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Acclaimed Alzheimer's Clinician-Researcher To Head Methodist Neurological Institute Alzheimer's Disease Center

July 14, 2017

Gustavo C. Román, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in vascular dementia, joins the Methodist Neurological Institute (NI) to continue the quest to find a cure for Alzheimer's, a disease diagnosed in the United States every 72 seconds.

Román will hold a distinguished endowed chair and lead the Methodist Alzheimer's Disease Center. He will develop a multi-disciplinary team to treat patients using cutting-edge therapies, and to advance a translational research program on memory disorders and the relationship between brain circulation and dementia.

"Methodist has a long history of excellence in treating patients with neurological disorders and diseases. As a full-time faculty member and clinician-researcher, Dr. Román will add to our standing as a national leader in the neurosciences. More importantly, his leadership, expertise in treating patients and ability to connect with caregivers will help address one of the most challenging public health problems of our time," said Ron G. Girotto, president and CEO, The Methodist Hospital System.

Román's current NIH-funded research focuses on post-stroke dementia in Mexico and cognitive function in lacunar strokes, or strokes caused by the blockage of a small branch of a larger blood vessel in the brain. Over the past decade, Alzheimer's research has focused on molecular and cellular mechanisms that help transport amyloid beta (A) between blood and brain. Amyloid beta is a rogue protein that forms plaques in the brain and is considered to be a possible cause of Alzheimer's.

Román's research concentrates on the reason why people with Alzheimer's disease have less blood flow to the brain, and possible ways to improve brain circulation.

"Gustavo is vastly experienced in all aspects of dementia. His knowledge of neuroepidemiology, cognitive neurology, vascular dementia and tropical neurology - mostly infectious and nutritional neurologic disorders found in developing countries will bring a fresh approach to our efforts to eradicate this disease," said Dr. Stanley H. Appel, Methodist's chairman of neurology and co-director of the Methodist NI.

Román was previously professor of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center's School of Medicine in San Antonio, where he founded the UT Medicine Memory Disorders Clinic. Prior to UTHSC, he served as chief of the neuroepidemiology branch at the National Institutes of Health, where he led a team in producing the currently used diagnostic criteria for research studies in vascular dementia.

"The mere mention of the word 'Alzheimer's' can be even more devastating to hear than the word 'cancer' for many in America," said Román. "My goal as the leader of Methodist's Alzheimer's Center is to improve existing treatments and ultimately find a cure for this devastating disease, which currently affects about 20 percent of the elderly population in the greater Houston area."

His accomplishments have earned him numerous awards, including the Commendation Medal of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Román is a Fellow of the American Neurological Association, American Academy of Neurology (AAN), American College of Physicians, Royal Society of Medicine (London), Royal Society of Tropical Medicine (London), and the Colombian Academy of Medicine. He has participated in the International Affairs committee of the AAN and is chair of the neuroepidemiology section. He served as advisor to the FDA and is a current reviewer for the Aging Systems and Geriatrics Study Section, and for the Fogarty International Center of the NIH. Román is Elected Trustee and member of the Board of Directors of the World Federation of Neurology. He is associate editor of the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, and until recently, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neuroepidemiology.

Román is fluent in Spanish, English and French, and has published more than 300 journal articles and books. He is a medical graduate from the National University of Colombia with training in neurology at the Salpêtrière Hospital, University of Paris, France, and at the University of Vermont.

More than five million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease and that number is poised to skyrocket, with 16 million people projected to develop the mind-destroying illness by 2050. Of the estimated 600,000 to 700,000 Texans presently affected by memory disorders, more than half are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

Source: Methodist Hospital Houston