Dr. James P. Bennett Jr. Appointed Chair of VCU Neurology

Also named Founding Director of Parkinson’s Center

Virginia Commonwealth University announced today that James P. Bennett Jr., M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed chair of the Department of Neurology and founding director of the VCU Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Multidisciplinary Research and Clinical Center.

Bennett, who assumes his new duties July 1, comes to VCU from the University of Virginia, where he is professor of neurology and psychiatric research, director of the Center for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases and director of the Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research at UVA.

“Dr. Bennett is a world class physician-scientist who will be leading an outstanding team of investigators and clinicians seeking cures for neurological diseases,” said Jerome F. Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “Establishing a center for Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders is a university and a community priority, and we are indeed fortunate to have Dr. Bennett as the founding director of this important program.”

Bennett said his priority is to launch a highly integrated translational research center that moves research from novel approaches in the laboratory to clinical trials to use in patients.

“It is important to understand the biology of the disease and then develop novel treatments and therapies that can be clinically tested,” Bennett said. “It is not enough to provide state-of-the-art care. We want to alter the trajectory of the disease.”

A Richmond-based advocacy group for people with Parkinson’s Disease, the Movers and Shakers, has been instrumental in raising funds to hire a highly regarded researcher to be the center’s founding director. Bennett said the “passion, devotion, forward thinking and pragmatism of the group,” as well as the vision of the VCU Medical School, were instrumental in his decision to come to VCU.

“Coming to VCU is an opportunity to pursue a shared vision for improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s Disease,” Bennett said.

Charles Bryan, one of three original members of the Movers and Shakers and president and CEO emeritus of the Virginia Historical Society, said Bennett’s appointment is part of the group’s efforts to ensure that as much research as possible is conducted to find a cure and improve the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

“To have someone of Jim Bennett’s qualifications and skills will be a tremendous boost to the Parkinson’s program at VCU,” Bryan said.

As director of the center, Bennett will lead a team of physicians that works in partnership with the McGuire VA Medical Center’s PADRECC, Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center, one of only six such multidisciplinary centers in the country. The new VCU Parkinson’s Center will allow PADRECC’s clinical care to be extended to the civilian community.

"Dr. Bennett is the quintessential translational researcher," said Dr. Sheldon Retchin, vice president for Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Dr. Bennett moves discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside as well as any researcher I know. He will bring enormous expertise and a wealth of creativity to a disease that plagues so many people. We are delighted he has chosen to continue his outstanding career at VCU."

Bennett has published more than 130 research papers and book chapters. He is a prolific researcher and will be bringing three active projects to VCU studying drug, genetic and external laser irradiation therapies that are expected to go to clinical trial within the next three years.

Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Florida and his medical and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see