New Neurology Chief Merit Cudkowicz Sets Ambitious Goals

Imagine treatments that reverse Alzheimer’s disease and prevent strokes. Or technology that can predict seizures or help paralyzed patients move again. Merit E. Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, the new chief of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, aims to make this happen and more. She is building on a tradition of innovation inspired by Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, who led the department for nearly two decades.
Merit E. Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, new chief of Neurology at Mass General.
Merit E. Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, new chief of Neurology at Mass General.

Neurology is facing difficult challenges — a rapidly aging population, the uncertainties of healthcare reform and dramatic cuts to research funding. At the same time, Dr. Merit Cudkowicz believes that the next 10 years will bring unprecedented strides in understanding and treating neurological disorders that affect millions. With Mass General’s outstanding researchers, physicians and educators, Dr. Cudkowicz is confident the department will lead the way.

Investing in people and partnerships is the root of Dr. Cudkowicz’s vision. Her goal is to accelerate the process of translating laboratory discoveries into practical treatments. Collaboration — across disciplines and across fields — is central.

For example, she cites the work of Mass General’s Leigh R. Hochberg, MD, PhD, who worked with a team of neurologists, engineers, computer scientists and other specialists to develop a device called BrainGate. Using a baby aspirin-sized chip implanted in the brain, individuals paralyzed by a stroke or ALS can regain independence by controlling a computer and other external devices with their thoughts.

“We must think big,” Dr. Cudkowicz says. “There are all kinds of changes we can and should make that will lead to incremental improvements in care and treatment for neurological disease. We have the talent and ability to innovate in ways that can redefine our field. So let’s aim for the stars.”