The Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health continues to build on its reputation as a destination featuring centrally located care for patients with neurological disorders. Through the generosity of private donors, the team at the Fixel Institute recently added some important tools to their imaging arsenal: The Dorothy Mangurian Neuroimaging Suite. Officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 16, the 15,000-square-foot addition features four new specialized imaging machines, including two 3 Tesla MRI machines, a PET-CT machine and a magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanner.
Named for Dorothy Mangurian, the suite’s vision began to take shape with a grant from The Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation, which has been a major supporter of the Fixel Institute’s research into dementia with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Founded in 1999 by Harry Mangurian and his wife, Dorothy, the foundation has a history of supporting research in neurology and neuroscience, motivated by Dorothy’s own dementia with Lewy bodies diagnosis. Stephen Mehallis, president of the foundation, spoke about their decision to continue their investment in the Fixel Institute.
“Our longstanding relationship with UF Health’s neurological research program and its focus on specific research goals were the key motivators in awarding this grant to the Fixel Institute,” Mehallis said. “Under the leadership of Drs. Michael Okun and Melissa Armstrong, the accomplishments of the Fixel Institute have been held in high esteem by its patients and its national peers. Additionally, the key talent that accompany the new Mangurian Neuroimaging Suite certainly bode well for the Institute’s future.”
After the initial grant from The Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation, the project attracted other donors, including longtime UF supporters, the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation and the Curtis family. All told, more than 20 donors contributed funds for the construction of the new Mangurian Suite and its imaging equipment, with gifts totaling $20 million.
Separate, additional spaces in the same building include 10 rooms designated for clinical trial use, as well as various clinical and research areas, designated as the clinical research suite. The new additions will move the needle in care, treatment and research of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders, said Michael Okun, M.D., executive director of the Fixel Institute.
“The new neuroimaging equipment and research suites will allow us to visualize the brain in ways we hadn’t previously imagined,” Okun said. “Imaging will play a critical role – not only for comprehensive care, but also for access to hundreds of new clinical trials. We can dramatically increase the capacity of trials we can offer and the number of patients we can reach.”
As well as providing care to more patients, the new Mangurian Suite and the clinical research suite will mean an increase in staffing, including four new AI-dedicated clinician researchers: Brandon Zielinski, M.D., Ph.D., chief of pediatric neurology and associate professor of neurology; Abbas Babajani-Feremi, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and director of the Mangurian Suite’s MEG lab; Reza Forghani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiology and vice chair of artificial intelligence; and Joshua Wong, M.D, assistant professor of neurology.
“Along with the focused AI initiative at the University of Florida, the addition of the new neuroimaging suite, several new world-class clinicians and researchers and MEG technology – one of only four in the southeast – will help solidify the Fixel Institute and UF Health as world leaders in transformational care and research for complex neurological disorders,” said Kelly Foote, M.D., co-director of the Fixel Institute.
The MEG scanner works by measuring magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in the brain, which helps surgeons preparing for epilepsy-related surgery pinpoint the exact location in the brain causing seizures. Besides also helping doctors plan surgeries for patients with brain tumors, the MEG will advance research in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.
“MEG is a powerful technology that offers a noninvasive, comprehensive assessment of critical brain functions,” Babajani-Feremi said. “We now have unprecedented ability to assess language, motor, auditory and visual processing to determine precisely where and when activity occurs in the brain. Such assessments not only aid in guiding care and treatment decisions but also serve as a roadmap for future research and discoveries.”
Additionally, the Mangurian Suite’s PET-CT scanner brings a new level of imaging to the Fixel Institute. A procedure that combines images from a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan, these scans will now be done at the same time with the same machine. The combined scans provide more detailed pictures of areas inside the body than either scan can give by itself. A PET-CT scan may be used to help diagnose disease, such as cancer, plan treatment, or find out how well treatment is working.
Anthony Mancuso, M.D., professor and chair of the department of radiology spoke with pride about the unique advantage the PET-CT scanner provides for UF Health’s patients and researchers. Mancuso notes the Fixel Institute’s PET-CT scanner is at the forefront of technology, describing it as the most modern PET-CT scanner in north Florida.
UF Health donor Ann Curtis speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Dorothy Mangurian Neuroimaging Suite at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health.
From left to right, Norman Fixel; his son, Lee; Dr. Michael Okun, executive director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health; and Dr. Kelly Foote, co-director of the institute.
“The generosity of these donors will sustain and elevate the legacy of the UF neurosciences team by providing an extraordinary suite of imaging tools,” Mancuso said. “By providing these tools in one central patient care location, each of the imaging modalities is uniquely essential for the optimal completion of our missions on behalf of our patients.”
Following the Fixel Institute’s collaborative approach to treatment and care, the neuroimaging suite will provide a wide range of imaging for patients facing a wide range of neurological diseases. It’s no wonder, Okun said, that it took a group of donors to make it happen.
“We are so proud of the donors who have made this facility possible,” Okun said. “The potentially broad impact of their collective giving cannot be overstated. Because of them, tens of thousands of lives will be touched.”
To learn more about supporting the Fixel Institute, reach out to Stephen Figueroa, senior director of development, at email@example.com or 352-273-5882.
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