellular level to promote inflammation and injure the nervous system, resulting in peripheral neuropathy and cognitive decline.
Since joining the University of Michigan Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in 2017, Dr. Elzinga has utilized multiple models to examine peripheral neuropathy and cognitive decline. These models include novel 3D culture systems, developed in collaboration with U-M’s bioengineering department, that aid in the understanding of how the different cell types in the nervous system interact. Additionally, work in other modeling systems has begun to present possible treatment options for neurological complications of prediabetes and diabetes.
Dr. Elzinga has a Ph.D. in veterinary science (immunology & endocrinology) from the University of Kentucky, as well as a Master of Science in animal science from Michigan State University. She has multiple publications (5 first author and 3 co-author) and has presented her work at many national and international conferences, including the international veterinary immunology symposium, the invitation-only Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation Equine Endocrinology Summit, and the American Diabetes Association.
In her graduate training, Dr. Elzinga received the American Quarter Horse Association Foundation Young Investigator Award for equine research and served on an external review committee as the graduate student representative for the Gluck Center for Equine Research. In the first year of her postdoctoral training, she received funding from the Biointerfaces Institute for her collaborative work in 3D culture models. She is also supported at U-M by the National Institutes of Health Multidisciplinary Postdoctoral Training Program in Basic Diabetes Research.
Claudia Figueroa-Romero, Ph.D.
Dr. Figueroa-Romero is a research scientist interested in the complex molecular regulatory mechanisms affecting gene expression and the cross talk between environmental factors and the genome. Her research addresses the role of post-translational modifications and epigenetics in the development of neurodegenerative diseases. She takes a multi-disciplinary and multi-collaborative approach and she employs postmortem tissue as well as animal and cellular models of neurodegeneration. Her long-term goal is to identify pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the onset of neurological disease such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and diabetic neuropathy. Her findings could facilitate the early diagnosis and potentially early-stage therapeutic interventions to increase survival outcomes in patients affected by these diseases.
Dr. Figueroa-Romero’s primary interest is to investigate the contribution of internal and external environmental factors to the development of neurodegeneration. Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation and microRNAs respond to external cues to regulate gene expression to maintain cellular homeostasis and their malfunction is associated with disease. Dr. Figueroa-Romero studies epigenetic mechanisms and their transport in extracellular vesicles as biological processes leading to the development and spread of ALS. She is also interested in understanding the molecular factors that dysregulate RNA homeostasis resulting in functional abnormalities associated with sporadic and familial ALS.
She is also exploring the role of the exposome (alterations of biological systems in response to exposures to environmental pollutants) in the pathogenesis of ALS by identifying correlations between altered levels of epigenetic marks and high environmental risk scores from blood ALS and control subjects. In addition, the internal environment defined by gut microbial communities, or microbiome, may influence the gut-brain axis. The gut therefore provides a unique opportunity to study the impact of the most intimate of environmental factor, the gut microbiome, on the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Figueroa-Romero is investigating the potential role of the microbiome with aberrant expression of immune- and inflammation-related markers in ALS and diabetic neuropathy.
Dr. Figueroa-Romero has published 19 papers and has given presentations on ALS at the University of Michigan and Hope College.
Dr. Figueroa-Romero is also deeply invested in education. She is actively working with graduate students, she mentors undergraduate theses and trains high school students. She is interested in using her life experience as a Latina woman and her expertise as a scientist to contribute as role model and to recruit and mentor the next generation of minority students to become active members of the scientific community. Her efforts to develop an early second language education in elementary school resulted in the development of the “Elementary World Languages” program in the Ann Arbor public schools. She has also participated in the miRCore summer camps. She believes that investing substantial effort to develop programs between universities and young students in grades K-12 in order to shorten the distance between the scientific and the non-scientific communities will teach younger generations to love and embrace the sciences as part of their daily lives.
Dr. Figueroa-Romero earned a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Spanish-English translation certificate from San Diego State University (SDSU). She received the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Fellowship, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences. She was a three-time winner of SDSU’s Biological Sciences Annual Award and made Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan, where in 2003, she received the Department of Biological Chemistry’s Dziewiatkowski Award for most outstanding Ph.D. dissertation.
Rosie Henn, M.D./Ph.D. Doctoral Student
Rosie Henn is an M.D./Ph.D. doctoral student who joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in 2018. In the laboratory, she is part of the Alzheimer’s disease focus group. She is studying mechanisms of immunomodulation in neural stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s.
In 2016, Henn began the University of Michigan Medical Science Training Program. For residency, she intends to pursue pediatric neurology and/or pediatric neuro-oncology. She is a student chapter executive board member of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry.
Henn graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in biology, concentrating in neural and behavioral science, from Haverford College in 2013. She completed her undergraduate senior thesis and an additional year of research in pediatric neuro-oncology with Dr. Adam Resnick at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) at the University of Pennsylvania. Following two years of clinical research in the CHOP Neurosurgery Department, she continued her studies at U-M. Henn has three publications to her credit.
Bhumsoo Kim, Ph.D.
Dr. Bhumsoo Kim’s main research goal is to understand the link between metabolic syndrome (MetS), such as diabetes and obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Multiple studies indicate that patients with MetS have an increased risk of developing AD.
AD currently affects 5.4 million Americans and this incidence is expected to reach almost 14 million by 2050. Additionally, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes and more than 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese. Considering the strong connection between AD and MetS the incident of AD can dramatically increase without the development of the proper intervention.
By using cell culture and animal experimental models, Dr. Kim is examining how obesity and diabetes affect amyloid and tau proteins, two prominent pathological markers involved in the development and progression of AD. He is especially interested in the contribution of the insulin resistance, which is the key component of the metabolic syndrome. Dr. Kim investigates the effect of glucose and lipid, the two main factors involved in the development of diabetes and obesity, on the biochemical changes of amyloid and tau proteins using the brain neuron cells in the culture dishes. He also examines the similar changes using the animal models of obesity. Dr. Kim’s researches demonstrate that high levels of glucose and lipid induce changes similar to AD in brain neurons and also obesity and diabetes affect cognitive function in animal models. Finding common factors affected by both metabolic syndrome and AD can lead to more effective therapeutic approaches to treat both diseases.
Dr. Kim has authored 31 papers and presented 11 oral and numerous poster presentations in national and international conferences including the Society for Neuroscience, Endocrine Meeting, International AD/PD conference among others. Dr. Kim belongs to the Society for Neuroscience and American Diabetes Association.
Dr. Kim earned a B.S. and M.S. from Seoul National University in South Korea. He worked in the industry for six years before earning a Ph.D., in neuroscience from the University of Michigan under Dr. Eva Feldman. During that time he was awarded the Outstanding Student Publication Award from the University of Michigan Neuroscience Program, and the Young Investigator Education Enhancement Award from the American Society for Neurochemistry. He finished two years of post-doctoral training at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School in Boston before joining the research team of Dr. Feldman again in 2000.
Phillipe O’Brien, Ph.D.
Dr. O’Brien is a research investigator specializing in peripheral neuropathy in the context of type II diabetes and obesity. During his time working under the guidance of Dr. Eva Feldman, Dr. O’Brien’s major research interest is in understanding the drivers of disease and investigating novel therapeutic strategies using murine models. Recently, Dr. O’Brien and his colleagues are looking into the role of altered lipid metabolism on how it affects the peripheral nerve. Other interests include research into sexual dimorphism in peripheral neuropathy, and investigating the role of dietary intervention as a therapeutic strategy.
Dr. O’Brien’s academic and professional honors include a Ph.D. Scholarship Award from the Irish Cancer Society in 2007, and the Travel and Registration Award from the Peripheral Nerve Society (2013, 2015 and 2017).
Since 2011, Dr. O’Brien’s funding has been provided by the Milstein, Nathan and Rose Research Fund, Sinai Medical Staff Foundation Neuroscience Scholar Fund, Robert C Graham Fund, Walbridge Aldinger Graduate Fellowship Fund and the International Diabetic Neuropathy Consortium.
Dr. O’Brien is a member of The Peripheral Nerve Society and has presented his research at these meetings annually/biennially since 2013. During this time, he has delivered both poster- and oral- presentations and has co-chaired platform sessions at the last two meeting. Most recently, he presented his research in Baltimore, Maryland, in July 2018 at the Oral Platform Session at the Diabetic Neuropathy Consortium.
Dr. O’Brien is a member of the American Diabetes Association and has presented at the meetings annually since 2013. He has also presented his research at NeuroDiab and at the Keystone Symposia.
He has 10 publications that include research articles and reviews and is also an ad hoc Reviewer for several journals including Diabetes, Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism and Experimental Neurology.
Dr. O’Brien received his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway). He then earned his master’s in molecular medicine from Trinity College Dublin before returning to the NUI Galway where he completed his Ph.D. in pharmacology under the mentorship of Dr. Howard Fearnhead.
Amy Rumora, Ph.D.
Dr. Rumora joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow to study mitochondrial dysfunction associated with diabetic neuropathy. She is currently evaluating the effect of hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia on mitochondrial bioenergetics and mitochondrial trafficking. She is also studying the involvement of inter-organellar communication in hyperglycemic and hyperlipidemic neuronal cells. She aims to use her background in molecular biology and biochemistry to identify underlying molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction that contribute to diabetic neuropathy.
Dr. Rumora earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Mount Holyoke College. She then received her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Vermont.
Lisa L. BaizAdministrative Assistant
Ericka ChantClinical Research Coordinator
Scott DentResearch Coordinator
Jayna DuellResearch Nurse, Clinical Research Coordinator
Josh FamieResearch Lab Tech Associate
Shoshanna FischhoffMarketing & Communications Specialist
John HayesResearch Lab Specialist Intermediate
Gio LoGrassoResearch Lab Tech Associate
Shayna MasonResearch Lab Tech Associate
Faye MendelsonResearch Lab Specialist Associate
Crystal PacutResearch Lab Specialist Senior
Masha Savelieff, Ph.D.Science Writer
Carli PiecuchResearch Lab Tech Associate
Adam PattersonProgrammer & Data Analyst
Aaron StebbinsResearch Lab Tech Associate
Gabe StuberClinical Subjects Coordinator
Blake SwihartClinical Research Project Manager
Maegan TabbeyResearch Lab Tech Intermediate
Betsy TaylorSenior Administrative Assistant
Matt TrevorCommunications Director
Amanda WilliamsResearch Coordinator
Emily Villegas-UmanaClinical Research Project Manager
Lisa L. Baiz
Lisa Baiz serves as an assistant directly to Dr. Feldman. She has worked for Dr. Feldman for more than 18 years— beginning with tasks in the Feldman Lab when she was still a high school student. Ms. Baiz now assists with administrative duties, event planning and organization for the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery.
Ericka Chant is a clinical research coordinator who focuses on neuropathy and neuromuscular studies in conjunction with Dr. Brian Callaghan. She coordinates multiple clinical trials and observational neuropathy studies that are conducted across the University of Michigan medical campuses. Ericka is responsible for patient recruitment, retention, scheduling, outcome measure testing and data entry. Ericka joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery staff in 2017.
Prior to PNR&D, she contributed at Beaumont Hospital, Infinity Primary Care, Clinton Ophthalmology and Michigan State University Institute for Health Policy and College of Nursing. Ericka has her bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy of science from MSU. She received her master’s degree in public health from MSU.
Mr. Dent is study coordinator for the ALS Center of Excellence by assisting investigators in the Department of Neurology by enrolling patients in research studies, coordinating bio-samples and collecting patient data. This includes preforming clinical outcome measures on ALS patients, which then gets paired with observational data gathered for the research studies. Dent is also responsible for enrolling control subjects for these same studies. He is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan (2019) and earned a B.S. in Neuroscience.
Jayna Duell works in the ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic, where she recruits patients for ongoing research studies. She works with patients to explain in detail current and future studies. A member of the Michigan Medicine staff since 2005, she joined the ALS Multidisciplinary clinic in 2012. Jayna received her B.S. in Nursing at University of Michigan. She has been a registered nurse since 2005, starting her nursing career on the inpatient Orthopedic and Trauma Unit at Michigan Medicine. In 2012, Jayna joined the Department of Neurology, with a specific focus of ALS research. Jayna is now the lead research nurse for ALS Clinical Research at Michigan Medicine. She is responsible for coordinating and carrying out required study activities for both clinical trials and observational studies. Regular study activities include slow vital capacity (SVC), hand held dynamometry (HHD), hand grip strength, ATLIS, ECG administration, ALSFRS-R administration, ALSQOL administration, adverse event review and documentation, medication administration, drug compliance verification, reporting to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), and regulatory document compliance. Jayna is also involved in the orientation of new ALS coordinators and facilitating their success in coordinating studies.
Josh Famie is a research laboratory technician who joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in 2018. His role includes assisting with projects related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Previously, he served as a lab assistant at Biological Research Solutions in Rochester, Michigan, and at an Oakland University (OU) chemistry lab. Famie received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from OU in 2017.
Mr. Hayes received a B.A. degree from Oakland University in 1999. He joined the laboratory in the spring of 2000 to assist in ongoing research within the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Center for the Complications in Diabetes. Mr. Hayes performs immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, nerve conduction studies, analgesia testing and animal dissections. Mr. Hayes also works with the Animal Models of Diabetic Complications Consortium characterizing diabetic neuropathy in mice.
Gio began doing research at the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery in 2016 as a Tauber Scholar summer student. In 2017, he returned as a laboratory technician where he has been actively involved in projects related to diabetic neuropathy. His work is focused on evaluating the impact of dyslipidemia on mitochondrial function, axonal trafficking, and endoplasmic reticulum-mitochondrial interactions in sensory neurons. Gio is also assessing the differential impact of lipids on sensory and motor neurons. These studies will provide insight into the potential mechanisms of sensory nerve degeneration in diabetic neuropathy. Gio received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kalamazoo College in 2017.
Shayna joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery as a research lab tech associate in 2018. Shayna spent her undergraduate years as a research assistant for the surgeons of the Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Clinic at Michigan Medicine and as a summer camp counselor and instructor for several math camps. She provides technical support for projects studying ALS, Alzheimer’s, and diabetic neuropathy in rodent models and she will be assisting with autopsy dissections and sample processing for the PNR&D biorepository.
Faye Mendelson received her B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan in 2015. She joined the laboratory in the fall of 2015 to provide technical support for ongoing research projects on diabetic neuropathy, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease. She is involved in projects using stem cell therapy to treat ALS and Alzheimer’s disease in rodent models and studying how diet affects diabetic neuropathy. Additionally, Faye has recently taken on the role of organizing the animal studies and managing the other daily operations.
Crystal has been at the University of Michigan since 2002 and joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in the summer of 2009. She manages the daily activities of the laboratory while also providing technical assistance to all of the post-doctoral fellows. She is also actively involved in the clinical research aspect of the laboratory where she is responsible for building and maintaining an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and diabetes patient sample biorepository. Her specialties include: iPS cell line generation, maintenance and expansion of iPS lines, and primary tissue culture. Crystal received her B.S. degree in molecular biology from Michigan Technological University in 1998.
Masha Savelieff, Ph.D.
Masha is a science writer in the Feldman lab. She writes and edits manuscripts, grant applications, and various writing content.
Masha began her science career in Chemistry at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, where she earned her B.S. and M.Sc. degrees. She then received her Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2008 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA, before undertaking postdoctoral studies in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at the University of Michigan (UofM). She widened her biology experience with her next appointment in cancer research, also at UofM, before joining the Feldman lab as a technical writer.
Adam Patterson joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in September 2017 as a programmer and data analyst. He provides systems integration services, manages clinical, laboratory, and survey data sets, and provides guidance on IT topics. Adam assists principal investigators, researchers and statisticians in developing hypotheses and preparing data sets for further statistical analyses. He received his B.S. in anthropology-zoology from the University of Michigan in 2009. Adam also holds an advanced certificate in C++ Programming from Washtenaw Community College.
Aaron Stebbins joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in 2017 and has been studying facial nerve regeneration after nerve injuries. He is actively involved in maintaining cell cultures in microfluidic devices and implantable scaffolds where he studies the effects of inhibitory and neurotrophic factors on embryonic motor neurons. He performs animal dissections and survival surgeries that are translational to injuries seen in clinical patients. His assessment of these injuries include compound muscle action potential testing and immunohistochemistry to determine the rate of regeneration. His focus is to assist clinical surgeons in understanding the ideal methodology to enhance nerve regeneration and improving reinnervation. Aaron received his B.S. degree in nutritional science from Michigan State University.
Blake Swihart’s primary duty is to recruit and coordinate patient visits for the ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic. In that role since 2013, he is responsible for coordinating study activities on both observational and clinical trials. Study activities range from telephone interviews, muscle strength testing to assessing and reviewing quality of life questionnaires, among others. He also works closely with the Institutional Review Board to approve and amend research studies and troubleshoot technical and administrative issues. In addition to study activities, Blake also trains and orients new and temporary employees. He performed similar functions for the U-M Oncology Department for five years before moving to the ALS Clinic. He earned his B.A. in history at Indiana University and later received a master’s degree in history from McGill University in Montreal.
Maegan joined the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery in 2015 and has been actively working on studies involving rodent models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Maegan is also involved with in-vitro studies evaluating the effects of dyslipidemia on mitochondrial function in primary culture DRG neurons, and pursuing stem cell lines as a method of Alzheimer’s therapy. She also collaborates with the University of Michigan Brain Bank to dissect tissue from autopsied patients for research in ALS and to continue growing the PNR&D’s biorepository. Maegan received her B.S. in evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan in 2012.
Betsy Taylor is the senior administrative assistant to Dr. Feldman. She is responsible for managing Dr. Feldman’s communication, calendar, travel, speaking engagements, administrative support for grant applications and other university matters. A member of the staff since 2016, Betsy also assists in the daily organization and operation for the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery.
Matt Trevor serves as the communications director for the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery. He is responsible for all content on the organization’s website, in addition to print, social, photo and video collateral relating to the program. Matt joined PNR&D in April 2018. Previously, he was the University of Michigan ice hockey program’s director of operations and media relations contact. He also served as the communications manager for USA Hockey Inc. Matt earned his bachelor’s degree from U-M in sport management and communication, and his master’s degree in integrated marketing communication from Eastern Michigan University.
Contact: 734-647-6619, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda Williams is a study coordinator at the ALS Center of Excellence. Her responsibilities revolve around working directly with patients for the purpose of assessing interest in participation in ongoing research studies, patient retention and administering clinical measures such as the Revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS-R) and the ALS Cognitive-Behavioral Scale (ALS CBS). She also coordinates bio specimen sample collections for multiple research studies, as well as collection of study data, query resolution and data entry. Amanda earned a B.S. in Human Biology and minors in Bioethics and Health Promotion from Michigan State University. She would like to pursue an advanced degree in public health.
Emily Villegas-Umana is a clinical research project manager and research nurse who is engaged with neuropathy and neuromuscular studies that are conducted by Dr. Brian Callaghan. She supervises all studies, clinical and observational. Emily provides research protocol information to patients and their families, in addition to performing study-specific testing. She collaborates with primary investigators and the Institutional Review Board to approve and amend research studies and troubleshoot technical and administrative issues. Emily also supports grant submissions. Additionally, she assists Dr. Callaghan with studies at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Hospital. She has served in her current role since 2017.
Emily’s service to Michigan Medicine originated in 2006. She has worked for the U-M Neurology Department in multiple capacities, including as a clinical research coordinator and research nurse from 2013-17. In addition, she was a registered nurse for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and contributor to the U-M Emergency Department.
Emily graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Michigan University for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She received a B.A. in sociology from Michigan State University.