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Stroke-rehab innovator to hold endowed professorship at U. of Florida

Leslie Gonzalez-Rothi, PhD, a VA and University of Florida researcher known for her innovative studies on rehabilitation for stroke and other brain injuries, has been named the Bob Paul Family Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

“Endowed professorships are among the highest honors the College can bestow on a member of its faculty, and are reserved for a scholar of national and international acclaim,” noted Bruce Kone, MD, dean of the college.

Gonzalez-Rothi is the program director of the Brain Rehabilitation Research Center (BRRC) and an investigator at the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Gainesville VA Medical Center. She is also a professor of neurology in the UF College of Medicine; a faculty member at the school’s Brain Institute; a professor of clinical and health psychology in the UF College of Health Professions; and a professor of communication sciences and disorders in the UF College Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Over the past 25 years, her research has focused on understanding the workings of the brain in language and other tasks, and exploring new therapies to treat disorders in these areas. She and her colleagues at the BRRC–including biomedical engineers, neurologists, speech therapists and psychologists–have been credited with helping to show that patients who have had a stroke or other neurological injury can continue to benefit from treatment for longer periods than were previously thought possible. In the May/June 2006 issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, Gonzalez-Rothi and coauthor Anna M. Barrett, MD, wrote: “In the past, clinicians and the lay public pervasively believed that stroke recovery was very limited. We are no entering an exciting period in poststroke care in which the time span and extent of continued improvement is extending incredibly.”

In 2007, Gonzalez-Rothi became the first woman to receive VA’s Magnuson Award, the agency’s highest honor for rehabilitation investigators. The award was established in 1998.

Most recently, Gonzalez-Rothi was coauthor on a study, involving 19 stroke patients, that tested repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation–a relatively new mode of treatment–as an add-on to constraint-induced therapy, a well-established treatment pioneered by VA and University of Alabama investigator Edward Taub, PhD. The study, published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, validated the benefits of constraint therapy but found no added improvements with magnetic stimulation.