Frohman honored for MS work
By Jeff Carlton
The Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis has selected Dr. Elliot Frohman for the national organization’s 2012 Physician of Distinction Award.
Dr. Frohman, Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics and Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, directs the Clinical Center for Multiple Sclerosis, a program he started when he came to UTSW in 1995. The Center sees more than 5,400 patients and includes a clinical research group with more than 70 researchers and physicians.
“Without a doubt, what’s being recognized here is one of the very best teams of people put together to focus on a common disease like multiple sclerosis (MS),” said Dr. Frohman, who was recognized Nov. 3 by the nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to finding a cure for MS. “This award is about our collaboration, and the beneficiaries are our patients and their families.”
Under Dr. Frohman’s direction, UT Southwestern has become a national leader in researching and treating MS, an autoimmune disease in which nerve cells lose their insulating fatty covering, called myelin, causing nerve signals to slow down or stop. It afflicts about 400,000 Americans and 2.1 million people worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. People with the disease develop problems with coordination and eyesight and, in some cases, lose mental sharpness.
Dr. Frohman co-authored a 2001 congressional appropriations bill establishing a national MS treatment training program at UT Southwestern, the first such federally funded program in the nation. The program, which has trained more than 1,000 physicians in managing chronic MS illness, has enjoyed 11 years of uninterrupted funding.
Since its inception, the training program’s executive director has been Teresa C. Frohman, a physician assistant in Neurology and Neurotherapeutics who also directs UTSW’s eye-testing laboratory. She is Dr. Frohman’s wife and, he said, “my principal collaborator.”
The MS Center also includes a year-old, multidisciplinary Total Life Care Clinic for UTSW’s most complex patients. The weekly clinic combines the expertise of nutritionists, social workers, and MS and gait specialists.
“One of the two most common early events in MS is inflammation of the optic nerve,” said Dr. Frohman, who specializes in ophthalmological research for MS. “Over the course of the disease, we think almost 100 percent of patients have pathology in the retina and optic nerve. It’s so commonly affected that we think it is a productive way to monitor and study the disease and treatment interventions. The eye is a window into the brain and the nervous system.”
Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics and Pediatrics and a 2009 recipient of the same award, nominated Dr. Frohman for the 2012 honor, calling him a “pioneer in the ophthalmologic investigations of multi-ple sclerosis.”
“Dr. Frohman is a caring, compassionate, passionate, motivated multiple sclerosis practitioner and researcher,” Dr. Greenberg said. “He has always promoted collaboration and passionate advocacy for his patients. He embodies what is needed in the MS community.”
Dr. Frohman holds the Irene Wadel and Robert I. Atha, Jr. Distinguished Chair in Neurology, and the Kenney Marie Dixon-Pickens Distinguished Professorship in Multiple Sclerosis Research.
Dr. Greenberg is a Cain Denius Scholar in Mobility Disorders.