Internationally Renowned Epilepsy Expert Andres M. Kanner, M.D., Joins Miller School Faculty
Andres M. Kanner, M.D., who is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the behavioral aspects of epilepsy, has joined the Miller School’s Department of Neurology as chief of the epilepsy division, and director of the International Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. His primary goal is enhancing the evaluation, comprehensive treatment and surgical program for adults with epilepsy, who often are unaware that surgery could end their seizures.
“Surgery is an effective but underutilized treatment for epilepsy, but there really isn’t a well-developed adult comprehensive epilepsy center in South Florida,” said Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., professor and Chair of Neurology and the Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders. “Dr. Kanner is the ideal person to build our program at University of Miami Hospital and Jackson Memorial Hospital and lift the treatment, prevention and care of epilepsy across the health district. He has international experience and stature and extensive expertise in running a surgical epilepsy program — plus he’s a wonderful clinician, a great teacher, and a really nice guy.”
Kanner joins the University after 21 years at Rush University Medical Center, where he was senior attending physician in the Department of Neurological Sciences and director of the Laboratory of Electroencephalography and Video-EEG-Telemetry. A professor of neurological sciences and psychiatry at Rush Medical College, he also was Associate Director of the Division of Epilepsy and the Rush Epilepsy Center.
Fluent in Spanish and triple board-certified in Neurology, Psychiatry and Clinical Neurophysiology, Kanner said he was drawn to UM by the opportunity to expand the evaluation and surgical program for adults with intractable epilepsy who do not respond to medication. He also looks forward to broadening the Miller School’s collaborations with colleagues in South and Central America, where he has extensive ties, and continuing his research in the pharmacology and psychiatric aspects of epilepsy, and the surgical treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common type of epilepsy that fails to respond to medications in adults and teens.
As he notes, 30 percent of people with epilepsy, a chronic neurological disorder characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, continue to have seizures even when medicated, and of those 30 percent, about half may be candidates for surgery that could enable them to live seizure-free. Yet, too often they are not referred for evaluations.
“Some of that may be cultural, but the recommendation is if a patient has tried two anti-epileptic drugs and is still having seizures, that patient is probably suffering from intractable epilepsy and should undergo an evaluation,” Kanner said. “We look forward to building relationships with community neurologists, internists and hospitals whose patients would benefit from our services. Community providers should understand we are not interested in keeping their patients. We will conduct the evaluations and send their patients back to them. We want to work with them to provide a service that will benefit their patients and make their management of those patients easier.”
In addition to evaluation units at the University of Miami at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Miami VA Medical Center, Kanner will oversee a four-bed Epilepsy Monitoring Unit that opens February 18 on the sixth floor of UMH. Monitored around the clock, evaluation units are crucial for providing a safe place where Kanner and his multidisciplinary team of epileptologists, neuropsychologists, neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons and other specialists can determine where a given patient’s epileptic seizure focus is localized in the brain, and what the treatment options are. Patients with intractable epilepsy whose seizures originate in structures that do not mediate vital functions, such as movement, sensation, language, and memory, are good candidates for surgery.
He and his team also work closely with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences to manage the one of every three to four patients who have been misdiagnosed with intractable epilepsy and are suffering instead from psychogenic non-epileptic events. The psychiatric disorder mimics epilepsy but is not accompanied by abnormal electrical activity.
“In our comprehensive epilepsy program, we are not just concerned with seizures,” Kanner said. “We look at the cognitive and psychiatric impact of the epilepsy and some other medical conditions that can be associated with seizure disorders.”
Born and raised in Mexico City, Kanner earned his medical degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1977, then moved to New York, where he completed a residency in psychiatry at the Long Island Jewish Hillside Medical Center in New Hyde Park, and a research fellowship in child psychiatry sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.
He also completed a residency in neurology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and a fellowship in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio.
The associate editor of Epilepsy Currents, the official journal of the American Epilepsy Society, Kanner is also the editor of six textbooks on epilepsy, electroencephalography and psychiatric aspects of epilepsy, and author or co-author of more than 70 research publications and more than 73 book chapters. He co-chairs the Neuropsychobiology Commission of the International League Against Epilepsy and the Work Group on Psychiatric Aspects of Epilepsy of the American Epilepsy Society and is past Chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s Epilepsy Section.
Over his career, he has received several awards, including the 2012 Quito Award from the Latin American Commission of the International League Against Epilepsy as Ambassador of Epilepsy for Latin America. In 2011, he received the League’s Ambassador of Epilepsy Award and the American Epilepsy Society’s J. Kiffin Penry Award for Excellence in Clinical Care in Epilepsy.