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Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD
Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD

Message from the Chair – Gwenn Garden, MD, PhD

The UNC Department of Neurology is an exciting and fulfilling place to work. Our clinical care mission requires a very large workforce with a wide variety of training and expertise. The dedicated teams that deliver service and care to our patients are the backbone of our ability to deliver on this mission. Without the outstanding contributions provided by schedulers, administrative assistants, referral coordinators, phlebotomists, medical assistants, technicians, case managers, program coordinators, social workers, nurses, advanced practice providers and physicians our patients cannot receive the care they need and deserve. Each type of work plays an integral position on the larger Neurology team and without a strong performance at each position, we cannot do well in our battle against neurological disease. Currently, there are many openings on this team waiting for an enthusiastic new member. If you have contacts with anyone who might join us, please encourage them to do so.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed incredible strain on the health care workforce. Each day we strive to maintain service and quality of care in spite of a continually shrinking workforce. We all work harder when our team is not fully staffed. In the face of increased workload and a sense that it is becoming difficult to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it is important to be mindful of our mental health wellness. One piece of fortunate news on that front is that Dr. Jorge Almodóvar-Suárez, MD, has agreed to take on the role of “wellness liaison.”  Dr. Almodóvar will serve as the contact point for access to the School of Medicine and UNC Health System resources to assist providers in their pursuit of mental health wellness.

In spite of these struggles, many exciting things are developing at UNC Neurology. First, we are expanding. We will be occupying larger ambulatory clinic spaces in Chapel Hill for both adult and child neurology this fall. Our newer programs in Wake County for adult (Panther Creek) and child (Blue Ridge) neurology are growing rapidly. Second, our trainees continue to achieve accolades for their teaching of medical students and ensuring patient safety through the SAFE report system. Third, our faculty continue to make critical contributions to advance our understanding of clinically relevant neuroscience and evidenced-based neurology practice (please see the research update below).

Lastly, perhaps because of these exciting advances, or perhaps simply because the UNC Department of Neurology is such a great place to work, three faculty members transitioning into retirement have all decided to continue providing patient care in a more limited capacity. This includes Dr. Robert Greenwood and Dr. William Powers who completed phased retirement, and Dr. Brad Vaughn who entered the early retirement program. While it is difficult to accept that these long-standing faculty leaders have moved on to the next phase, we are so fortunate that they will continue to share their time with our team.

Welcome New Faculty and APP’s!


Dena Little, MD Dena Little, DO, returned to the Stroke and Vascular Neurology Division as an assistant professor in July after completing a fellowship with us last year. She received her medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine followed by an internship with the Christiana Care Health System in Delaware, and a residency in neurology at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey. Dr. Little is Board-certified in neurology and vascular neurology.
Loulwah Mukharesh, MD Loulwah Mukharesh, MD, joined the department in late July as an assistant professor. Her subspecialties are MS and neuroimmunology, general neurology, and neuro-ophthalmology. Dr. Mukharesh received her medical degree from King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Saudi Arabia. She went on to complete her neurology residency at George Washington University and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Dr. Mukharesh recently finished fellowships at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in neuro-opthalmology and at Johns Hopkins University in neuroimmunology. She is Board-certified in neurology.
Brandon Waters, MD Brandon Waters, MD, joined the Epilepsy team as an assistant professor in June. Before completing his Doctor of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Dr. Waters received a Master of Arts in General Psychology-Experimental Track from Western Carolina University and a Master of Science in Pharmacology from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He completed an internship in internal medicine and residency in neurology and rehabilitation medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, followed by fellowships in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology from Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Waters is Board-certified in Neurology.

Advanced Practice Providers

Molly Wangler Molly Wangler, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, joined the Sleep Division in June. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Science from Loyola University. She has several years of experience in sleep medicine and is Board-certified as a family nurse practitioner and as a registered nurse.

Lashonda Meadows, LCSW, works with the MS and Neuroimmunology Division at the Bodford Family Transverse Myelitis Center. She holds an Associate degree from Durham Technical Community College, a Bachelor of Social Work degree from North Carolina State University and a Master of Social Work from North Carolina Central University. She is Board-certified as a social worker.

Honors, Awards, Recognition

US News & World Report recognized the UNC Comprehensive Stroke Center and the UNC Rex Stroke Program as “High Performing.” Of the over 6,000 hospitals evaluated, only 755 hospitals nation-wide received this ranking.

2021 Center of Excellence SealThrough the efforts of Rebecca Traub, MD, the GBS|CIDP Foundation International designated the Neuromuscular Division as a Center of Excellence for the diagnosis and treatment of Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and other inflammatory peripheral neuropathies.

The Patient Center Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) selected Monica Maria Diaz, MD, MS, as Subject Matter Expert on Multiple Sclerosis.

In addition, the NIH National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities selected Dr. Diaz to be a 2021 Health Disparities Research Institute Scholar for their virtual course held August 9-13. The goal of the HDRI is to provide participants with a broad overview of the leading issues facing minority health and health disparities research and stimulate discussion of proposed research projects.

PGY-2 Adult Neurology resident, Laura de Lima Xavier, MD, received a Kaiser Permanente Excellence in Teaching Awarat the 2021 UNC School of Medicine’s Whitehead Lecture and Awards ceremony on August 4. Read more >

PGY-4 Adult Neurology residents, Fazila Aseem, MD, and Carolyn Tsai, MD, were elected into leadership positions at UNC Health’s House Staff Council as Co-President and Secretary.

The UNC Epilepsy Neurogenetics Initiative now has a website through the efforts of co-founders Yael Shiloh-Malawsky, MD, and Senyene Hunter, MD, PhD.  The essence of the initiative is to form multidisciplinary collaborations and research partnerships to best diagnose, treat and support patients with genetic epilepsy.

Angela Glover achieved 35 years of service with UNC in July including 21 years with UNC Neurology.

Our residents won third place in the July AAN Neurology Trainee Trivia contest. The team, called PGWhy, answered seven out of eight questions.

Research and Publications

MicroscopeGwenn Garden, MD, PhD, and Matthew Sadgrove, PhD, along with other researchers co-authored, “A subpopulation of microglia generated in the adult mouse brain originate from prominin-1 expressing progenitors,” Journal of Neuroscience, August 2021.

James Howard, Jr., MD, Anahit Mehrabyan, MD, and PGY-4 resident Carolyn Tsai, MD, co-authored, “A Case of MuSK Myasthenia Gravis Presenting With Persistent Respiratory Insufficiency,” Clinical Neuromuscular Disease, September 2021.

Winnie Lau, MD, and graduated fellow, Adam Waddell, MD, co-authored  “Frequency of withdrawal of life-saving therapy for perceived poor neurologic prognosis,” Critical Care Explorations, July 2021.

Handbook of Clinical NeurologyMiriam Sklerov, MD, and Eran Dayan, PhD, co-authored a new chapter on the role of the hypothalamus in autonomic disorders in Parkinson’s disease. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Volume 182, 2021, Pages 211-222.

Clio Rubinos, MD, co-authored “Predicting early recovery of consciousness after cardiac arrest supported by quantitative electroencephalography,” Resuscitation, August 2021.

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH, co-authored “Introducing the Child Neurology Society Leadership, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force,” Annals of Neurology Editorial, July 2021.

Monica Diaz, MD, MS, co-authored, “Paresthesia Predicts Increased Risk of Distal Neuropathic Pain in Older People with HIV-Associated Sensory Polyneuropathy,” Pain Medicine, August 2021.

Dr. Diaz also co-authored, “Performance of the Rowland Universal Dementia Assessment Scale for the Detection of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in a Diverse Cohort of Illiterate Persons from Rural Communities in Peru.” Frontiers in Neurology, July 2021.

Douglas Mann, MD, co-authored “Dietary alteration of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids for headache reduction in adults with migraine: randomized controlled trial,” The BMJ, July 2021.


American Epilepsy Society logoClio Rubinos, MD, is a collaborator for an American Epilepsy Society (AES) grant, “Post-Acute Symptomatic Seizure Investigation and Outcome Network (PASSION).” Four institutions (UNC, Cleveland Clinic, Yale, Rhode Island Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital) are joining their efforts with the intent to establish better clinical care for patients who have suffered acute symptomatic seizures (ASyS). The multicenter consortium will offer systematic, prospective determination of epilepsy development, and functional and cognitive outcomes in ASyS patients seen in PASS clinics. View flyer >

Autism Intervention NetworkDiana Cejas, MD, MPH, received funding from the Autism Intervention Network on Physical Health’s (AIR-P) Scholars & Pilot and Feasibility Funding Program to support her project “Patient, Parent, and Provider Partnerships in Healthcare Transition: A New Program for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”


BrainWinnie Lau, MD, moderated a webinar, “Physician Engagement: Building Successful Relationships” for The Alliance on June 15. In addition, Dr. Lau was interviewed on a Fundamental Roots and Friends livestream on the topic of physician fufillment.

Clio Rubinos, MD, and Suzette LaRoche, MD, FACNS, FAAN, both presented talks at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Society of Electrodiagnostic Technologists (NCSET) on August 7.

Jessica Shurer, MSW, LCSW, presented “Micro, Mezzo and Macro Social Work in Palliative Parkinson’s Care” for the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network’s national virtual summit on August 20.

In addition, Jessica had three abstracts selected for the International Movement Disorder Virtual Congress 2021, including a “Top Abstract” titled “Towards a better understanding of social work practice in Parkinson’s care,” which will be presented during the session on palliative care for Parkinson’s disease.

Robert Smith III, PhD, presented a talk titled “The History of Un-ethical Research” to the Department of Radiation Oncology on August 17. In addition, Dr. Smith presented a workshop on Culturally Competent Leadership for members of the Academy of Educators on July 7.

Matthew Johnson, BSN, RN, SCRN, Comprehensive Stroke Program Coordinator, presented a poster titled “Carotid Web: Spinning Our Way Through Recovery” at the 2021 American Association of Neuroscience Nurse’s Annual Stroke Meeting.


Early Check screening helps to screen babies for rare health conditions.Jane Fan, MD, and Yael Shiloh-Malawsky, MD, were featured in a UNC Health story about the first baby at UNC to receive a breakthrough gene therapy treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), after his condition was discovered through the Early Check newborn screening pilot study.

Rebecca Traub, MD, discussed small fiber neuropathy in this UNC Healthtalk story.

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH, wrote an opinion piece, “I Have a Disability Too, I Told My Patient,” for MedPage Today. She was also quoted in an article published in the Huffington Post: “Disabled Doctors Were Called Too ‘Weak’ To Be in Medicine. It’s Hurting the Entire System.”

WRAL featured a story about Binta Diallo, RN, BSN, CNIII, CCRN, after she recently saved a baby’s life at a supermarket.

Vital Signs (August 26) featured Gary Jay, MD, in its Carolina Care Highlight.

Neurology Today featured Robin Beducian (formerly Robin Davis), MD, in an article “‘My Name is Robin,’ Your Neurologist Is Now Your Nurse’s Aide.” Dr. Beducian is a former resident and epileptologist at Ochsner Health in New Orleans.

The Neurology Wellness Report

by Jorge L. Almodóvar-Suárez, MD

Jorge L. Almodóvar-Suárez, MD
Jorge L. Almodóvar-Suárez, MD

Working at UNC has some perks. Businesses, local and national, recognize the importance of the services we provide to our communities, and offer our employees with discount programs and VIP treatments not usually available. As for myself, over the past year I have been able to get a 10% discount for my child’s daycare tuition, and some extra discounts when leasing a car. Depending on your official employer (UNC School of Medicine versus UNC Health) these perks may vary.

SOM employees, can visit the HR Discount and Perks web page. UNC Health employees should visit the benefits portion of your “myHR” portal for more information.

If you are supporting a local business that is not on the list, ask if there are any perks or discounts for UNC and UNC Health employees. It couldn’t hurt to just throw it out there and see what happens. Have fun exploring discounts!


Shine a Light NF Walk

UNC Neurology will participate in the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s Shine a Light Neurofibromatosis Walk on Saturday, October 2 in Charlotte. Robert Greenwood, MD, will be speaking at the event and hosting an “Ask the Expert” table. Learn more, register or donate at

Power of PurpleAlso, please join us at the Epilepsy Foundation’s Power of Purple State Awareness Day on Saturday, October 9. Location: Briar Creek Park, 10810 Globe Rd, Raleigh, NC 27617. Learn more, register or donate at