VA RR&D National Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury
Tel: 718-584-9000 x 5420 Fax: 718-741-4675
The mission of the VA Rehabilitation, Research and Development National Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury is to improve patients' quality of life and increase their longevity by intervening to prevent or reduce the secondary medical consequences of spinal cord injury.
Over the past 20 years, the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development’s National Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury has been committed to improving care and function of Veterans with spinal cord injury.
Individuals with spinal cord injury face daily issues that involve bladder control, bowel care, blood pressure regulation, temperature regulation, osteoporosis, weakened muscles, abnormal sugar and cholesterol metabolism, increased risk of vascular disease, and several other health-related issues. Our Center’s investigators are actively working to better understand these health problems and develop novel and effective solutions using cutting-edge rehabilitation techniques and devices.
Unique to the center, is our ability to approach these health problems from the rodent model to primates to man, as well as reverse translation strategies to provide a strong conceptual framework and rationale for ongoing research. Furthermore, our growing strength in rehabilitation interventions has provided us with the opportunity to implement these strategies to other disabilities and not just SCI.
For more information regarding the studies conducted in each program please visit SCIRC.
|Noam Y. Harel, MD, PhD|
|Ola A. Alsalman, PhD|
|Lynda M. Murray, PhD|
|Raviraj Nataraj, PhD|
|Yu-Kuang Wu, PT, PhD|
(Cardiovascular and Thermoregulation)
|John P. Handrakis, EdD, DPT|
|Jill M. Wecht, EdD|
|Marinella Galea, MD|
|Erin Hazlett, PhD|
|Caitlin Katzelnick, PhD|
|Michelle B. Trbovich, MD|
|Joseph P. Weir, PhD|
|Ann M. Spungen, EdD|
|Pierre K. Asselin, MS|
|Ona Bloom, PhD|
|EunKyoung Hong, PhD|
|Steven Knezevic, MS|
|Stephen Kornfeld, DO|
|Chung-Ying Tsai, PT, PhD|
|Bone, Bowel and Bladder||Program Director(s):|
|Willian A. Bauman, MD|
|Leif Havton, MD, PhD|
|Mark A. Korsten, MD|
|Christopher Cirnigliaro, PhD|
|Michael LaFountaine, EdD|
|Saikat Pal, PhD|
|Anton V. Sabiev, MD|
|Christopher P. Cardozo, MD|
|Samantha Asche-Godin, PhD|
|Rita De Gasperi, PhD|
|Xin-Hua Liu, MD|
|Weiping Qin, MD, PhD|
|Hesham Tawfeek, MD|
|Carlos Toro, PhD|
|Wei Zhao, PhD|
|Administrative Support||Melissa Veale|
|Kenlys K. Fajardo|
Dr. William A. Bauman has served on VA Merit Review panels as a member and as Chairman of the Merit Review sessions. As a recognized thought leader in the field, Dr. Bauman has delivered the keynote addresses at the Association of Spinal Cord Injury Professional (ASCIP), American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA), International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS), and Wings of Life, as well as numerous other venues in Spinal Cord Medicine, Rehabilitation Medicine, and Neuroscience. Dr. Bauman is the Chairman of the International Spinal Cord Society’s eLearn’s course on Endocrinology & Metabolism in SCI, and he is a member of the eLearn committees for Introduction to SCI, Medical Complications of SCI, and Nutrition and Weight in SCI. He is the Chair of the ISCoS Endocrinology & Metabolism Basic and Extended Data Sets, as well as a member of the Executive Steering Committee of the ISCoS for the Data Sets. Dr. Bauman was the first funded RR&D investigator to Chair a VA Cooperative Study to address a problem in SCI Veterans, work which enlisted and trained personnel working in VA SCI Services across the nation to perform medical investigation; this experienced cadre of VA personnel then became a valuable human resource for the next Cooperative Study on which he is currently a Co-Chairman with Dr. Ann Spungen. He currently serves as Associate Editor for the Endocrinology section of the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine.
Dr. Ann M. Spungen is an applied physiologist who has been studying the medical consequences of spinal cord injury (SCI) since 1990. She is a Professor and the Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Dr. Spungen is also the Associate Director of the VA Rehabilitation Research & Development (RR&D) National Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury. She is a recognized world authority on the safety, efficacy and use of exoskeletal-assisted walking devices in persons with SCI and of the immobilizing conditions. Since 2010 she has devoted research efforts to understanding how exoskeletal-assisted walking (EAW) influences the health and well-being of individuals with paralysis from SCI. Currently, she has two funded clinical trials: one from the Department of Defense and one funded by the VA Cooperative Studies Program. Her work is the first to recognize the potential benefits of EAW on bowel function, energy expenditure, body composition, and quality of life. In 2014, Dr. Spungen was recognized for her achievements in the study of the medical consequences of spinal cord injury by being awarded along with her colleague Dr. William A. Bauman, one of the highest awards bestowed to federal employees, the “Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for Science and Environment”. Medicine.
Dr. Mark A. Korsten is a Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency program and the Chief of Gastroenterology at the JJP VAMC. He has investigated the effects of SCI on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for over 27 years and has established himself as a thought leader in GI motility and interventions to improve GI function. As a leader, Dr. Korsten has inspired generations of internal medicine residents and GI Fellows to participate and then chose careers in clinical research. Among other advances related to Veterans with SCI, these residents and fellows have facilitated the development of improved bowel preparation for elective colonoscopy and shown that bowel care is safe and effective using iontophoretic administration of neostigmine and glycopyrrolate. He was on the editorial board of Clinical Physiology and Biochemistry. Most recently, he was a Panel Member of the recently (October 2020) released Clinical Practice Guidelines for Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction sponsored by the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Dr. Jill M. Wechtis a leading authority on cardiovascular autonomic physiology and function post-SCI. Dr. Wecht is the Chairperson of the Autonomic Standards Committee, which is supported by the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) and the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS). As a thought leader, Dr. Wecht was an invited keynote lecturer at the annual ISCoS meeting, held in Nice France in November 2019. For 5 years, she was Chair of the Career Development Award panel. Finally, Dr. Wecht was a panel member of the Paralyzed Veterans Association recently revised consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine Clinical Practice Guidelines entitled: “Evaluation and Management of Autonomic Dysregulation and Other Autonomic Dysfunctions: Preventing the Highs and Lows”.
Dr. John P. Handrakis played a leading role in the design of the thermal chamber and developing the protocols to investigate thermoregulatory dysfunction (thermodysregulation) in persons with SCI and how that dysfunction impacts cognitive performance and quality of life during seasonal temperature challenges. He took the initiative to explore medical, dietary, and bio-engineering interventions to mitigate those consequences. In doing so, he established a relationship with Dr. Gregory Freisinger, Mechanical Engineering Department at the United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA WP). Drs. Handrakis and Freisinger led a group of cadets in developing a prototype of a novel, feedback-controlled heated vest. The pilot data from this project resulted in a SPiRE award for continued collaboration with USMA WP for development and testing of the vest. In addition, Dr. Handrakis leads a collaboration with Dr. Denise Fyffe, Kessler Foundation in developing a tool to assess the impact of thermodysregulation on quality of life in persons with SCI. As a member of the Autonomic Standards Committee of the American Spinal Injury Association, Dr. Handrakis Chairs the Thermoregulation sub-committee. The committee has been working on revising the International Standards to document remaining Autonomic Function after Spinal Cord Injury (ISAFSCI) and refining indices for identifying persons with SCI who are at most risk for thermodysregulation. At New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), Dr. Handrakis holds the position of Professor, Department of Physical Therapy and teaches neurological rehabilitation to pre-doctoral physical therapy students. His certification as a Board-Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS) by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS), provides him with additional expertise in rehabilitation and prescribing physical activity to persons with SCI. As faculty in the School of Health Professions, NYIT, Dr. Handrakis assumed the leadership role of Chairperson of the Institutional Support for Research and Creativity and Teaching and Learning with Technology (ISRC-TLT) Committee. The ISRC-TLT Committee deliberates on internal award applications and last year awarded more than $300,000 in internal grants to School of Health Professions’ faculty.
Dr. Noam Y. Harel is a neurologist with experience in both basic and clinical research. He obtained his BA, MD, and PhD degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a neurology residency at Columbia University, and first faculty position at Yale University. He is board certified in Adult Neurology, with sub-specialization in Neural Repair and Rehabilitation. Dr. Harel’s primary interests are in rehabilitation from and treatment of spinal cord injury (SCI) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). His clinical research lab uses targeted physical exercises, electrical stimulation, drug repurposing, ischemic conditioning, and other methods designed to reactivate weakened nerve circuits. Aside from directing multiple clinical research studies, Dr. Harel co-directs the VA’s multidisciplinary ALS clinic, and teaches medical students and fellows at our academic affiliate, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Dr. Christopher Cardozois a practicing physician specializing in Pulmonary Diseases, and a clinician scientist. He received his BS from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) College of Engineering and his MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He is Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director of the Molecular Program of the Veterans Administration Rehabilitation Research and Development Service National Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), and Staff Physician at the James J. Peters VA. The goal of his research is to improve the function and quality of life for persons with spinal cord injury by improving the understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for muscle atrophy and bone loss, understanding the barriers to neurorepair and neuroplasticity, and by developing and testing interventions. His work combines the power of mouse genetics and molecular biology to address several important questions pertinent to muscle loss and functional impairments after SCI. Active areas of investigation include investigation of the role of ryanodine receptor dysfunction in impairment of specific force generation after SCI, biological basis for the effect of age at the time of SCI to worsen outcomes, and exploring the role of connexin hemichannels in post-SCI muscle atrophy. An additional area of investigation has been the role of the adaptor protein Numb in adult skeletal muscle. Current work in the lab is studying the role(s) of Numb in myocytes and muscle fibers using conditional, inducible knockouts and models of aging and muscle injury.
Dr. Leif Havton is recognized as an international expert on conus medullaris and cauda equina forms of SCI. He directs and serves as the Principal Investigator for an Anatomical Platform, which provides electron microscopic expertise and collaboration in support of two international consortia for research studies on neurologic rehabilitation and neural repair as well as neuromodulation of autonomic functions, supported by the Adelson Medical Research Foundation and the NIH Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Reverse Conditions (SPARC) program. Dr. Havton is the Director of the NIH-supported R25 Research Residency Training Program in the Department of Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He was appointed by the UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research and served as Chair for the UCLA Task Force on Research Infrastructure (2018-2020). He is the former Chair of the Council of Research at the UCLA Academic Senate. Dr. Havton is an Associate Editor for Frontiers of Neurology – Neurotrauma section, and he served as an invited Editor for a special issue on Bladder Control in Neurologic Diseases in Experimental Neurology. He has provided service as a UCLA IACUC member with special expertise in large animal models and as Vice Chair for the UC Irvine Human Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee. He regularly performs invited lectures and provided an Invited Plenary Lecture on emerging neuromodulation strategies for traumatic myelopathies at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.