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1.21.2014

Carlos T. Moraes Honored with Esther Lichtenstein Chair in Neurology

Carlos T. Moraes, Ph.D., professor of neurology and cell biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, was honored January 16 with the presentation of the Esther Lichtenstein Chair in Neurology. In his 20 years at the Miller School, Moraes has made significant advancements in understanding the cellular mechanisms behind degenerative neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Calling Moraes “a consummate and stellar researcher,” Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of UHealth, presented the inscribed chair and a portrait of Esther Lichtenstein at the dedication ceremony in the Clinical Research Building. “An endowed chair is the highest academic honor provided to world-class scholars and educators,” Goldschmidt said. “The funds generated annually by this endowment will provide Carlos with the flexibility and permanent resources to advance his work, and ultimately impact our patients. I can think of no honor more fitting.”

Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., professor and chair of neurology, public health sciences and human genetics, and the Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Diseases, welcomed guests, who included Moraes’ wife Julia Pace and daughter Emily Kay. Sacco noted that the Department of Neurology now has seven endowed chairs, reflecting the Miller School’s growing volume of research into the diseases and disorders affecting the brain. “We currently rank 16th in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with about $9 million in fiscal year 2013,” he said.

Moraes leads a neurology research team that has conducted extensive studies on cellular disorders, including DNA mutations of the mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles that convert food molecules into the proteins that power most cell functions. “One of the main challenges in medicine today is understanding age-related degenerative diseases,” he said. “We hope that our research into mitochondria will help clinicians develop new therapies for these conditions.”

The Esther Lichtenstein Chair was established in 1988 in the Department of Neurology through a planned gift by the late Albert E. Lichtenstein in memory of his wife Esther, who had died five years earlier. The chair supports research in the field of pre-senile and senile dementia.

As Goldschmidt said, “It is remarkable that Albert Lichtenstein had the foresight in 1988 to establish an endowment that would examine some of the most important topics facing medicine in the 21st century. Mitochondrial DNA is often at the epicenter of these disorders that progressively affect the brain.”

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