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First Huntington Disease Center Established in Washington, D.C., Area

Dr. Ira Shoulson

Dr. Ira Shoulson, a professor in the neurology department, will serve as interim director of the new Huntington's Disease Center. Shoulson is founder of the Huntington Study Group, an international academic consortium of clinical researchers.

July 24, 2012 Georgetown University Medical Center in collaboration with MedStar Georgetown University Hospital today announced the launch of the Huntington Disease Care, Education and Research Center.

With support from the Griffin Foundation, the Huntington Disease Center is the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary center to focus on treatment, patient education and research of the disease in the Washington, D.C., area.

Huntington disease (HD) is a hereditary, progressively degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure, and there is only one approved treatment for symptoms.

Comprehensive Approach

The disease causes involuntary body movements, cognitive decline and a host of behavioral disturbances that slowly diminish the ability to walk, talk and reason.

Treatment of a person with the disease involves a skilled clinical team to make an accurate diagnosis and provide comprehensive care.

“Caring for those with Huntington disease and their families takes a comprehensive and tailored approach,” explains Dr. Richard Goldberg, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital President. “[We] are assembling a team of specialized neurologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other specialists as a part of the new Huntington Disease Center. Up until now, people with HD have been underserved in [D.C.] area. This center changes that.”

A Joint Endeavor

GUMC’s Dr. Ira Shoulson will initially lead the joint endeavor as interim director of the new center. Shoulson, a professor in the neurology department, is a leading researcher in Huntington disease and founder of the Huntington Study Group, an international academic consortium of clinical researchers.

There will be two clinical co-directors of the center representing the critical collaboration of neurology and psychiatry in caring for patients and their families – Dr. Fahd Amjad, an assistant professor in the neurology department and a member of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Movement Disorders Program; and Dr. Thomas Cummings, an assistant professor in the psychiatry department.

“Huntington disease is devastating for entire families emotionally, socially and economically,” says Dr. Howard Federoff, GUMC executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of Georgetown’s School of Medicine. “Delivering comprehensive care, or cura personalis – care of the whole person, is central to the mission of the new center. It will also give considerable focus on research to discover new approaches to both treat the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.”

MedStar GUH and GUMC marked the launch of the Huntington Disease Center with an inaugural symposium July 17 at Georgetown that assembled some of the nation’s leading experts in care, education and research of Huntington disease.

In addition to the MedStar GUH location, the Huntington Care, Education and Research Center plans to establish two community-based clinics in Virginia and Maryland to improve access and reduce travel time and inconvenience faced by those with Huntington disease.