Emory Report
July 9, 2007
Volume 59, Number 34

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July 9, 2007
Internationally renowned scientists join Emory

by Holly Korschun

Dennis Choi, a neuroscientist renowned for his groundbreaking research on brain and spinal cord injury, has been recruited to lead two major neuroscience programs at Emory. Choi will direct the Neuroscience, Human Nature and Society Initiative within Emory’s University-wide strategic plan as well as a new Comprehensive Neuroscience Center in Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

“Dennis Choi is a superb addition to Emory’s faculty and our neurosciences programs throughout the University,” said President Jim Wagner. “Neuroscience has long been a strength of Emory, and has now been identified as a key initiative advancing Emory’s strategic plan. As an esteemed scientist, Dr. Choi will help Emory continue to develop its national leadership in the neurosciences.”

A former president of the Society for Neuroscience, Choi served as head of the Neurology Department at Washington University Medical School from 1991 until 2001 and as neurologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He established and directed the Center for the Study of Nervous System Injury and directed the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. From 2001 until 2006 Choi was executive vice president for neuroscience at Merck Research Labs, leaving to join Boston University, where he has been a professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. He joins Emory’s School of Medicine as a professor in the Department of Neurology Aug. 1.

As executive director of Emory‘s strategic neurosciences initiative, Choi will oversee the development of four key areas: neuroscience education, behavioral neuroscience and cognition, brain therapeutics, and molecular and translational imaging research. Each program builds on strengths across multiple units of the University and existing neuroscience programs.

As director of the new Comprehensive Neuroscience Center in Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center, Choi will lead a clinical and translational center that integrates research, clinical care and education.

“Dr. Choi’s recruitment will be of tremendous benefit to the entire university and to Emory College as we continue to enhance our programs in the sciences and seek linkages between those departments and the humanities,” said Bobby Paul, dean of Emory College. “We look forward to incorporating his vision for the role of neurosciences as a university-wide discipline that includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students and faculty and that links the health sciences with the Liberal Arts in innovative ways.”

Choi is a member of the Institute of Medicine and its Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the executive committee of the Dana Alliance for Brain Research.

He received M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in 1978 from Harvard University and the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology.

Choi has served on numerous scientific and advisory boards, including the National Academy of Sciences Board on Life Sciences, advisory committees to the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, and as chairman of the U.S./Canada Regional Committee of the International Brain Research Organization. He has been a member of multiple editorial boards, including founding co-editorship of the journal, Neurobiology of Disease.

Allan Kirk has joined the Emory University School of Medicine as scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center and as a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

Kirk has been chief of the Transplantation Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health since 2001. He is the founding director of the NIH Intramural Organ Transplant Program.

Kirk will serve as a kidney/pancreas transplant surgeon at Emory University Hospital and at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, with a primary appointment in Emory’s Department of Surgery and a secondary appointment in the Department of Pediatrics to facilitate novel transplant therapies for children.

An internationally recognized surgical scientist and authority on transplant immunology, Kirk is the ninth scientist attracted to Georgia research universities by the GRA as an Eminent Scholar — a national model for attracting world-class scientific talent to the state.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Allan Kirk joining our Emory Transplant Center,” said Transplant Center Director Christian Larsen. “He is an international leader in the most important research priority in transplantation — eliminating the need for toxic immunosuppression drugs. Because this has been a major focus of our transplant research at Emory and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center over the past decade, we welcome the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Kirk in advancing this critical research.”

Kirk received his M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine in 1987 and his Ph.D. in immunology from Duke in 1992. He completed a general surgery residency at Duke in 1995 and a multi-organ transplantation fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in 1995. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.