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Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD
Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD
Message from the Chair – Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD

The transition from June to July is a celebratory time of year for academic medicine. We congratulate the trainees who have graduated in June and warmly welcome the new trainees starting in our residency and fellowship programs in July.

This year we are also welcoming several new faculty over the summer including:

  • Brandon Waters, MD – Epilepsy
  • Loulwah Mukaresh, MD – Neuro-Ophthalmology and MS
  • Dena Little, DO – Vascular Neurology and Stroke
  • Jordan Broman-Fulks, MD – Child Neurology
  • Claudia Testa, MD, PhD – Neurogenetics and Movement Disorders

Each of these faculty members will bring important additions to our patient care mission. I want to highlight two of these new faculty members who are expanding the portfolio of subspecialists within our department.

Dr. Mukaresh is ushering in neuro-ophthalmology as a new sub-specialty for UNC Neurology. Her expertise will expand the type of care our department can provide as well as help ensure that neurology residents get exposure and training in this important component of nervous system function.

Dr. Testa was recruited to UNC to develop and lead a new sub-specialty division of precision neurology and neurogenetics. She has a long track record of providing state-of-the-art care for patients with inherited movement disorders as well as spearheading gene therapy clinical trials, and plans to make more trials available for patients at UNC. She will also be a key leader in training future neurologists on the use of state-of-the-art approaches for genetic diagnosis of inherited neurological disease.

Along with the expansion of our faculty, there is exciting news coming in the fall. We will be moving the Neurology Clinic to a much larger space in the UNC Health Meadowmont Village Circle building in October. This increased clinic space is needed to accommodate new faculty as well as additional disease-focused, multi-specialty clinics.

The Child Neurology Clinic will also be moving from the Pediatric Subspecialty Clinic to a much larger space at the Carolina Pointe II building, while continuing to provide ambulatory care at the UNC Children’s Specialty Services Clinic at Blue Ridge in Raleigh. More details on these new clinic spaces for adult and child neurology will be forthcoming in future newsletters.

Neurology staff volunteer at the UNC Friday Center vaccine clinic

Weekend Volunteers for the Friday Center Clinic

A special thank you to the Neurology employees who used their vacation time and volunteered on Saturdays to staff the UNC Friday Center vaccine clinic. Volunteers included Linda Dominguez, Andrea Nixon, Renee Noel, Jennifer Thompson, Nansi Greger-Holt, Linh Ngo, Shabina Sheikh, Luigi Troiani, and Clara Zelasky.

Here’s what they said about their experience:

Saturday volunteers at the Friday Center Clinic

  • Working together as a team representing UNC Health to meet the needs of so many people has been a privilege.
  • The vaccine clinic allowed us the opportunity to network with other UNC employees that we wouldn’t have normally met.
  • Working at the Friday Center administering COVID vaccines on Saturdays was a different experience than our normal Monday-Friday routine.
  • It was a breath of fresh air.
  • The Friday Center has been such a positive experience!

Residency and Fellowship Programs

The department honored UNC Neurology faculty and residents during our resident graduation ceremony in early June. Congratulations to all honorees!

  • Faculty Teachers of the Year 2021
    • Irena Dujmovic Basuroski, MD – Adult Neurology
    • Senyene Hunter, MD, PhD and Qian-Zhou (JoJo) Yang, MD – Child Neurology
  • Resident Teacher of the Year: Matthew Burton, MD (PGY-4)
  • Peter Jacobson Award in Patient Care: Sidd Ninan, MD (PGY-3)
  • Kevin Robertson Clinical Research Award: Katelyn Bricker, MD (PGY-4)

Best wishes to our Adult and Child Neurology resident graduates as they venture out to exciting new opportunities. We are happy to report that Drs. Albandar and Bricker are staying with us for their fellowship training.

  • Hazem Albandar, MD – Epilepsy Fellowship, UNC
  • Matthew Burton, MD – Movement Disorders Fellowship, University of Virginia
  • Charles Port, DO – General Neurologist, New Bern, NC
  • Sung Hyun (Sunny) Seo, MD – Epilepsy Fellowship, University of Michigan
  • Zuleyma Toledo-Nieves, MD – Neuroimmunology Fellowship, University of South Florida
  • Katelyn Bricker, MD – Sleep Medicine Fellowship, UNC
Neurology Residency Graduates Neurology Residency Graduates Neurology Residency Graduates

But as we say goodbye, we also say hello. We are excited to welcome our new residents and fellows!

  • Adult Neurology Residents: Kelby Brown, Jr., MD; Xem Biu, MD; Amanda Crooks, MD; Claire Hall, MD; Nikoloz Karazanashvili, MD; Luke Kupcha, MD; Aaron Meller, MD
  • Child Neurology Residents: Stacey Chung, MD; Holly Phillipe, DO
  • Sleep Medicine Fellows: Katelyn Bricker, MD; Shakeel Tabish, MBBS
  • Neuromuscular Fellow: Eric Creed, DO
  • Epilepsy Fellows: Marium Jamil, MBBS; Hazem Albandar, MD
  • Neurocritical Care Fellow: Grace Dehoff, DO

Awards, Recognition, New Roles

Nina Browner, MD, was promoted to professor.

Michael Wang, MD, was promoted to associate professor.

Jorge L. Almodóvar-Suárez, MD, is the new director of the UNC Department of Neurology’s Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Clinic.

Casey Olm-Shipman, MD, MS, received the High Value Care Award from the UNC School of Medicine Academy of Educators. Dr. Shipman was also selected as the associate director of the UNC Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement (IHQI).

Clio Rubinos, MD, MS, and Miriam Sklerov, MD, MS, both received UNC School of Medicine Physician Scientist Training Program Faculty Awards.

The AAN president elected Monica Diaz, MD, MS, to the AAN’s Advancing Women in Academics Subcommittee for a two-year term.

Dr. Clio Rubinos with one of her master's degree mentors, Dr. Daniel Lackland
Dr. Clio Rubinos with one of her master’s degree mentors, Dr. Daniel Lackland

In addition, Drs. Diaz and Rubinos both received Master of Science in Clinical Research degrees through the Medical University of South Carolina last May as part of AAN’s TRANSCENDS (Training in Research for Academic Neurologists to Sustain Careers and Enhance the Numbers of Diverse Scholars) program. The program funds master’s degrees for early-career neurologists interested in research careers.

Rhonda Cadena, MD, served as the director of the Neurocritical Care Board Review course at the Society of Critical Care Medicine Annual Congress. She was also elected as secretary/ treasurer of the Society of Critical Care Medicine Neuroscience Steering Committee and served as an editorial board member of Neurocritical Care Board Examination Question Bank.

In March, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) appointed Gary Jay, MD, as the subject matter expert for headache.

Jessica Werdel, MSN, ACNP, and Binta Diallo, RN, BSN, CNIII, CCRN, completed the Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership Program, which equips participants with skills to lead and support diverse interprofessional teams in increasing operational efficiency and improving patient outcomes.

EEG technologist, Hammad Rizwan, recently received his R. EEG T. through the American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic and Evoked Potential Technologists (ABRET).

Samantha Dickerson is joining the department as an intern this summer. Samantha is a first-year MHA student at the Gillings School of Public Health. In 2021, she received a bachelor’s degree in public health with a pre-clinical concentration from UNC Wilmington.

Administrative specialist, Rose E. Maness received a Five Years of Service Honoree Award in May.


Yen-Yu Ian Shih, PhD, and the Shih Lab received a grant for $3,727,461 from the National Institute of Mental Health in support of their proposal, “Circuit Mechanisms Governing the Default Mode Network.” This project aims to reveal the circuit mechanisms by which default mode network activates and deactivates.

Zheng (Jane) Fan, MD, is an investigator for two recent NCTraCS $50K grants:

  • Hegarty-Craver (PI, RTI), Fan (co-PI) – “Using wearable devices to detect non-epileptic myoclonus in individuals with Angelman syndrome”
  • Won (PI), Fan (Co-investigator) – “Chromosomal disorganization in Down Syndrome”

The Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Collaborative is offering $50,000 Norins pilot awards to stimulate and support collaborative, innovative research on the potential role of microbes or pathogens in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more >

Published Research


James F. Howard, Jr., MD, co-authored:

  • “Telemedicine Visits in Myasthenia Gravis: Expert guidance and the MG Core Examination (MG-CE),” Muscle Nerve, May 2021.
  • “Long-term Efficacy of Eculizumab in Refractory Generalized Myasthenia Gravis: Responder Analysis,” Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, May 2021. Co-authored with Manisha Chopra, MBBS, and other researchers.
  • Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of Efgartigimod in Patients with Generalized Myasthenia Gravis (gMG): Analysis of the Randomized Phase 3 ADAPT Study,” The Lancet Neurology, June 2021. Co-authored with Manisha Chopra, MBBS, and other researchers.

Monica Diaz, MD, MS, co-authored:

  • “Characterization of HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Impairment in Middle-Aged and Older Persons With HIV in Lima, Peru,” Frontiers in Neurology, June 2021 (first author).
  • “Large Mitochondrial DNA Deletions in HIV Sensory Neuropathy,” Neurology, May 2021.
  • “The impact of COVID-19 on the Well-Being and Cognition of Older Adults Living in the United States and Latin America,” EClinicalMedicine, April 2021.

Miriam Sklerov, MD, co-authored, “Best Practices in the Clinical Management of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Corticobasal Syndrome: A Consensus Statement of the CurePSP Centers of Care,” Frontiers in Neurology, July 2021.

Winnie Lau, MD, and Clio Rubinos, MD, MS, co-authored, “Utility of a safety switch to abrogate CD19.CAR T-cell-associated neurotoxicity,” Blood, June 2021.


James F. Howard, Jr., MD, presented:

Invited Lectures

  • Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Department of Neurology Grand Rounds, A Rationale for the Use of Targeted Therapies in Myasthenia Gravis (by webcast), May 14, 2021.
  • Virtual Neuroscience Update Series, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Myasthenia Gravis: From Diagnosis to Management – What’s New, Management of Myasthenia Gravis in the 21st Century, (by webcast), June 30, 2021.

Presentations at Meetings

  • “Comparative effectiveness and safety of efgartigimod in generalized myasthenia gravis” – Poster presented at the Virtual ISPOR 2021 Meeting, May 17-21, 2021. (Co-author)
  • “Analysis of Efgartigimod Efficacy Across Patient Populations and Myasthenia Gravis Specific Scales” – Read at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Neurology, Kyoto, Japan, May 19-22, 2021. (Co-author)
  • ePosters presented at the 16th International Congress on Neuromuscular Diseases, virtual worldwide, May 21-22 & 28-29, 2021.
    • Efgartigimod in AChR-Ab-Seronegative Generalized Myasthenia Gravis Patients: Subgroup Analysis of the Phase 3 ADAPT Study” (Co-author)
    • “PROMISE-MG: A Prospective Multicenter Observational Comparative Effectiveness Study of MG Treatments” (Co-authored with Manisha Chopra, MBBS, and other researchers)
    • “Real-world Eculizumab Use in Generalized Myasthenia Gravis in the US: A pilot retrospective chart review study” (Co-author)

James Howard, MDInterviews

  • “The expanding treatment landscape for myasthenia gravis,” VJ Neurology, April 2021.
  • “Efgartigimod as a treatment for generalized myasthenia gravis,” NeurologyLive, June 2021.

Monica Diaz, MD, MS, presented a poster,Thyroid Dysfunction, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid Deficiencies Are Not Associated with Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults in Lima, Peru,” at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2021 Latinos & Alzheimer’s Symposium; May 20-21, 2021 (virtual).

Alumnus Steven Palmer, MD, presented “A Case of HNRNPA1 Gene Mutation with Multisystem Proteinopathy Presenting as Inclusion Body Myopathy,” at the 16th International Congress of Neuromuscular Diseases, May 28- June 1, 2021, under the mentorship of Anahit Mehrabyan, MD.

Winnie Lau, MD, recently gave SEAHEC grand rounds at New Hanover on “Communicating Prognostic Uncertainty in Acute Brain Injury.”

In May, Robert Smith III, PhD, delivered three classes entitled, “History of Unethical Research: How to Address Stigma & Distrust” as part of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Research (DEIR) Certificate Program offered through the Odum Institute.

Nicole Burnett, MSN, RN, CNRN, SCRN, CCRN-K, and Karen Vallecillo-Pereira, MHA, presented, “Numbers, Calculations and Graphs, Oh My!:  Getting a Grip on Stroke Data Analytics,” at the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses National Meeting in April.

Jessica Shurer, MSW, LCSW:Parkinson's Podcast: Substantial Matters

  • Was interviewed for Parkinson’s Foundation’s Substantial Matters Podcast, on the topic of “Hospice care and the myths surrounding it,” released on May 18.
  • Served as keynote speaker for the Parkinson’s Foundation’s Virtual Center Coordinators Day on May 25, where she presented “Ageism & ableism: Recognizing and addressing stigma in the care of Parkinson’s.”
  • Presented “Micro, mezzo and macro social work in palliative Parkinson’s care” for the National Association of Social Workers Florida Chapter’s 2021 Virtual Conference, June 18.


Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease SymposiumThe Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Collaborative hosted an online Alzheimer’s disease symposium on Thursday, May 27. Over 800 scientists from across the United States and overseas convened virtually to examine how microbes and inflammation influence Alzheimer’s disease.

The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center held the inaugural Dr. Daniel I. Kaufer Lecture on May 18 featuring Bradley Boeve, MD, of Mayo Clinic. Prior to his passing in 2020, Dr. Kaufer donated a gift to the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s to establish an endowed lecture series to continue his commitment to dementia care.