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The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders Grows to Meet Global Demand for Parkinson’s Care and Research

  • The Edmond J. Fellowship in Movement Disorders has reached a milestone of more than 20 new Parkinson’s specialists graduated around the world to date
  • Generous funding support from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation is extending the Fellowship’s global footprint to increase the number of Parkinson’s clinician-researchers, with the program on track to graduate 48 movement disorder specialists by 2025
  • With an estimated 6 million people worldwide living with Parkinson’s, and the number of people living with Parkinson’s expected to double by 2040, the need for more movement disorder specialists to help patients and families navigate Parkinson’s care and lead research is vital

NEW YORK (August 12, 2021) — As part of its mission to improve care for people and families living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) today and speed research toward better treatments and a cure tomorrow, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) — with support from longtime partner the Edmond J. Safra Foundation — is building a global network of Parkinson’s clinician-researchers. Since launch in 2014, The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders annually awards funding to distinguished medical centers around the world to usher in new a generation of talented movement disorder specialists — neurologists with additional training in Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. With generous support from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, the Fellowship has reached a milestone, graduating more than 20 new Parkinson’s specialists around the world to date. The program is on track to graduate 48 new movement disorder specialists around the world by 2025.

“Thanks to the generosity of our partner the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship is changing the future of care and research for people and families living with Parkinson’s,” says Debi Brooks, MJFF CEO and Co-Founder. “The Edmond J. Safra Fellows and their mentors are committed to the Parkinson’s community. They are dedicating their lives and careers to deliver high-quality care and lead impactful research.”

Mrs. Lily Safra, chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation has said: “This growing global network of expertly trained movement disorder specialists will help ensure that people and families living with Parkinson’s receive comprehensive and compassionate care and that critical research moves forward to meet their most pressing needs. I’m deeply proud of The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship’s significant impact on Parkinson’s care and research.”

Class of 2021 Maintains Patient Care and Research Momentum during COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2021 fellowship graduates and their mentors evolved and adapted to continue their training, learning knowledge and skills to care for the PD community. During this time, fellows provided care for patients through telemedicine, conducted or expanded online research studies, and connected virtually with colleagues, including others in the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship network.

About this distinguished global network, Whitley Aamodt, MD, MPH, Class of 2021 graduate at the University of Pennsylvania, says: “One of the greatest assets of The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship Network is its people. I have met and collaborated with faculty and colleagues around the world. I have made friends and been exposed to educational and research initiatives that have enriched my training in many ways. These experiences promote a spirit of lifelong learning and collaboration that will serve as an important foundation for a career in academic movement disorders.”

The Class of 2021 is the Fellowship’s fourth graduating class. Graduates now total 21 new Parkinson’s clinician-researchers around the world. The most recent graduates now take their next steps in careers caring for people with Parkinson’s and leading research studies around the world:  

Whitley Aamodt, MD, MPH 

Fellowship Site: University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Whitley has taken a position as instructor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also will complete a Master of Science in clinical epidemiology.  

Amir Badiei, MD, MS  

Fellowship Site: University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); San Francisco, California 

Amir will become the first movement disorder specialist at St. James Healthcare in Butte, Montana.

Christopher Caughman, MD 

Fellowship Site: Emory University; Atlanta, Georgia 

Christopher will stay at Emory University as an assistant professor of neurology in the movement disorders division of the department of neurology.

Judith van Gaalen, MD 

Fellowship Site: Radboud University Medical Centre; Nijmegen, the Netherlands 

Judith will continue practicing movement disorders at Radboud University Medical Centre.

Neil Shetty, MD 

Fellowship Site: Northwestern University; Chicago, Illinois 

Neil will join the faculty at Northwestern University as a movement disorders specialist with a focus on advanced therapeutics for Parkinson’s, such as deep brain stimulation.

Global Network Reaches the Worldwide Parkinson’s Community

Movement disorder specialists — expertly trained neurologists who can evaluate and treat Parkinson’s and other movement disorders — are cornerstones of Parkinson’s patient care. When also trained as researchers, movement disorder specialists can use their scientific knowledge to better understand what causes PD, why and how it progresses, and how to improve treatment.

Unfortunately, people with Parkinson’s and their families often have challenges around seeing a specialist, such as few practicing within a reasonable distance or long wait times for an appointment. Today, there is a growing gap between the number of expertly trained specialists and the more than 6 million people living with Parkinson’s around the world, a number that is expected to double by the year 2040.   

Seven years since it launched, The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship has extended funding to 23 world-renowned academic institutions in seven countries and 12 of the United States. During the most recent round of funding, an external review committee of movement disorder specialists, assembled by MJFF, selected eight centers from a highly competitive group of applicants to train the Class of 2024. The awardees are: Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland; Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands; Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois; Toronto Western Hospital in Ontario, Canada; University College London in London, England; and The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each center now will recruit a fellow to begin their two-year training next year.

MJFF now is accepting applications from academic centers worldwide to train the Class of 2025 fellows. A review committee will evaluate applicants on their history training successful movement disorder clinician-researchers; the breadth and depth of clinical care and research education and opportunities; departmental support for the fellow; and training programs and opportunities that equip fellows with the skills and knowledge to advance equitable access and diversity across clinical care services, research, education and community outreach. The deadline to apply is December 9, 2021. Learn more and apply.


About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $1 billion in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. For more information, visit us on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

About the Edmond J. Safra Foundation

Edmond J. Safra, one of the 20th century’s most accomplished bankers and a devoted philanthropist, established a major philanthropic foundation to ensure that individuals and organizations would continue to receive his assistance and encouragement for many years to come. Under the chairmanship of his beloved wife Lily, the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation draws continuing inspiration from its founder’s life and values, and supports hundreds of organizations in more than 40 countries around the world. Its work encompasses four areas: Education; Science and Medicine; Religion; and Humanitarian Assistance, Culture and Social Welfare. The Foundation has provided significant funding for Parkinson’s disease research and patient care at dozens of hospitals and institutes in places as varied as Natal (Brazil), Toronto, New York, Grenoble, Paris, London and Jerusalem.

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Media Contact: 
Kristina Magana 
The Michael J. Fox Foundation 

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