Dr. Forbes Accepted to Clinical Faculty Scholars Program

Congratulations to Dr. Emily Forbes on her acceptance into the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute’s (CCTSI) Clinical Faculty Scholars Program (CFSP). This program enrolls up to five junior faculty members each year. The program helps young researchers obtain grant funding for their career growth or their first independent investigator-initiated project. Often these are K-awards or R-awards which are funded by the NIH. These can also be awards from large non-profit organizations. The CCTSI trains these budding researchers through guided project development, educational seminars, grant writing classes, and mentorship participation.

Dr. Forbes’s project will build a Neurogenetics database. The first goal will be to characterize genetic causes of Parkinson’s disease in the University of Colorado’s patient population. She will follow this group over time to see how they respond to treatment based on their genetic variant. She will build this database to include phenotypic (observable characteristics) and genotypic (genetic characteristics) information across different specialties in Neurology. This will lead to a department resource for genetics research. Her long-term aim is to develop a tool to advance fair and the best genetic testing for patients. This will also help to provide thorough genetic counseling. This tool will make clinical trials for disease-modifying treatments available to more patients and quicken the rate of developing new therapies. Additionally, it will widen the availability of clinical trials to patient populations.

Other Movement faculty alumni of the CFSP program include Dr. Michelle Fullard and Dr. Samantha Holden and former movement disorders faculty, Dr. Brian Berman, and Dr. Benzi Kluger.

Being part of a medical school means that in addition to seeing patients, our faculty are also involved in additional pursuits. One of these pursuits is conducting clinical research related to their field. Most research falls into two categories: clinical trials and investigator-initiated research. Clinical trials are a type of clinical research that aims to determine the safety and effectiveness of the medication, devices, and treatment regimens. Investigator-initiated research starts with new ideas that the researcher comes up with themself. The researcher then is responsible for creating a trial to test their idea and then carrying out the trial. All research must adhere to strict rules and regulations. You can read more about the research here.

Research Update | The Relationship Between Olfactory Dysfunction and Constipation in Early Parkinson’s Disease

Written by Alex Baumgartner, MD

In a recent issue of the journal Movement Disorders, colleagues and I published a study examining the relationship between two of the most common ‘non-motor’ symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD): decreased sense of smell (olfactory dysfunction) and constipation. It has been known for some time that these symptoms often start several years or even decades before the typical ‘motor’ symptoms of PD, which include tremor, stiffness, and slow movement. Going along with this, accumulation of the abnormal protein alpha-synuclein, which is thought to play a critical role in the development of PD, have been found in the nasal passages and GI tracts of PD patients before it is found in the brain. This has led many to hypothesize that PD may actually begin in the nose or in the gut and spread from there to the brain.

We wanted to explore whether we could find evidence that for some people, PD begins in the nasal passages while in other people, it begins in the gut. We hypothesized that if people had PD originating in the nasal passages only, they would have only loss of smell and not constipation. On the other hand, if PD originated in the GI tract only, they would have constipation but not loss of smell. We looked at data from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), which collects information from patients who have recently been diagnosed with PD.

movement disorders specialist colorado

We found that at the time people are diagnosed with PD, they tend to have problems with smelling and constipation to similar degrees. That is, people with worse sense of smell also tend to have worse constipation, and those with minimal loss of smell tend to have mild constipation. This finding actually went against our hypothesis. There may be a few reasons for this. The first is that the time of diagnosis of PD (based on tremor, slowness, and stiffness) may be too late to detect a difference in smell and constipation. Even if PD begins in either the nose or the gut, symptoms in the other location may have already ‘caught up’ with the first. The second possible explanation is that PD may begin in both locations at about the same time. This is called the dual-hit hypothesis, and has gained popularity in recent years. In the future, we hope to expand our research to help elucidate where and when the earliest signs of Parkinson’s occur.

Board Certification

Congratulations to our two first-year fellows, Alex Baumgartner, MD and Michael Korsmo, MD, for passing their neurology board examinations through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology!

When we select fellows for our training program, they must be eligible to take these board examinations. This means they must meet all of the minimum requirements to take the exam by the start of their fellowship training. Fellows typically take the test towards the end of their first semester which is the earliest the test is offered.

Board certifications are important because they promote and assess the competence of physicians when beginning and throughout their careers. Board-certified physicians must provide proof that they are continuing their education through Continuing Medical Education credits and are recertified at set intervals throughout their career.

While board certifications are not required to practice medicine, they are an extra step many physicians choose to take. The certifications demonstrate the physicians are keeping up with the most recent advancements in their specialties and their desire to provide high-quality care to their patients. Board certifications are specific to each specialty and therefore maintain more specific standards to maintain certifcation.

All of the movement disorders specialists at the University of Colorado Movement Disorders Center are board-certified in neurology.

Say congratulations to our fellows if you see them in clinic!