New VCU Parkinson’s Center Focuses on Research, Treatments and Education

Virginia Commonwealth University recently celebrated the opening of its Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Evaluation Center, one of the very few of its kind in the United States.

The evaluation center brings specialists together to work collaboratively to evaluate, create a treatment plan and provide disease management for each patient.

The multidisciplinary team includes movement disorders neurologists, clinical neuropsychologists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologist/therapists, sleep medicine neurologists and gastrointestinal physiology neurologists.

“There is a demand for comprehensive evaluation for people with this complex disease,” said James Bennett, M.D., chair of the Department of Neurology and founding director of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder Evaluation Center. “Patients with Parkinson’s have many needs; each person has different deficits. The evaluation center will look at the complete person and provide a total, comprehensive evaluation.”

The center also combines research, education and outreach to provide a coordinated approach for developing strategies that combat neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders.

The highly integrated, multidisciplinary center moves groundbreaking research from novel approaches in the laboratory to clinical trials, translating discoveries into treatments for patients. A major goal of the center is to advance the understanding of Parkinson’s and related conditions in terms of defining biological causes and developing new treatments.

Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU, said an important aspect of VCU’s role as a research university is to use research as a tool for improving treatment and exploring “novel ideas that make a difference.”

“We do research, we do clinical trials, and now we have this concentration in the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Evaluation Center,” Rao said.

Facilitating the education and training of both physician and patient communities is a vital component of the center. Specialists work with and train tomorrow’s physicians who will care for patients and continue to seek answers through research.

“We now have critical mass and incredible breadth of scholarship that will move us to a level of national distinction,” said Jerome Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “This has given incredible visibility to Parkinson’s Disease; it has given us hope for the future, and, with all sincerity, it is a point of great pride for the School of Medicine, the health system and the university.”

The education and outreach program within the center focuses on partnering with members from the community, including patients, caregivers, family members, friends, trainees, scientists and clinicians.

By creating this community network, the center empowers members to advocate for the continued support of basic clinical research, access to care and treatment, development of new therapies and training for future scientists and clinicians.

One of the strongest relationships between the center and the community has been with the Movers and Shakers, a grassroots Parkinson’s disease advocacy group in Richmond.

“The Movers and Shakers have been instrumental in making this center a reality through their hard work and generous support,” Bennett said. “They are truly great partners.”

Visit for more information about the VCU Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Evaluation Center, located in the Billy Reynolds Jr. Building, 6605 W. Broad St.