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Mind and Brain
27 June, 2014

SAHMRI's Mind and Brain Theme creates medal for Translational Neuroscience achievement

Mind and Brain

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute’s (SAHMRI) Mind and Brain theme is excited to announce the creation of its first medal, named in honour of Professor Samuel Gershon MD, one of the fathers of the field of translational neuroscience worldwide. The medal created for Translational Neuroscience is the first of its kind.

SAHMRI Mind and Brain theme leader, Professor Julio Licinio, says "We are privileged to have created the first SAHMRI award medal in honor of Professor Sam Gershon, a recognised international leader in our field.”

The first recipient of the Gershon Medal, is Professor Samuel Frank Berkovic AC, MD, FAA, FRACP, FRS, Laureate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne for his work on the genetics, neurobiology and translational approaches to epilepsy.

Professor Berkovic’s early work was in neuroimaging, where he was a pioneer in the application of MRI and single photon emission computed tomography in epilepsy, and especially epilepsy surgery. This work was rapidly applied to routine clinical use and remains so today.

In the late 1980s, he realised the potential for clinical genetic research in epilepsy, utilising the NHMRC twin registry and working with large pedigrees. This led together with molecular genetic collaborators in Adelaide and Germany, to the discovery of the first gene for epilepsy in 1995. Subsequently, he and his group have been involved in the discovery of many of the known epilepsy genes.

This has changed the conceptualisation of the causes of epilepsy, having a major impact on directions of epilepsy research, and has directly translated into impacting daily clinical diagnosis and counselling, as well as refining treatment. Professor Berkovic heads a large Program Grant integrating genetic, imaging and physiological studies in epilepsy. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2007 and awarded a Companion ofthe Order of Australia in 2014.

Professor Berkovic says that receiving this award is a true honour. "I am delighted to be awarded the inaugural Samuel Gershon Medal. It is a singular honour to walk in the footsteps of Dr Gershon who was a true pioneer in translational neuroscience."

The medal will be awarded at SAHMRI’s Translational Neuroscience Day on Friday, 27 June 2014.

About Professor Samuel Gershon

Professor Gershon has had many accomplishments in his career. The most well known was his translation of the principles of pharmacology to lithium treatment of bipolar disorder, making it a universally used approach to bipolar disorders. In 1949, in Australia, Dr John Cade published his findings on the successful use of lithium salts to treat manic excitement. As a result of a number of deaths caused by lithium, Dr. Cade banned the use of lithium in his hospital. Gershon and colleagues at the University of Melbourne conducted a number of therapeutic studies from which they could propose a safe therapeutic range for lithium usage in patients: 0.6–1.2 mEq/L of lithium.

That "functional therapeutic window” is still being used worldwide. He was formerly Professor and Acting Head of Pharmacology, University of Melbourne; Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Research Unit, New York University; Chairman of Psychiatry, Wayne State University; Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Health Sciences and Vice President for Research, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Vice-Chair for Academic Affairs, Department of Psychiatry, University of Miami. He is also Co-Chief Editor of Bipolar Disorders (Wiley), a publication that he founded as the official journal of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders.

Professor Gershon is an Honorary Fellow with SAHMRI’s Mind and Brain theme. His input was critical for the choice of Professor Sam Berkovic, University of Melbourne, as the first Gershon Medal recipient. Professor Berkovic is one of the leading medical researchers in Australia. 

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