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Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD

Message from the Chair – Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD

The new year is upon us. While our focus is again drawn toward concern regarding another wave of COVID-19, we can still see a few bright spots on the horizon. For example, two outstanding neurologists have already agreed to join the UNC Department of Neurology next summer. Dr. Lynn Liu will be coming to UNC from University of Rochester, Strong Epilepsy Center to take on the role of Epilepsy Division Chief. We have also recruited Dr. Katelyn Bricker, Child Neurologist and current Sleep Medicine Fellow to join the Divisions of Sleep Medicine and Child Neurology.

Another example is that two faculty have recently been promoted to Professor (Susan Wilson) and Associate Professor (Angela Wabulya). In spite of pandemic distractions members of the UNC Department of Neurology continue to provide outstanding patient care while being recognized for their academic achievements. Dr. James Ho received a Junior Faculty Development Award from UNC, Dr. Monica Diaz was awarded the AAN Clinical Research Training Scholarship and Dr. Laura de Lima Xavier received the Kaiser Permanente Excellence in Teaching Award.

In additional news on clinical care, the Department of Neurology will be undergoing further geographical expansion. The Child Neurology Clinic will be moving to dedicated space in the Carolina Point II building very soon. At the Hillsborough hospital, the Bodford Transvers Myelitis Clinic will be expanding into new space. This space will enable the Department of Neurology to offer General Neurology and Neuroimmunology ambulatory appointments at Hillsborough hospital in the near future. These new clinical spaces will further enable us to expand patient access to neurology services.

Even an unpredictable global pandemic cannot stop UNC Neurology from growing to meet our academic and patient care missions.

The UNC Hospitals Child Neurology Clinic will be relocating in February. The new address is 6011 Farrington Road, Suite 100, Chapel Hill, NC  27517.

Happy New Year! In 2021, UNC Neurology added 10 new faculty members and 2 APPs, launched two new divisions, and published research on over 20 neurological diseases. Learn more >

Jorge L. Almodóvar-Suárez, MDThe Neurology Wellness Report – by Jorge L. Almodóvar-Suárez, MD

We are pleased to announce that the department is starting a Neurology Wellness Mini Grant Program. The goals are:

  1. To innovate in the field of employee wellness;
  2. To give faculty and staff the opportunity to design and produce wellness activities that match their needs and interests;
  3. To promote relationships amongst our faculty and staff;
  4. To have fun.

Learn more >


Timothy Gershon, MD, PhD, was appointed Vice Chair for Research for the Department of Neurology.

Angela Wabulya, MBChB, was promoted to associate professor.

Winnie Lau, MD, received Board certification in neurocritical care.

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH, was selected as a new member of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Advisory Panel on Healthcare Delivery and Disparities Research.


Graphic of brainWeili Lin, PhD, and Karen Grewen, PhD (UNC Psychiatry) are co-principal investigators of the UNC site for an NIH-funded groundbreaking study of infant and child brain and behavioral development. Their project has total funding of $8,242,067 for the first five years and is one of 25 sites selected across the nation. Read more >

Jamie Capal, MD, is the site PI and neurodevelopmental lead for an R01 titled, “Sirolimus TSC Epilepsy Prevention Study (STEPS).”  This is a phase IIb, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter clinical trial (TSC-STEPS) using sirolimus, an mTOR inhibitor, to prevent or delay seizure onset in infants with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

Dr. Capal is also a co-PI for a foundation grant of $100,000/year for two years from the Angelman Syndrome Foundation for her project, “Recruitment and Deep Phenotyping of Infants with Angelman Syndrome to Enable Early Treatment.”

Monica M. Diaz, MD, MS, received an American Academy of Neurology Clinical Research Training Scholarship for her project (PI), “Neurofilament light as a marker of synaptic loss in cognitively impaired older people with HIV.” The scholarship starts on July 1 and provides $75,000 per year for two years.

Dr. Diaz also received a UNC Center for AIDS Research Developmental Pilot Grant for her project (PI), “Neurofilament light as a possible marker of persistent CNS viral replication and immune activation,” that starts August 1 and provides $40,000 for one year.

Publications / Research

MicroscopeU.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved VYVGART (efgartigimod alfa-fcab) for the treatment of generalized myasthenia gravis in adult patients who are anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody positive. These patients represent approximately 85% of the total gMG population. James F. Howard Jr., MD, was principle investigator of the ADAPT trial. Learn more >

Winnie Lau, MD; Clio Rubinos, MD, MS; Kelly Dehne, PharmD, BCCCP; and other UNC researchers published, “Difficulties Detecting Clinically Relevant Factor Xa Inhibitor Levels Prior to Reversal With Andexanet Alfa for Intracranial Hemorrhage,” in The Neurohospitalist, September 2021.

The Neuromuscular Division was selected as a site for the “PHOENIX TRIAL: A Phase III, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Multicenter Trial to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of AMX0035 Versus Placebo for 48-week Treatment of Adult Patients With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).”

Jamie Capal, MD, co-authored:

  • “Profile of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex,” Annals of Neurology (first author), December 2021. The paper discusses results from the TSC Autism Center of Excellence Research Network (TACERN), a multicenter, prospective, observational study funded by the NIH.
  • “Epilepsy is Heterogeneous in Early-Life Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, Pediatric Neurology, October 2021.
  • “Symptom rates and profile clustering in tuberous sclerosis complex-associated neuropsychiatric disorders (TAND),” Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. December 2021.

Monica M. Diaz, MD, co-authored, “Knowledge and Impact of COVID-19 on Middle-Aged and Older People living with HIV in Lima, Peru,” Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, January – December 2021.

Yasmeen Rauf, MD, co-authored a book chapter, “Past and Present Drug Treatments for Glioblastoma,” in “Glioblastoma Resistance to Chemotherapy: Molecular Mechanisms and Innovative Reversal Strategies,” Volume 14, 1st Edition.

Ian Shih, PhD - preprint image

Esteban A. Oyarzabal, Li-Ming Hsu, Manasmita Das, Tzu-Hao Harry Chao, Sheng Song, Weiting Zhang, Kathleen G. Smith, Natale R. Sciolino, Hong Yuan, Sung-Ho Lee, Guohong Cui, Patricia Jensen, Yen-Yu Ian Shih and other researchers published a preprint, “Chemogenetic Stimulation of Tonic Locus Coeruleus Activity Strengthens the Default Mode Network,” in bioRxiv, October 2021.

PGY-1 Kelby Brown, MD, co-authored, “Alternative Payment Models and Associations with Stroke Outcomes, Spending, and Service Utilization: A Systematic Review,” Stroke, November 2021.

Oral and Poster Presentations

James F. Howard, Jr, MD, presented:

Invited Lectures / Visiting Professor (via webcast)

    • Multiple topics to the Inaugural Rare Disease Connect Neurology (RDCN), November 10-12, 2021.
    • “Therapeutic Advances in the Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis,” Annual Neuromuscular Disease Course, Huashan Hospital / Fudan University, Shanghai, China, November 26, 2021.
    • “Specific Targeting of the Mechanisms of Disease as a Rationale Approach to Treat Myasthenia Gravis,” Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Neurology Grand Rounds, December 4, 2021.
    • View 12 additional presentations >

Monica M. Diaz, MD, MS, presented:

Virtual Abstract/Conference presentations

    • “Neurological manifestations of patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 attending a public hospital in Lima, Peru,” oral presentation, American Neurological Association Annual Meeting Global Neurology session, December 9, 2021.
    • CSF Biomarkers of Inflammation and Immune Activation Associated with Neurocognitive Impairment among Latinos Living with HIV,” poster, National Center for AIDS Research Symposium, November 3, 2021.

Invited Talks

    • “HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment in Peru,” AIDS Clinical Trials Group Neurology Collaborative Science Session, November 10, 2021.
    • “Acute Neurological Complications of HIV,” Department of Neurology, Neurohospitalist Division, University of Connecticut, November 17, 2021.
Dr. Lau poses in front of her poster presentation.
Dr. Winnie Lau

A poster, “Improving Access to Hospice for Comfort Focused Care Patients in the Neurocritical Care Unit,” authored by Winnie Lau, MD, (first and presenting author) and Casey Olm Shipman, MD, MS, (last author) received the Distinguished Poster Presentation Award and was selected for Professor Rounds at the Neurocritical Care Society Meeting in October.

In addition, Dr. Olm-Shipman presented “Optimizing Care Quality Metrics and Reimbursement in Neurocritical Care” at the same meeting.

Jamie Capal, MD, presented, “Neurodevelopment in Epilepsy in TSC: Outcomes and Potential Treatments” as the invited plenary speaker to the virtual 2021 International TSC & LAM Research Conference held in October.

PGY-4 Siddharth Ninan, MBBS, presented “Multiple Sclerosis in a Patient with Neurofibromatosis Type-1,” Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Meeting, Orlando, Florida, October 2021. Co-authored with Irena Dujmovic Basuroski, MD (mentor); Tim Gershon, MD, PhD; Robert Greenwood, MD; Clara Zelasky, PA-C, and Stephanie Iyer, PharmD, CPP.

Dr. Casey Olm-Shipman presenting at the Neurocritical Care Society Meeting
Dr. Casey Olm-Shipman

Irena Dujmovic Basuroski, MD; Senyene Hunter, MD, PhD; and Qian-Zhou (JoJo) Yang, MD, along with other UNC researchers co-authored,From RAN(BP2)dom to Recurrent: A Case of Familial Acute Necrotizing Encephalopathy.” Presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference, Philadelphia, PA, October 8-12, 2021.

PGY-5 Sonia Varghese, MD, MPH, MBA presented, “Recurrent Acute Necrotizing Encephalopathy in a Pediatric Patient with Seizures after COVID-19,” at the American Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, December 3-7, 2021. Co-authors: Irena Dujmovic Basuroski, MD; Qian-Zhou (JoJo) Yang, MD; and Senyene Hunter, MD, PhD.

Clio Rubinos, MD, MS, was the director and a speaker (virtual) for the ICU – EEG symposium at the Latin American Brain Injury Conference in Cali, Colombia on November 13, 2021. This symposium is endorsed by the American of Clinical Neurophysiology Society.

Dr. Rubinos was also a science panelist for the COVID Initiative Science Roundtable at the National Courts and Science Institute on December 3, 2021.

Dr. Carolyn Tsai poses in front of her poster at the American Epilepsy Society Meeting
Dr. Carolyn Tsai

PGY-4 Carolyn Tsai, MD, (first author) presented, “Developing clinical criteria to aid selection of encephalopathic patients for urgent EEG when there is concern of non-convulsive seizures” at the American of Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting, December 2021, Chicago. UNC Neurology co-authors include: Clio Rubinos, MD, MS, (mentor, senior author); William J. Powers, MD; Courtney Blodgett ACNP; and Sunghyun Seo, MD (former resident).

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH, along with other members of the Child Neurology Society Leadership, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force published a commentary last summer that describes their initiatives.

Dr. Cejas also recently presented at a joint AAN /CNS section meeting on Disability and Identity — the first of a series of discussions on disability in neurology.

Suzette LaRoche, MD, was the invited speaker at the women’s leadership lunch at the American Epilepsy Society meeting in December. In addition, she presented “Closing the EEG Gap: Lack of EEG Access as a Health Disparity” at the Quality and Safety Special Interest Group.

Dr. LaRoche also presented, “ICU EEG Monitoring:  History, Recent Advances and Future Considerations” during grand rounds for both the University of Toronto and Penn State in November.

Yasmeen Rauf, MD, presented “Phase I Study of Ruxolitinib with Radiation and Temozolomide in patients with newly diagnosed grade III and grade IV Glomas and Glioblastoma” at the Society of Neuro-Oncology Annual Meeting in December. Dr. Rauf also presented a poster, “Radiomic features from lesion habitat predict response to combination of Nivolumab and Bevacizumab in patients with recurrent Glioblastoma: A feasibility study,” at the conference.

Robert Smith, PhD, presented, “Advancing DEI Efforts and Staff Initiatives in the SOM” on November 12 as part of the School of Medicine’s Touchpoint 20 Series.

Duke-UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Co-Director Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD, presented an overview of the center at the 6th Annual Duke Aging Center Research and Education Retreat on December 10.


Shot of Dr. Howard through videocam.
James F. Howard, Jr, MD

NeurologyLive interviewed James F. Howard, Jr, MD, on “The Effect of Efgartigimod’s Approval on the Myasthenia Gravis Landscape.”

Steven Trau, MD, was interviewed in this UNC Health Talk article, “Tics Are Uncontrollable—and Completely Normal.”

Irena Dujmovic Basuroski, MD, discussed TM in this UNC Health Talk article, “Treating Transverse Myelitis, a Rare Spinal Cord Disease.”

In addition, Dr. Dujmovic Basuroski presented an online community lecture, “Who Gets MS?,” on December 5 as part one of a lecture series, “The Multiple Sclerosis Puzzle,” that will continue every six months for the next three years. The lectures are part of an outreach program for the Native American community in Robeson and Scotland counties.

The Multiple Sclerosis Puzzle: Who Gets MS?

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH, wrote two opinion pieces and a creative essay, and was featured in two podcasts:

If you miss seeing Robert Greenwood, MD, dance at UNC Neurology’s holiday parties, here’s your chance! He represented us well in this UNC Pediatrics video featured on the WRAL website.


Join us for the 8th Annual Head for the Cure 5K Run/Walk on Sunday, February 27, 2022 at Southern Village Green in Chapel Hill! Let’s gather in person this year to raise awareness of brain cancer, and to honor and inspire hope for patients, families, friends and caregivers. Your support benefits the UNC Brain Tumor Neuro-Oncology Program as well as the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative, a network of clinics across the country that conducts clinical trials. Register/Donate >

HFTC 2018

All UNC trainees (fellows, postdocs, junior faculty, residents, research associates, etc.) interested in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are invited to attend the inaugural meeting of the ADRD IDEAS Forum to be held monthly by the Duke-UNC ADRC. Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD, will be the speaker for the first Zoom session on Tuesday, January 25 at 4:30pm. Contact Peggy Felix for the meeting link and to join the Forum listserv to receive future announcements. Spread the word!


The University of Rochester’s Department of Neurology, in collaboration with other U.S. institutions, is organizing a free, virtual conference, “Neurotherapeutics Symposium 2022: Integrating Equity within Translational Research,” on January 28-29, 2022. The meeting will include diverse leadership, speakers and attendees from all levels, and offer meaningful discussions from a multi-disciplinary perspective with the goal of accelerating the translation of advances in neurological therapy into improved health outcomes for all patients. Monica Diaz, MD, MS, will be moderating a panel on global health in neurology. Learn more >