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Welcome to the Department of Neurology

Neurology Research, Education, and Clinical SupportOur neurology team provides next-level research, education and training, clinical care programs, and administration.  We serve our geographic community, and we also serve a national and international community of people who travel from elsewhere in the country and the world to take advantage of our specialized services and partnership.

Our staff, faculty and clinicians work with UMass Memorial Health and UMass Chan School of Medicine, as well as other institutions and programs in some of the world’s best academic centers.  In central and western Massachusetts, we deliver diverse and equitable treatment solutions designed to increase our patients’ quality of life.

With a Joint Commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, Level 4 National Association of Epilepsy Centers accreditation, a Multiple Sclerosis center partnered with five nonprofit foundations and a Huntington’s Disease Society partner center within a robust Movement Disorder Program, we are positioned to educate our trainees to provide comprehensive and compassionate patient care.  Our world-renowned expertise in neuromuscular disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis led to innovative genetic treatment, and we are pioneers in delivering these treatment approaches.  

Please read further to learn about our neurology specialty programs and divisions.

Neurology Spotlight

Jean Pierre Schatzmann Peron, PhD, May 2024 Investigator Spotlight

Spotlight Post: Lisa Hall-Anderson, PhD







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Neurology Community Team Member Spotlight

Together we make a difference

  • Nicholas Wightman, Mgr. Research Operations

    Nicholas Wightman, Mgr. Research Operations, Brown Lab

    Nicholas Wightman has been a pillar of our laboratory research team since 2009 when he joined Brown Lab. This October will mark his 15th work anniversary with UMass Chan Medical School. Nicholas was born and raised in Worcester where he also earned a BA in Biology from Assumption College. He had been fascinated by science from a young age, and working with Dr. Brown has allowed him to learn about research and the science behind it.

    "When I started I knew nothing about working in an actual research lab. Thanks to the phenomenal team that Dr. Brown works with, I was able to learn and grow professionally. Now, I am one of the most senior members of the team and I am happy to share what I have learned with the next generation of scientists."

    When considering future career pursuits, Nicholas mentions he would like to obtain a master's or maybe even a PhD in the future.

    Nicholas has shared he finds working in research to be rewarding because there is always something new to learn. Every day presents new challenges and techniques to master. The most rewarding aspect of his day is being able to help others and make sure his team gets what they need to succeed.

    Thank you Nicholas Wightman for your dedication to our team. 

  • Karin Meijboom, DPhil

    Karin Meijboom, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher

    Brown Lab

    Karin, Katharina Meijboom, DPhil, is a postdoctoral researcher focusing on gene therapies for central nervous system diseases in the Brown Lab. She is from the Netherlands and joined UMass Chan in 2019 working at Mueller Lab in the Gene Therapy Center and collaborating with the Brown Lab before joining their team in 2020. 

    Karin received her doctorate from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, studying “Spinal Muscular Atrophy, disease mechanisms and therapeutic approaches”. She has an MSc. in Neuroscience and Cognition, and a BSc. in Cognitive and Neurobiological Psychology from the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. She completed two internships, one at the University of Utrecht, investigating food addiction in rats, and a second, at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, investigating the role of exosomes in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. 

    Karin did not initially plan to work in research. Her initial plan included becoming a psychologist, which was thwarted in her first week into her bachelor's degree. After listening to seminar researchers, she identified her career path. Based on her interests in genetics and the brain, she chose the Neuroscience and Cognition master’s program. Before graduating from her doctoral studies, which included working with antisense oligonucleotides, she asked herself, ‘what do I want to do when I grow up?, she knew it had to do with AAV-mediated gene therapy and CRISPR/Cas9. The only issue, she did not have experience in these areas. Dr. Meijboom credits Dr. Mueller for taking a chance on her, which was the reason she joined UMass Chan, allowing her to work on her biggest passions. 

    Karin shared about her professional growth in her role and in Brown Lab, stating, “For the last year, I am realizing that I have grown in different ways. I am much more confident about what I do and what I know. While I was plagued by imposter syndrome during my doctoral studies and the beginning of my postdoc, I now know a lot about my field of study, and I also know I don’t need to be an expert at everything. Dr. Brown has given me the opportunity to apply for various grants, and I enjoy the grant process.” 

    Her research passions include AAV-mediated gene therapies for diseases of the central nervous system, and she would love to start her own group studying and developing gene therapies for different diseases. 

    If you see Karin Meijboom in the lab or around neurology, stop and say hello.  

  • Banafo Abbeyquaye, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Banafo Abbeyquaye, clinical research coordinator

    Banafo Abbeyquaye, a clinical research coordinator supporting the Brown Lab, was recently accepted to UMass Chan as a medical student and will be transitioning away from his role in research. He shares, “Becoming a doctor has been a dream of mine. I hope to complete my medical degree at UMass Chan and match into a good residency program. Currently, I am unsure what field of medicine I would like to pursue, but I know that UMass Chan will prepare me when I get to that point in my career.”  

    As a research coordinator, Banafo supports patients with rare neuromuscular diseases such as Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) and Adrenomylenoneuropathy (AMN). His role of organizing and facilitating the clinical trials is to help evaluate the efficacy of new drugs and treatments that may help to slow down the progression of these diseases. He supports patients from all over the country who participate in our clinical trials, includes organizing visits, collecting data for the sponsors and completing the regulatory documentation related to research trials, while having conversations with our patients and listening to their interesting life stories. Banafo’s stories include growing up locally in Holden, MA, although he spent the first five years of his life in Ghana with his grandmother. Banafo graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Notre Dame in Science Pre-Professional (Pre-Med) and Anthropology. While attending Notre Dame, he was a student athletic trainer. While observing the sports medicine team treating and rehabilitating injured athletes, he learned he wanted to practice medicine. His research interests are in neurology and rehabilitation, and as a clinical research coordinator he gained a better understanding of how our nervous system affects the musculoskeletal system.  

    Catherine Doughtwright, PhD, CCRP, Assistant Professor of Neuromuscular Research and Brown Lab has worked closely with Banafo. She shares, “Banafo joined the neuromuscular clinical research team in September 2022.  We had just been activated on a global Phase 3 investigational drug study and while many sites had difficulty navigating the complicated study protocol, Banafo did so seamlessly.  With his efforts, we became the top enrolling site in the US, allowing our long list of anxiously awaiting patients a chance to receive this investigational treatment.  In parallel to being the lead coordinator on this study, Banafo contributed significantly to several other important studies, including a first in human gene therapy study for a rare neurological disorder. Despite hectic days and continuously changing study protocols, Banafo always has a bright smile on his face and a willingness to do whatever needs to get done. With this positive attitude, dedication, and ability to quickly learn and adapt to something new, you’re going to be an amazing physician, Banafo.  We’re certainly sad that you’re leaving, but we’re so very happy and proud you’ll be completing medical school here at UMass Chan."

    Congratulations! Our Neurology community wishes you well and looks forward to following your medical journey.

  • Tatiana Thompson, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Tatiana Thompson, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Tatiana Thompson has been a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Department of Neurology for more than a year.   Before joining UMass Chan, she graduated in 2022 from the College of the Holy Cross, studying Neuroscience. She grew up in Connecticut before moving to Massachusetts and has family from Jamaica. She joined UMass Chan through the McManus Lab, Pipeline for Underrepresented Students in Medicine (PRISM).  

     

    Tatiana’s interest in the brain and behavior have driven her interest in neurological studies. Her curiosity pared with medicine has made research her desired career choice. In her role, she initiates research studies from contractual negotiations, patient enrollment, and continued follow-up. Tatiana collaborates with study sponsors, physicians, and patients to execute the study treatment plan. She is interested in mindfulness research, with physicians preparing non-invasive or drug-free treatment, medical care plans. 

     

    Tatiana enjoys working in clinical research and shares, “I find being a helping hand in making the patient better rewarding. Some individual’s diseases are very debilitating, and they come to us because they want to get better. When I see a positive result from the patient’s participation in a study, it is extremely rewarding.” 

    Tatiana’s future goals include attending medical school, running her own laboratory, and practice. Since working in Neurology, her career pursuits now include earning an MD-PhD due to the variety of career options she was unaware of before. In her spare time, she loves to read and write, and she also endeavors to be a foodie, she is working on her Yelp Elite status.  

  • Michelle Manxhari, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Michelle Manxhari, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Michelle Manxhari, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Michelle Manxhari, a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Department of Neurology, born and raised in Worcester, MA, and her family from Albania, will celebrate her one-year work anniversary with our team in May of 2024. She manages many tasks as a research coordinator, including screening, consenting, and enrolling patients into clinical trials. She also conducts participation study visits, assists with data entry, analysis, and maintaining regulatory documentation. Through this position, she has learned more about the various aspects of health care. In 2023, Michelle graduated from Holy Cross College with a degree in Biology before joining UMass Chan. Prior to her current role, she has previous experience as a pharmacy technician and a patient care associate.  

     

    Michelle’s interest in Biology and her various experiences in health care have inspired her to continue becoming a physician. While she aspires to become a pediatric primary care physician, her current position in the neurology department has sparked an interest in pursuing neurology. She is interested in learning more about the safety and efficacy of investigational drugs and devices used on patients who suffer from neurological disorders that do not currently have effective treatment options available. 

    Michelle shares, “As a Worcester native, the ability to conduct meaningful research in my community has been rewarding. It has allowed me to work closely with several extraordinary neurologists in the research setting to improve clinical care and the outcomes of patients. I am very grateful to be given this opportunity and I hope to continue to give back to my community as I embark on my journey of becoming a physician." 

    In Michelle’s time off, she enjoys baking and going for walks outdoors.  

  • CJ Hill, Clinical Research Coordinator

    CJ Hill, Clinical Research Coordinator

    CJ Hill is a Clinical Research Coordinator supporting a variety of neurology divisions, such as Neurocritical Care, Epilepsy, Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders divisions for close to a year. He works closely with clinical patients electing to participate in research studies. CJ’s role includes facilitating the consent and collection of pertinent information, managing the regulatory documentation for each respective study, and helping physicians who are carrying out their study reviews and analyzing data.  

    CJ was raised in New Jersey before moving to Sturbridge MA. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Worcester State University in 2022. CJ’s professional experience has developed from being a department manager at McDonalds, a behavioral therapist working with children on the autism spectrum, to teaching guitar lessons at a local music shop on the weekends.

    CJ’s study in psychology trained him to look more deeply into consciousness and behavior, which is one of the reasons he works in neurology. His desire to continue learning and to strengthen his skills in the world of medicine has inspired him to work on his pre-requisites for medical school. CJ is open to a variety of specialties within neurology; he wants an MD in the future, yet he has not defined a medical specialty yet. Since working as a clinical research coordinator, CJ has gained critical thinking skills on medical-based research topics. He has also gained additional insight into the functionality and responsibilities of a research team and the amount of effort needed to accumulate proper data.  

    CJ shares, “I find being able to contribute to a patient’s time on a clinical research level to be extremely rewarding. I am also appreciative of the amount of constructive criticism and knowledge I receive from my supervisors. They allow me to contribute to discussions as a colleague and help build my capabilities to become prepared for my future goals. 

    CJ is also a licensed scuba diver and an avid deep-sea fisher. On his last trip, he caught a 150-pound blue-fin tuna.  

  • Stephanie Stephens, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Stephanie Stephens, clinical research coordinator

    Stephanie Stephens, a neurology clinical research coordinator graduated from UMass Amherst in May of 2022 before joining neurology in May of 2023. Her prior experience as a pharmacy tech and hotline counselor advocate prepared her to support patients through the clinical research process.  

    Stephanie manages clinical studies, ensuring documentation is in order on behalf of the principal investigator and study sponsors. She manages paperwork and policies for open study enrollments, obtains consent, and analyzes the data during the enrollment and data collection process.  

    Stephanie shares, “The end goal of the studies is to provide better care for patients and allow them to live a healthy/longer life. And that is rewarding, and I am very appreciative that I can contribute a little in some way. I have gained so much knowledge about the field and its impact on our society. I am more confident in myself and have improved in reading academic journals and CT scans.” 

    Stephanie knows her career goals include working in healthcare and patient care within infectious diseases and neurology because she finds it rewarding and impactful to delve into realms, we don’t fully understand yet.  

    Outside of clinical studies, Stephanie enjoys cooking, and has an appreciation for the versatility of eggs. They are incorporated in many cuisines around the world, as well as in desserts, pastries, and baking. They are easy to cook for starters, and can be incorporated in everything as dinner, breakfast, and lunch.  They can also be eaten boiled, fried, scrambled, raw, poached or steamed; and added to foods such as salads, noodles, and eggnog. She enjoys consuming eggs and would love to share her appreciation for the cuisine, as they are incorporated in so many different foods around the world.  

  • Kirsten Berthoud, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Kristen Berthoud, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Kristen Berthoud, MS, Clinical Research Coordinator, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

    Kristen Berthoud, MS, joined the Neurology Department in the fall of 2023 supporting the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) program. She is a native Massachusettsian living between Topsfield and Harvard Massachusetts. 

    Kristen has had a love for research for many years which started as a reference librarian at Fidelity Investments. She switched her focus from finance to science with her love of biochemistry, physiology, and understanding how nutrition and medications work in the human body. Kristen has an MS from Maryland University of Integrative Health in clinical nutrition.

    Kristen earned research experience at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as a clinical research coordinator and at Dana Farber as a regulatory coordinator. 

    Outside of research, Kristen teaches pilates, yoga, and group fitness.

  • Sheryl Kelley, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Sheryl Kelley, Clinical Research Coordinator

    Sheryl Kelley, MPH, Clinical Research Coordinator, Neuromuscular Research

    Sheryl Kelley, MPH, joined the Department of Neurology on January 16, 2024, supporting the Neuromuscular Division.

    Sheryl has worked in research for over 18 years which includes the role of director of data quality focusing on achieving the highest quality clinical trial efficacy data. She has also contributed to research as a clinical finance director. 

    She earned her masters in Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in Biostatistics from Boston University and a bachelor of science in Biology from Stonehill College. 

    "I feel a deep appreciation for the daily opportunity to contribute to a greater cause, toward easing human suffering." - Sheryl

    Sheryl finds interacting directly with patients to be extremely rewarding. Her recent research and clinical interests in aiding patients through research experience and education have been influenced by volunteer patient support in hospice care. 

    Outside of research, Sheryl has taught aerial yoga for many years and also enjoys hiking.