Christopher Reeve's Physician Visits OHSU

10/14/99    Portland, Ore.

Neurologist Wise Young Receives Dow Award from Neurological Sciences Institute at OHSU and Offers Hope to Neurologically Impaired Oregonians.

In May of 1995, actor Christopher Reeve's life changed forever. During an equestrian event Reeve was thrown by his horse, shattering two of his vertebrae. The man who once played Superman was told he would most likely spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Over the last four years, neurologist Wise Young, Ph.D., M.D., has consulted with Reeve on his treatment. The actor has also joined Young in his efforts to lobby for more research funding and spread a message of hope to head and spinal cord injury patients. Next week, Young brings his message to the campus of Oregon Health Sciences University.

Young, director of the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers University, is this year's recipient of the Robert S. Dow Neuroscience Award from the Neurological Sciences Institute at OHSU. During his stay in Portland, Young will meet THINK FIRST program representatives who have incurred head and spinal cord injuries. He will address Reed College students on neuroscience research and visit an area high school. He'll also spread his optimistic message during a public lecture at OMSI. It's the same message he has delivered to thousands of neurologically impaired individuals and their families at lectures across the country: Effective new treatments or even a cure may be only a few years away.

In his home state of New Jersey, Young holds similar public meetings on a monthly basis. "Depending on the audience, the discussions range from cure to care, to the politics of funding and specific scientific studies that have recently been reported," said Young. "People with disabilities must learn enough about their conditions and research to distinguish between hope and hype to make rational choices regarding their lives."

Young's interest in the nervous system has lasted more than 25 years. In fact, his higher education studies began right here in the Rose City. While attending Reed College in Portland, he completed a summer fellowship at NSI, an experience that helped develop his interest in neurological research. After leaving Portland, Young went on to serve his neurosurgery residency at New York University. In 1984, he was appointed director of neurosurgery at NYU and Bellevue Medical Center. He left New York for his current position at Rutgers University where he continues his research.

At NSI and on the campus of OHSU, scientists also are unraveling some of the secrets of the nervous system. Paul Cordo, Ph.D., scientist and NSI chairman, developed a device that re-trains the brain to better control limb movements affected by stroke. Bruce Gold, Ph.D., a scientist at the Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at OHSU, is studying the body's ability to regenerate nerve fibers following mechanical or chemical injury. Recently, his work has centered on the drug FK506 and related compounds. Testing has shown these compounds are orally effective in speeding up nerve regeneration and functional recovery from nerve injuries.

In another OHSU lab, Melvin Ball, M.D., professor of neuropathology, is studying the continuous production of neurons in the human brain. Until recently, scientists thought these information processing cells stopped growing shortly after birth. However, Ball's research has shown that even elderly people can grow and produce new neurons.

OHSU neurosurgeons are treating post-traumatic movement disorders with new technologies such as deep brain stimulation. Implanted electrodes stimulate areas of the brain to end or limit tremors. Neurosurgeons are also developing instrumentation and procedures for minimally invasive spinal surgery.

While Young is encouraged by the new technologies and treatments for head and spinal cord injuries, he stresses the importance of giving patients hope. "While hope may be painful, no hope is devastating," Young said.

Editors: Wise Young will be available for comments during his visit to OHSU. Please contact Jim Newman in University News and Publications at (503) 494-8231 to arrange interviews.

Public Appearances

  • Oct. 19, 10 a.m. - Wise Young meets representatives from OHSU's THINK FIRST program who have incurred head and spinal cord injuries. The meeting will take place in the lobby of Doernbecher Children's Hospital. THINK FIRST is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to educate young people about the prevention of brain, spinal cord and other traumatic injuries.
  • Oct. 19, 2:30 p.m. - Wise Young addresses students at Beaverton High School
  • Oct. 19, 7:00 p.m. - Public lecture on neuroscience breakthroughs, research funding and patient advocacy at OMSI