Neurologist wins prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant

DALLAS — Jan. 26, 2007 —  Dr. Richard D. King, a new assistant professor of neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.

The four-year, $416,560 fellowship, intended to support physicians from disadvantaged backgrounds, is given to doctors who have finished their clinical training and plan to do at least four years of specialized research.

Dr. King’s research focuses on using a mathematical technique called fractal analysis to measure atrophy of the brain. Such measurements could prove to be useful for diagnosing or tracking progressive dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.

With current technologies, health-care providers can measure the thickness of the brain’s outer layer and the volume of parts of the brain using magnetic resonance imaging, but they lack effective ways of measuring changes in the brain’s shape.

“We really don’t have a good, clinically useful way to quantify changes in the shape of the brain,” Dr. King said. “Such shape changes, we think, can be related to changes in function and can precede losses of function, so they might tell us who is at risk of losing function.

“Also, if we have medication that can help maintain function, we would know which patients could benefit from those medications.”

Dr. King, a native of Houston, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Texas A&M University and his M.D. and Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed a residency in neurology at Harvard Medical School, then a fellowship at UT Dallas.

In addition to his own research, Dr. King will lead UT Southwestern’s efforts in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a five-year nationwide study to track brain degeneration in people with the disease. He will also have a joint appointment with UT Dallas for teaching and other duties.

The fellowship program, instituted in 1983, was originally geared toward minority researchers, but was later expanded to include those who face challenges because of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or other factors. It was recently renamed in honor of Dr. Harold Amos, the first African-American to chair a department at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. King is the sixth researcher affiliated with UT Southwestern to win this fellowship grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Other winners (and the years grants were received): Dr. Ohwofiemu Nwariaku, associate professor of surgery (2002); former faculty members Dr. Edsel Arce-Hernandez (1999), Dr. Carmela Morales (1996) and Dr. Ivor Benjamin (1985); and former fellow Dr. David Wilkes (1992). 

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UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. Its more than 1,400 full-time faculty members — including four active Nobel Prize winners, more than any other medical school in the world — are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and are committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 89,000 hospitalized patients and oversee 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.


Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

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