Nerve regeneration and synaptic plasticity.
Research: Our lab was focussed primarily on the study of the molecular response of retinal ganglion cells to optic nerve injury. Our goal was to understand why non-manmmalian vertebrates have the ability to regenerate their optic nerves after injury, while mammals are permanently blind following similar injuries. We were one of the labs which initially identified a group of fast-axonally transported proteins called "growth-associated proteins" or GAPS which were upregulated only under conditions of axon growth during development and regeneration. We were able to demonstrate that retinal ganglion cells in adult rats can be induced to regrow through peripheral nervous system grafts if cut axons are provided with specific growth factors which upregulate the expression of GAPs. Our lab also demonstrated that in the adult mammalian brain GAPs play a role in synaptic plasticity. Finally, other studies in the lab were directed towards understanding the post-translational modification of one of the specific GAP proteins, GAP-43, expressed under conditions of axon growth or synaptic plasticity.
Medical Education: Since 1998, I have devoted myself exclusively to teaching. As Director of Medical Education, I have the pleasure to work with a small, but dedicated, group of award-winning teachers. My own major teaching responsibility is as the Director of the Medical Neuroscience course for second year medical students. The overall goal of my teaching is to stimulate both the intellectual and personal development of students. In the medical course, promoting intellectual growth involves helping students acquire the knowledge base and clinical reasoning skills that will allow them to practice evidence-based medicine. Their personal development is promoted by encouraging self reflection, and by helping them develop interpersonal skills that will allow them to relate to patients in a compassionate and empathic manner. I also teach an undergraduate course in Integrative Neuroscience where students are encouraged to see the interrelationship of knowledge and ideas generated in philosophy, anthropology, and neurosciences.
Part of my scholarly activity involves extensive traveling to other medical centers nationally and internationally to teach Neurosciences or to conduct workshops on effective teaching. I have also acted as a consultant to other medical schools about medical curriculum reform and course design. Most recently, I was appointed as the external evaluator of Science Education Reform in 16 Colleges and Universities funded by the Keck Foundation.