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Discussing the Latest Innovations in Neurology

Despite inevitable slowdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, the field of neurology has seen significant advancements in things like novel therapies and patient treatments.

Conrad “Chris” Weihl, M.D., Ph.D., is an academic neurologist who is interested in inherited neuromuscular disorders, or rare diseases, and who splits his time between seeing patients and doing research involving genetics, molecular mechanisms, and ultimately developing potential therapeutics. He is also the Chair of the Scientific Programming Advisory Committee for the American Neurological Association (ANA) Annual Meeting, which gives him a bird’s eye view of upcoming trends in the field of neurology. 

According to Dr. Weihl, the ANA annual conference is for neurologists who are interested in understanding the cutting-edge research related to multiple disciplines of neurology.

“People are able to present and discuss their research,” he said. “They also cover interesting patients that may expand our understanding of certain disease states, and participants are also able to talk about challenges within both the care and treatment of patients, but also of advancing their own careers.”

Conferences are a great place for professionals who are looking to learn more about the overall trends happening in their fields. One such trend noticed by academic neurologists like Dr. Weihl is in the treatment of neurological diseases. He notes that some of the most exciting research that has been developing in recent years relates to diseases that were previously thought to be untreatable, like spinal muscular atrophy.

“There is now a gene therapy treatment for that disease,” Dr. Weihl said. That’s a disease that was thought to be untreatable when I was in training, and even as recently as five years ago. And ultimately, many of those patients end up dying, but now we have a therapy we can intervene with.”

One of the sessions that will be covered at the ANA annual meeting involves innovations in ALS care. 

“ALS falls into that category of diseases that were thought to be untreatable, and we’re now seeing therapies that are potentially coming to fruition,” Dr. Weihl said. “In the next 5 to 10 years, I think we’re going to see therapies for this disease.”

Slowed by the pandemic

COVID-19 hit academic neurologists just like it did everyone else. According to Dr. Weihl, the pandemic has affected junior faculty in particular, who may be in a vulnerable part of their career. 

Despite these challenges, he still maintains neurology is an exciting field to start a career in. 

“This is probably the most exciting time to go into the field of neurology,” he said. “In the 1970s and ‘80s, we talked a lot about cancer and treating cancers with novel therapies, and that’s really where we are now in neurology. New therapies are emerging all of the time, and it’s extremely exciting.”

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