November 20, 1998

New faculty boosts Stroke Center’s outreach capabilitites

New faculty boosts Stroke Center's outreach capabilitites

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The Stroke Center's Dr. Jeff Harris (center) and Nurse Vicki Stalmaseki conferred recently with patient Ron Jackson. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

The Vanderbilt Stroke Center has added a new team member to help achieve the goal of providing uniform care to all victims of stroke.

Dr. Jeff Harris, a graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, recently came on board to both treat patients and expand the center's ability to do clinical trials.

"It is a real pleasure to have Jeff at the Stroke Center," said Dr. Howard S. Kirshner, professor of Neurology and director of the Stroke Center. "His expertise allows us to expand both the number of clinical trials and the number of patients we are treating. It is a great help to have him with us."

Harris has strengthened one of the key missions of the Stroke Center ‹ greater outreach into the community.

"One of the most important parts of stroke care is outreach," said Harris. "If you can teach people about strokes and they start to protect themselves, then we can really start to reduce the number of incapacitating strokes," said Harris.

Harris and Kirshner are participating in the Anti-platelet African American Stroke Prevention Specialty (AAASPS). This program compares the use of ticliopidine and aspirin in African-American men with family histories of stroke.

"African-American men are at the highest risk for strokes. This study not only looks at these drugs but also involves reaching out to the community," said Harris.

As part of the AAASPS program, Harris spreads the word about studies taking place at VUMC that may help lower the risks of having a stroke.

Harris is a co-investigator on the study, which he began during a fellowship at Rush Presbyterian in Chicago.

Another addition to the Stroke Center is the formation of a rapid response team that can be in the hospital's Emergency Department within a few minutes.

"This rapid response team is very important since many stroke medications have to be give very quickly after the stroke," said Kirshner.

The stroke team that responds to the Emergency Room is made up of Kirshner, Harris, and several residents.

"The main thing that we would like people at the medical center to know is that the stroke center is available to provide uniform care to all victims of stroke," said Kirshner.

One of the main goals of the Stroke Center is to provide an incentive for physicians to send their patients into the service.

"While doctors can certainly keep their patients, if they are admitted to the Stroke Center they have access to drugs that are in clinical trials," said Kirshner.

The newest such clinical trial is testing the effectiveness of the drug clomethiazole, which researchers hope can help people who have had ischemic strokes. Clomethiazole works by promoting the gamma amino isobuteric acid (gaba) receptors in the brain.

"Gaba is an inhibitory transmitter in the brain that counteracts the excitatory toxicity that goes on during strokes," said Kirshner.

Clomethiazole is currently available in Europe as an anti-seizure medication. The clomethiazole and AAASPS are two of several studies either begun or in the planning stages by the Vanderbilt Stroke Center.