WVU official speaks about neuroscience institute

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair, vice president and associate dean at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, speaks to the Elkins Rotary Club Monday about medical advances taking place at the institution.

ELKINS — Members of the Elkins Rotary Club heard Monday about medical advances taking place on the campus of West Virginia University.

During the Rotarians’ weekly meeting, Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair, vice president and associate dean at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, spoke to the group. In April, Rezai was appointed as the John D. Rockefeller IV Chair in Neuroscience at WVU.

“The institute was established last year in November and it was the addition and culmination of the partnership between Sen. Rockefeller, the Rockefeller family, the Health Sciences Center, WVU Medicine and the university with an alignment of advancing neuroscience care and neurological care at the university, and making West Virginia a premier place for everything neuro that needs to be done,” Rezai said.

“Our goal here is to help improve brain health and performance, and resilience to life’s stressers. We’re looking at how we can incorporate all these areas that you incorporate in your daily lives and you are doing it all with your meditation, sleep, diet, lifestyle, stress management, memory, cognitive enhancement and the science behind all of these, and we’re deploying this science along large populations and people, across athletics, military, scientists and also patients,” he said.

Rezai said Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is working to recruit hundreds of highly trained physicians from across the country. He added there are plans in the works for a future brain and spine hospital.

He noted this growing institute will give West Virginia residents the opportunity to receive neuroscience treatments without leaving the state.

“There is no reason anybody in West Virginia should ever have to leave the state for anything neurological,” Rezai said. “We’re bringing in the best people in the world to manage everything neurological, psychiatric, behavioral and so on. Our goal is to make this the premier program for patient care, research and innovation.”

In time, every hospital in the state will be able to provide care with the assistance of Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute using telemedicine, which allows physicians to work together from different facilities using technology.

“Our team right now – we have over 300 team members from 13 colleges at the university and also across various institutions in this country and also beyond in other countries,” Rezai said. “The structure, we have neuroscience, neurology, neurosurgery, rehabilitation, behavioral health and we are also developing a coordinated stroke center so anybody at any hospital in West Virginia, going to their local hospital, will have immediate access to the best stroke specialist in Morgantown with robots.

“They come in and we can access people right away, within minutes of coming to the hospital, and give them lifesaving medications for preventing this stroke,” he continued. “This telemedicine is a major framework over the clientele of psychiatry, teleneurology and telestroke. There are seven stroke hospitals that refer patients to us with this telestroke and we are going to expand to 20 very soon.”

Rezai said the institute offers a variety of services including virtual reality treatment, treatment for drug addiction, human performance monitoring and wearable technology that can assist injured or paraplegic individuals in performing day-to-day tasks.

He added officials also are working with ultrasound waves and neuromodulation that help individuals with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more with technology that calms the part of the brain that causes side effects of the diseases.

Before joining the WVU team, Rezai served more than eight years at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as director of the Neurological Institute, director of the Ross Center for Brain Health and Performance, associate dean for neuroscience, the Stanley D. and Joan H. Ross Chair in Neuromodulation, and professor of neurosurgery and neuroscience.

Prior to his time at Ohio State University, Rezai served as director of the Center for Neurological Restoration and the Jane and Lee Seidman Chair in Functional Neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic. He also served on the neurosurgical faculty at New York University Medical Center as the director of the Center for Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery.

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