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New neurology chair slated to start at USF

USF Health and the College of Medicine are working to increase their profiles on the national level with the appointment of a new head in the Department of Neurology. Chosen after an extensive search, Dr. Clifton Gooch will begin his career with the University on May 15 as the neurology chairperson.

It was Gooch’s ambition in the field of neurology that made him a viable candidate for the job, USF Health administrators said.

“It was one of our highest priorities to search for a real leader,” said Michael Hoad, vice president of communications for USF Health.

Gooch brings over 15 years of leadership and clinical experience to USF and leaves behind a relationship with Columbia University where he has served as a professor of clinical neurology, founder and director of the Columbia Neuropathy Research Center, as well as the director of the Electromyography Laboratory at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

For Gooch, choosing to make the change to USF stems in part from the push by USF President Judy Genshaft and College of Medicine Dean Stephen Klasko to elevate USF to a nationally prominent research institution.

“I was looking for a place where there was a spirit of innovation and a great interest in creating this environment for successful translational research,” Gooch said. “I looked long and hard and I think I found that at USF.”

Klasko has set the tone, Gooch said, making innovation and development a priority.

“He is really grabbing the bull by the horn, no pun intended,” Gooch said.

The focus on expanding the study of neurology comes at a pivotal point in health care, with a large number of aging citizens facing the threat of developing some type of brain disease or neurological disorder. Even more, there have been tremendous amounts of neurological breakthroughs that stand to change the way humans deal with such a diagnosis, Gooch said.

“To me, this is a very exciting time to be in neurology because we are discovering treatments for diseases that throughout human history have been untreatable,” Gooch said. “Over the last 15 years, scientific discoveries have been making their way into the clinical realm and translating into treatments for neurological disease. I think that is going to continue.”

For much of medical history, health problems such as epilepsy and stroke have remained on the diagnostic side of medicine, but, thanks to advancements, they are far more treatable than ever before, Gooch said. There are also promising new compounds being researched for treatments of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, he said.

Even with the list of breakthroughs on the forefront of neurology, however, the study of the brain remains elusive.

“The brain is the last great organ system that we don’t understand,” Hoad said. “Neurology is the core discipline for understanding the brain. It is the bridge between psychiatry and neurosurgery. It’s not that we cured heart disease, but we have a better understanding of it. We still don’t have a great understanding of what’s going on in the brain.”

The expansion of clinical and research activities for the department of neurology comes at a convenient time. Two ambulatory care centers recently added to USF Health – one next to Tampa General Hospital and another set to be on campus – will be used by the department, Hoad said.

“We will be able to provide research and treatment for very significant diseases,” Hoad said. “We want to offer services to people with serious brain diseases, and focus that in those centers.”