New Texas Brain and Spine Institute unveiled

May 23, 2006

A collaborative effort between doctors, clinicians, scientists and institutions – all focused on the research and care of neurological disorders – was unveiled May 23 as the Texas Brain and Spine Institute.

The Texas Brain and Spine Institute (TBSI) is a multidisciplinary collaboration between St. Joseph Regional Health Center, a group of more than 20 neuroscience specialists, and the neuroscience research programs at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. It is designed to be a center of excellence in neuroscience, providing a network of clinical and academic resources that will offer state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services for neurological disorders while also furthering neuroscience research.

“The medical resources and capabilities in our community have been growing in recent years, making this Institute possible,” said Jack Buckley, president and CEO of St. Joseph Health System. “We have tremendous talent among the clinicians involved in neurosciences – and the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine is a great resource for study and research. Match that with the investment in training and technology St. Joseph has made to support excellence in neurological care and you have an ideal collaboration.”

Currently, there are 21 neuroscience specialists in Bryan-College Station collaborating through the Texas Brain and Spine Institute, representing neurology, neuroradiology, neuropsychology, neurosurgery, pain management, geriatric neuropsychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiation oncology, neuromonitoring and the basic neurosciences. The specialists will provide a multidisciplinary approach to the care of neurological illnesses, with particular focus on stroke, brain tumor, spine, neurosurgery and rehabilitation medicine.

It is estimated one in five Americans suffer from a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or chronic pain. As the population ages and lives longer, the incidence of neurological disease is expected to rise, with older adults facing the loss of independence, productivity and quality of life.

The Texas Brain and Spine Institute will be developed as a premiere resource for patients in the region, as well as a medical destination for patients throughout the state, seeking the latest treatments in neurology, neurosurgery and rehabilitation medicine.

“The collaboration creates an even closer working relationship among clinicians in the treatment of neurological disorders, and this will improve patient care,” said Dr. Jonathan Friedman, neurosurgeon and TBSI director. “While research and technology are key parts of a true center of excellence, taking good care of the patient must always remain the most important mission.”

The first year for the Texas Brain and Spine Institute will see many new developments and programs, including disease-specific models of care and new technology such as stereotactic radiosurgery.

“One of our first goals is to break ground on our main building for TBSI,” Dr. Friedman said. “Conceptual plans are being developed, and a location is expected to be finalized soon, with a goal of completing the building by 2007.”

TBSI’s research efforts will focus on developing and funding research programs in clinical and laboratory neuroscience. The affiliation with the HSC-COM creates a two-way street for the development of research ideas and studies.

For the physician, problems dealt with every day in the clinic in the care of patients can be brought to the laboratory to be studied and, hopefully, solved. For the scientist, the collaboration with clinicians provides access to patients to allow the translation of their basic research into a treatment for an illness that might save or improve lives.

“Community and academic partnerships bring together the best of both worlds – high quality clinical care within the framework of inquiry and discovery,” said Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Medicine. “Collaborations such as the TBSI will benefit patients and their families.”

Dr. Colenda is a geriatric psychiatrist whose background includes more than 20 years of research experience and clinical management of patients with late-life neuropsychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

“We have been actively developing research efforts and received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to begin our first human study,” Dr. Friedman said. “Over time, translational research studies will be greatly enhanced by the collaboration between scientists and clinicians.”

St. Joseph Regional Health Center has invested more than $5 million in construction and new technology in the past three years to support the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders. Buckley announced the hospital is working with TBSI and the SJRHC radiation oncology staff to bring radiosurgery into the community by early next year.

Radiosurgery is a minimally-invasive technique using focused radiation to treat tumors and other abnormalities in the brain and spine. This new technology is based on high-resolution imaging and pinpoint accuracy of radiation delivery. Patients can be treated in a single session, with no incision.

“Many brain tumors that could not otherwise be treated safely can now be treated with radiosurgery,” said Dr. Rudy Briner, neurosurgeon. “The radiosurgery program which we are bringing to the community exemplifies the value and the potential of the Texas Brain and Spine Institute.”

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