New Neurology Appointments to Focus on Expanding Access at Home and Abroad

Aug. 1, 2013
Gretchen Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H.

Gretchen Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H., and E. Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., have joined the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurology effective August 1. Birbeck, an epilepsy specialist, and Dorsey, a movement disorders specialist, will both focus on the global burden of neurological disorders and efforts to expand access to underserved populations. 

“The number of people with neurological disorders will grow at a rapid pace over the next several decades,” said Robert G. Holloway, Jr., M.D., M.P.H., chair of the URMC Department of Neurology. “Expanding access to specialized care to patients in both the U.S. and the developing world will be one of the key challenges facing medicine. Drs. Birbeck and Dorsey are leaders and innovators in this field and we are thrilled to have them join our department.” 

Birbeck comes to URMC from Michigan State University and is a leader in international neuroepidemiology. Birbeck has spent the last 15 plus years studying the burden of neurological disorders and the effectiveness of health care delivery in sub-Saharan Africa and will divide her time between Rochester and projects in Africa. 

E. Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A.

Birbeck’s specific interest is epilepsy and seizure disorders – which are far more common in Africa and constitute a significant heath problem in the region – and the creation of interventions that can be scaled up to prevent epilepsy and provide epilepsy care to vulnerable populations on the continent. 

One of her objectives at Rochester will be to work with experts in the Neurology Department, the Center for Human Experimental Therapy (CHET), and Clinical and Translational Research Institute to build resources and networks necessary to conduct clinical trials in Africa and create education and training programs for African health care providers and researchers.

 “Dr. Birbeck’s recruitment is critical and strategic for the department and the Medical Center,” said Holloway. “Her presence will further strengthen the experimental therapeutics program within neurology and provide new dimensions in the areas of international health and infection disease that complement research programs in the Medical Center and the University.” 

Birbeck served as director of the International Neurologic and Psychiatric Epidemiology Program at Michigan State University. She received her medical degree from the University of Chicago, conducted her medical training at Johns Hopkins University, and received her M.P.H. from UCLA as a Robert Woods Johnson Clinical Scholar. 

Dorsey returns to URMC after a three year stint at Johns Hopkins University where he was director of the movement disorder division and neurology telemedicine. Dorsey will serve as co-director of CHET, one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated university-based clinical trials coordination organizations in the nation and a hub for several international networks of researchers studying new treatments for neurological disorders. 

“Dr. Dorsey is a skilled clinician, dedicated to reaching patients in need of care, and is utilizing methods to extend care networks to a global footing,” said Holloway. “He brings with him a wealth of experience in this field with innovating ideas and connections that will augment our presence in the rapidly developing evolving role of technology in medicine and research.”

In 2007, Dorsey and URMC neurologist Kevin Biglan, M.D., M.P.H., launched a telemedicine program for Parkinson’s patients in nursing homes.   The pair has since published results from the program showing that telemedicine was capable of providing quality, cost-effective care Parkinson’s care that patients found preferable to visits to the doctor’s office. Dorsey’s collaboration with Biglan continued during his tenure at John Hopkins. 

One of Dorsey’s new areas of focus at URMC will be to expand the scope of the telemedicine program to serve patients with Parkinson disease throughout New York and expand these services to other neurological disorders. Dorsey recently received a $1.7 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study the delivery of telemedicine care to Parkinson’s patients in their homes nationally. 

Dorsey received his medical and business degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and completed and his neurology residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  He completed an NIH-supported fellowship in movement disorders and experimental therapeutics at URMC.