Research Spotlight

Seeing the Big Picture

Vital Signs » Summer 2012
Photo of Neuroscience Institute

The pieces are falling into place at the WSU & PHP Neuroscience Institute, where codirectors Timothy Cope and Kenneth Gaines are finding ways to integrate biomedical research at Wright State with the clinical resources of Premier Health Partners.

The last two years have been busy and exciting for Timothy Cope, Ph.D.

Back in 2010, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and Premier Health Partners established the Neuroscience Institute, a unique collaboration uniting the region’s most advanced biomedical research institution with the clinical resources of its largest hospital system. Under Cope’s leadership, researchers, administrators, and clinicians have been laying the groundwork for a successful partnership.

One achievement of these “building years” stands head and shoulders above the rest, Cope says: the recent appointment of Kenneth J. Gaines, M.D., M.B.A., as codirector of the institute and chair of Wright State’s new Department of Neurology. Gaines, who officially joined the institute on May 1, also serves as professor of neurology at the Boonshoft School of Medicine and as director of special projects: clinical neuroscience development at Premier Health Partners.

“Ken has the clinical, research, and administrative experience to put all the pieces together at the Neuroscience Institute,” says Cope, now codirector of the institute. Cope is also the Brage Golding Distinguished Professor of Research at Wright State and chair and professor, Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Physiology. “He and I share a vision for what the institute can achieve in terms of enhancing quality care and access in neurology, an area of critical need in our region.”

A commitment to collaboration

Gaines comes to Wright State from the Ochsner Clinic and Foundation in New Orleans, where he served as chair of the Department of Neurology. During his four-year tenure at Ochsner, he rebuilt a neurology program that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Gaines also served as clinical professor of neurology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Previously, he was professor of clinical neurology and chair of neurology at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia, S.C.

A subspecialist in vascular neurology, Gaines’ clinical research interests are in improved health care delivery for stroke, and his basic research focus is brain hemorrhage. He has published numerous articles on his research in national and international journals.

As codirector of the Neuroscience Institute, Gaines will work with Cope and many others to establish a program that engages in cutting-edge, grant-funded research and clinical trials, enhances the quality of care and access for patients with neurological conditions, and earns a reputation as a center of excellence in neuroscience. It sounds like a daunting task, but Gaines is enthusiastic.

“I was drawn to this job in part because so many pieces are in place,” he says. “Scientists at Wright State are already engaged in a lot of good neuroscience research. The medical school, while it doesn’t have a neurology training program yet, is strong. Premier is a great health system with some excellent neurology programs, particularly in the area of stroke. Our challenge is to strengthen what we already have and help people in different disciplines work together more effectively.”

The idea of creating a Neuroscience Institute came from Premier Health Partners when its leadership began to recognize a need for more comprehensive neurological care in the Dayton area. Hiring top caliber subspecialists proved to be difficult. “Physicians want to work in a dynamic environment where they can offer patients innovative treatments, participate in clinical research, work with basic researchers to bring scientific breakthroughs to the bedside quickly, and be part of medical school education,” says Diane Plieman, vice president of operations at Miami Valley Hospital. “That’s the kind of environment we are building at the institute.”

Fostering translational research

A key ingredient of the Neuroscience Institute’s success will be translational research—some of which is already happening at Wright State. There, basic scientists and clinical researchers are working together to better understand certain neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury, movement disorders, and critical illness.

“At the Neuroscience Institute, we are creating many opportunities for basic researchers and clinical people to work side by side, to talk about how their work can fit together and find ways to impact clinical care,” Cope said.

To help foster this collaboration, the Neuroscience Institute and the WSU College of Engineering and Computer Science are making plans for a $37-million facility to be built on the Wright State campus. The 90,000-square-foot Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building will house both the Neuroscience Institute and researchers and engineers from the engineering college. The state of Ohio has given preliminary approval for a $12 million state grant to help pay for construction costs.

“With space for basic scientists, clinicians, statisticians, administrators, labs, and cutting-edge technology, the building will be a one-stop shop for neuroscience research,” Cope says.

Bricks and mortar projects like this one are important, but it’s people who will ensure that the Neuroscience Institute fulfills its potential. To that end, Gaines is in the process of hiring a number of physicians who specialize in areas such as stroke, movement disorders, and critical illness. A number of them will have offices in the new building so that they can interact with basic scientists and devote some of their time to clinical research.

Gaines is also focused on creating a neurology residency program in the next four years and expanding opportunities for faculty to teach medical students about this specialty area of medicine. He is confident that, over time, the Neuroscience Institute will earn a national reputation for excellence.

“So many people at the medical school and at Premier are committed to making this work, and I’m excited about what lies ahead,” Gaines says. “The pieces are starting to fall in place for us to build something new and better that really makes a difference for people here in the Dayton area and beyond.”

—Leigh Wilkins

Last edited on 04/18/2016.