For more coverage of ANA 2019…
They say dreams do come true, and postdoctoral fellow Amy Rumora, Ph.D., is that much closer to hers after receiving the Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, a grant of up to $927,000.
One look under the microscope in her grandfather’s (Bill Jourdian, Ph.D.) University of Michigan biochemistry lab, and she was hooked. To this day the power of an eight-year-old’s dream to have her own lab has yet to diminish. Now, with the two-part K99/R00 program, she has a clear pathway to do just that, as it is “designed to facilitate a timely transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to a stable independent research positon with independent NIH or other research support at an earlier state than is the norm.” In short, Dr. Rumora is a science rockstar.
The American Neurological Association (ANA) noticed. Next week her work with Program for Neurology Research & Discovery Director Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., will be featured at 144th ANA Annual Meeting. “Saturated and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Differentially Regulate Nerve Function in Murine Models of Obesity,” was chosen as one of the “6 Highlights of the Meeting.” In this study, obese, prediabetic mice were fed a diet high in saturated fatty acids. Later some animals were switched to a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids with the same calorie count as before. The animals on the unsaturated fatty acid diet had a reversal of neuropathy. This research has been covered by Michigan Medicine’s Health Blog.
Dr. Rumora will remain under the mentorship of Dr. Feldman for up to two years during the K99 portion of the program, studying “Sphingolipid Lipid and Fatty Acid Biology in Prediabetes and Neuropathy,” for which she received the grant.
“I want to understand the molecular changes that improve nerve function when mice are switched to a monounsaturated fat diet.” she explained. “By doing so we hope to identify therapeutic targets to develop treatments to improve nerve function in prediabetic and diabetic patients with neuropathy.”
Dr. Rumora then advances to the R00 phase, where she moves onto another institution, opens her own lab, and, in addition to her research, begins to train the next generation of scientific dreamers. The R00 segment can last up to three years.
“Dr. Rumora is an exceptional young scientist—brilliant, creative, innovative and inspired,” Dr. Feldman said. “Few scientists work harder than she does. It’s not unusual for Dr. Rumora to clock 14 to 16 hour days. She is going to make a real difference in the field of neuropathy and I feel very fortunate to have had the pleasure of mentoring her. She is a true scientific rock star!” says Dr. Feldman. Feldman also adds with a smile, “Her grandfather taught me here at Michigan when I was a student. He would be so proud of her, so very proud.”
Other research from Amy Rumora, Ph.D.:
Amy E. Rumora, Giovanni LoGrasso, John M. Hayes, Faye E. Mendelson, Maegan A. Tabbey, Julia A. Haidar, Stephen I. Lentz, Eva L. Feldman. The divergent roles of dietary saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids on nerve function in murine models of obesity. Journal of Neuroscience. 2019 May 8; 39(19):3770-3781. PMID: 30886017
Amy E. Rumora, Giovanni LoGrasso, Julia A. Haidar, Justin J. Dolkowski, Stephen I. Lentz, Eva L. Feldman. Chain length of saturated fatty acids regulates mitochondrial trafficking and function in sensory neurons. Journal of Lipid Research. 2019 Jan;60(1):58-70. PMID: 30442656
Amy E. Rumora*, Stephen I. Lentz*, Lucy M. Hinder, Samuel W. Jackson, Andrew Valesano, Gideon E. Levinson, Eva L. Feldman. Dyslipidemia impairs mitochondrial trafficking and function in sensory neurons. FASEB. 2018 Jan;32(1):195-207. PMID: 28904018
In the evening of Thursday, October 3, Dr. Eva Feldman accepted the award for Distinguished Alumnus Achievement from the Michigan Medicine Almumni Society.
“This award goes to all the individuals who I have partnered with for over 30 years, and together we have wanted to push the boundaries of medical research.” (Dr. Eva Feldman)
She celebrated with friends, colleagues, supporters, and family:
Scientist, Doctor, Mom: Dr. Eva Feldman Continues to be a Champion and Trailblazer for Women in Science
During the University of Michigan’s 2019 Homecoming this week, Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, will become only the fourth woman with an M.D. to receive the Michigan Medicine Alumni Society’s Distinguished Achievement Award in its 62-year history, and the first in over two decades. She is the first person ever to earn both the Distinguished Achievement Award and the MMAS Early Distinguished Career Award (2001). I interviewed Dr. Feldman concerning her new award, and came away with a new sense of what it means to be “true blue.”
The award “honors U-M Medical School alumni who have typified the Michigan tradition of excellence and have brought credit to the university by their personal accomplishment and recognizes significant contributions in the science and art of medicine.”
See coverage from the October 3 Michigan Medicine Alumni Society Awards dinner HERE.
An examination of her 98-page curriculum vitae – a physician’s precisely-documented resume – tells the tale of her contributions in the science and art of medicine. Here are just some highlights:
- 30 years of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for her work translating basic findings in her laboratory into new therapies for her patients
- 20 years as director of the U-M Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, currently home to 30 scientists
- Inaugural Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, a position she held for 10 years, upon receipt of $100 million gift from Alfred Taubman to Michigan Medicine
- A member of the National Academy of Medicine
- Past President of the American Neurological Association, the society of academic neurologists
- The primary investigator of the first clinical trial to treat ALS with the transplantation of stem cells
- An author on new patient care guidelines for obese and diabetic patients suffering from nerve damage
- 15 consecutive years listed in Best Doctors in America, and listed by Castle Connolly as one of America’s top 4 physicians in 2016
- Authored 400+ scientific articles and 70 book chapters, and has written 4 books
She has received over 40 national and international awards recognizing her contributions to medicine, spanning from lifetime achievement awards from the American Diabetes Association, the Society of Neuroscience, the Peripheral Nerve Society, and the American Neurological Association, to scientific awards for her research, and mentoring awards for the hours she has devoted to the training of young physicians and scientists. A full list of her grant funding, awards, and publications are available HERE.
But Dr. Feldman’s contribution to the field of science and medicine can’t fully be catalogued by “money, awards, and manuscripts” … there has been much more. For example, what you won’t find listed on Dr. Feldman’s list of achievements but could very easily be placed at the top, are the names of her three children: Laurel, Scott, John. The narrow white shelves in Dr. Feldman’s office are packed with trophies and plaques for scientific honors; however, featured more prominently are numerous framed photos of her family.
“I want everyone to know you can be a parent, a doctor, and a scientist,” states Dr. Feldman. “My children have enhanced my career and I have tried to incorporate science and medicine into their lives so they understood what I was doing,” she says with a smile. “On Saturdays when they were little I’d bring home dry ice and we played scientists with eggs, vinegar, and baking soda. They have always been a source of encouragement to me, too. I would often find notes in my bag like, ‘Go Mom, Beat ALS.’ And of course they had the obligatory Fisher Price doctor sets growing up.” She continues, “Laurel graduated from U-M Medical School and is now at the University of Washington as a clinical instructor in internal medicine. Scott is an attorney here in Michigan. John graduated from U-M Medical School last year and is a psychiatry resident in Chicago. There really are no words to express the love I have for these three young adults.”
Thirty-five years ago, when Dr. Feldman was completing her medical school degree at Michigan, women in medicine were rare, and women with children, even rarer. Her 1983 U-M Medical School class photo shows that women made up just 25% of her classmates. During her neurology residency interviews, Dr. Feldman was pregnant with her daughter, Laurel, and one department head on the east coast simply told Dr. Feldman: “I don’t believe in female residents having children,” and quickly showed her the door. Dr. Feldman found her “training home” at Johns Hopkins University, where she was warmly welcomed by the Chair of Neurology, Dr. Guy McKhann, who encouraged her to have more children (which she did). She went on to become chief resident at JHU. In 1988, she returned to the University of Michigan and began work in the laboratory of her longtime mentor, Dr. Douglas Greene, on the neurological complications of diabetes, and with her clinical role model, Dr. James Albers.
“Michigan offered a unique, supportive environment where families were appreciated and accepted,” recalls Dr. Feldman. “I was accepted for who I was, what I could accomplish. I wasn’t thought of as the woman with three little children. I was thought of as the neurologist and neuroscientist who’s interested in understanding diseases and developing new therapies.”
“When I met Alfred Taubman in 1999, I met a true genius. The support and encouragement for our research from Alfred and his family was, and continues to be, a real game-changer for us. Alfred
always encouraged us to think broadly and take scientific risks, as he knew this approach would lead to medical discoveries and therapies,” states Dr. Feldman. “We owe much of our success to Alfred, his family, and to our many generous friends, like Bob Nederlander, Robert and Katherine Jacobs, Dick and Jane Manoogian, David and Jennifer Fischer, and Charlene Handleman. I was born under a lucky, scientific star,” Dr. Feldman says with a grin.
She has also always remained an active champion for young scientists and a mentor to the next generation of game changers. Her very first graduate student in 1988 was Donna Martin, who received her Ph.D. under Dr. Feldman, and her M.D. from the University of Michigan and has now ascended to become Michigan Medicine’s Interim Chair of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief for Mott Children’s Hospital.
“Dr. Feldman cares about me as a professional and as a person, and as we both are mothers, she is also a constant source of guidance and practical insight on how to master a highly successful academic career with an equally successful family life,” says Martin.
Dr. Feldman’s laboratory, the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, has 14 trainees, and she has served as the mentor of over 100 fellows. She is also the primary investigator for U-M’s Institutional Neurology training grant, which funds numerous other young scientists.
“We have remarkable trainees here at Michigan. One of the most rewarding aspects of being at Michigan Medicine is having the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists and physicians. I frequently learn as much, if not more, from these brilliant young individuals as they learn from me.”
According to the latest U-M Medical School statistics, 57% of the 795 medical school students in 2019 were women. That is exactly the progress that Dr. Feldman set out to achieve three decades ago when she joined the U-M faculty.
James Albers, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Neurology, mentored Dr. Feldman and aptly described her lasting mark on the community: “It wasn’t long into Dr. Feldman’s fellowship with me that the mentee became the mentor. I was happily teaching Eva about my profession, but she was teaching me, by example, to wonder and think about big ideas, and the importance of networking and collaboration in developing these ideas. Even as a junior faculty, she was enabling students in her laboratory and in neurology training programs to succeed. There is no question that she has actively developed the next generation of leaders in academic neurology and neuroscience through her role modeling. This may seem like something that naturally occurs in an academic setting, but not regularly, especially in terms of the number of individuals who have pursued academic careers who were mentored by Dr. Feldman.”
As we end our interview, Dr. Feldman looks happily at her family pictures. “As you can see, I now have 5 children, as two amazing young women entered my life, Alissa and Lauren, both Michigan graduates, when their father and I were married nearly a decade ago.” A big smile appears on her face. “Dr. Neal Little, University of Michigan Medical school class of 1974, and I first met in 1975, my first semester here as a neuroscience doctoral student. We met over a ’brain dissection‘ actually. We lost contact but re-met after 25 years, this time over a more respectable 5K race.” Dr. Feldman concludes “This Distinguished Achievement Award belongs to Neal, our children, and the remarkable scientists, clinicians, and assistants I have worked with in my 31 years here on faculty. As Bo always said, ’the team, the team, the team.’”
By Matt Trevor, PNR&D Communications Director
Chennai, India – Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, was one of two keynote speakers at the 2019 Indo U.S. U.K. Conclave, hosted by the M.V. Hospital for Diabetes & Professor M Viswanathan Diabetes Research Center. The theme of the September event was preventing nerve and kidney disease in patients with diabetes.
Dr. Feldman gave a presentation entitled “Diagnosis of Diabetic Neuropathy in the Clinical Setting: What Should a Clinician Know?” A member of the board of directors for the M.V. Hospital for Diabetes, Dr. Feldman was making her fifth trip to India. Her collaboration with Vijay Viswanathan, M.D., Ph.D., head & chief diabetologist at the M.V. Hospital, dates back to her first visit to India in 2014. Drs. Feldman and Viswanathan are together conducting studies in M.V. Hospital to determine the prevalence of nerve, kidney and eye disease in patients with newly diagnosed prediabetes and diabetes, and comparing these findings to parallel studies being conducted in the USA. The goal is to understand how different diets, climate and lifestyles, along with genetic risk factors, influence the development of damage to vital organs in diabetes. In June 2019, Dr. Feldman was the lead author of “Diabetic Neuropathy” in Nature Reviews Disease Primers (one-page summary) where Dr. Viswanathan was a contributing author. She highlighted the work she and Dr. Viswanathan are conducting during her presentation at the Indo U.S. U.K. Conclave.
M.V. Hospital for Diabetes situated at Royapuram, Chennai, was established by late Professor M. Viswanathan in 1954 as a general hospital. In 1971 it became a hospital exclusively for diabetes care. Under Dr. M. Viswanathan’s leadership, the hospital has grown to achieve the status of a teaching institution of international excellence. It has, at present, 100 beds for the treatment of diabetes and its complications. Over the years it has grown to be one of the largest referral centers for diabetes, with more than three million patients registered to-date. It is recognized as an internationally-known tertiary care center for referral of diabetic patients. Drs. Feldman and Viswanathan are currently applying to the National Institutes of Health for funding to support their groundbreaking studies.
Top officials from the American University of Beirut, including President Fadlo Khuri, are visiting the University of Michigan October 9-11 to discuss academic and scientific cooperation with deans and professors from U-M’s Medical School, School of Public Health and School of Engineering.
Highlighting the visit is a special public seminar on October 10 by AUB President Dr. Fadlo Khuri, “Lifting the Quality of Health for the Middle East & North Africa,” which will be followed by an open panel discussion with the AUB delegation. The seminar is set for 10 a.m. at the Kahn Auditorium in the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building. Click for more seminar details.
PANELISTS FROM THE AUB DELEGATION:
Dr. Fadlo Khuri, President
Dr. Mohamed Sayegh, Executive Vice President & Dean of Medicine
Dr. Alan Shihadeh, Dean of Engineering & Architecture
Dr. Iman Nuwayhid, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences
Dr. Sami Azar, Head of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Director of the Diabetes Program
Dr. Assad Eid, Director of Diabetes Program
Diabetes research at the University of Michigan Program for Neurology Research & Discovery raised a pillar of support today with the establishment of the Rose C. and Nathan L. Milstein Family Emerging Scholar Fund, which will provide funding in perpetuity for a PNR&D junior faculty member investigating diabetes. The first recipient will be Dr. Stephanie Eid.
The Milstein Family Foundation has donated regularly to PNR&D diabetes research for nearly 20 years. The most recent gift for $30,000 pushed total contributions to the fund to more than $500,000 to endow the Milstein Family Emerging Scholar Fund at Michigan Medicine. Alene Lipshaw, granddaughter of Rose and Nathan Milstein, and her husband, Jeff, have been the stewards of the Milstein Family Foundation in recent years.
“I am so incredibly thankful for Alene and Jeff’s transformative gift to support diabetes research in my laboratory,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology. “The Milstein Family Emerging Scholar program will allow us to continue attracting the world’s most talented young diabetes scientists.”
The inaugural Rose C. and Nathan L. Milstein Family Emerging Scholar will be Stephanie Eid, Ph.D., who is currently investigating how the nerve cells of diabetics use sugar and fat for energy production. As energy is produced, waste products known as free radicals accumulate and create oxidative stress. This stress directly leads to nerve damage. Her goal is to fully understand how free radicals are impacting nerves so that she can find a counteracting target for drug therapy.
“Jeff and I consider it a privilege to support Dr. Feldman, Dr. Eid and the amazing diabetes research taking place at the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery,” said Alene Lipshaw, who is the granddaughter of Rose and Nathan Milstein. “My grandparents’ philanthropic vision was to improve public healthcare through research and education. We are very excited to play a part in the breakthroughs that are being developed to treat diabetes.”
Diabetes has become an epidemic in the United States. More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, while 85 million more have prediabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, healthcare expenses for diabetes cost the U.S. $327 billion per year.
Diabetic nerve damage is the most common complication of diabetes. The damage begins with tingling or painful sensations in the feet with a gradual upward movement along the limbs, and ultimately results in complete loss of sensation. Additionally, people with diabetes have a 50-75% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
About the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery: Under the direction of Dr. Eva Feldman since 2000, PNR&D is a group of 30-plus scientists, clinicians, and students, who are working toward the common goal of understanding and curing neurological diseases, especially ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetic neuropathy.
Associate Professor and Director of the Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic, Dr. Stephen Goutman, has developed a new clinical rating scale for ALS, which can be used in drug trials to measure disease progression. This scale combines measures of patient function with survival and is known as ALS/SURV. ALS/SURV is a major advance in the field of ALS and will likely accelerate clinical trials and drug discovery for ALS.
This work was recently published in the journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration and can be found HERE.
Research scientist Bhumsoo Kim, Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellow Sarah Elzinga, Ph.D. report their latest scientific findings that proteins in the brain known to promote Alzheimer’s disease are significantly increased in response to eating a high fat diet and becoming obese. The scientific team of Kim and Elzinga then went on to investigate how select growth factors, proteins that support nerve growth and health, block the accumulation of these damaging proteins and may be viable new treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease.
The full study can be found HERE.
Otolaryngology senior resident Ahmed Ali, M.D. reports a sentinel discovery from his work on to address injury to the facial nerve. Dr. Ali discovered that replacing the injured portion of the facial nerve in a rodent model with an easily accessible sensory nerve restored facial nerve function. The next step is to take this important discovery into the clinic, where numerous patients would potentially benefit.
The full publication in Scientific Reports can be found HERE.