Wednesday, January 03, 2007

$5 Million Gift Establishes Judith Jaffe Multiple Sclerosis Unit At Weill Cornell Medical College

The Feil Family Foundation, with matching funds from the Dean's Challenge, has pledged $5.33 million to establish the new Judith Jaffe Multiple Sclerosis Unit at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. The Unit is named for Gertrude and Louis Feil's daughter Judith Jaffe.

The gift will also endow two Feil Family Clinical Scholar Awards in Multiple Sclerosis to recognize outstanding research and treatment.

Scheduled to open later this month, the Jaffe Multiple Sclerosis Unit will be located in Weill Cornell Medical College's historic new Ambulatory Care and Medical Education Building on York Ave. and 70th Street.

"The Feils have been faithful supporters of the Medical College for more than 20 years. Jeffrey J. Feil has been a valued member of our Board of Overseers since 2003, and his counsel and vision have been invaluable. With this generous gift, he continues to lead by example," says Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Weill Cornell's Board of Overseers.

Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, adds, "The new unit will further enhance our esteemed Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Care and Research Center, and offer patients access to the benefits of the latest research and highest quality patient care in multiple sclerosis."

"In addition to its national reputation for excellence in multiple sclerosis, Weill Cornell is well known for clinical and research excellence in all areas of medicine. Our family is very grateful for the care given by the Medical College and the Department of Neurology to my late father, Louis, late mother Gertrude, and our family," says Mr. Jeffrey Feil, president of the Feil Family Foundation.

The program is directed by Dr. Brian Apatoff, a nationally recognized authority in MS treatment and research, who says, "The Feil family's gift secures urgently needed expanded space in the new state-of-the-art Ambulatory Care and Medical Education Building. With the opening of the new unit and its additional staff, we expect patient visits to more than double."

Dr. Apatoff is also associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College and associate attending neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Care and Research Center offers diagnosis and treatment options to patients with multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis and other autoimmune, inflammatory demyelinating disorders of the central nervous system. Recognized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Center provides the latest treatments for the disease, including approved and novel investigational therapies. The program is dedicated to providing comprehensive patient care in a comfortable patient- and family-friendly environment. The Center will employ a coordinated multidisciplinary approach of relevant clinical departments - including designated specialists from neurology, neuro-ophthalmology, nutrition, urology, psychiatry, rehabilitative medicine, physical and occupational therapy, and clinical social work services.

"For the first time in medical history, we're able to control the disease, limit the frequency and severity of attacks, and limit the neurologic disability that would otherwise accumulate over time," says Dr. Apatoff. "It's a lifelong condition, but if you control it at the earliest stages, keep it mild, then the long-term outcomes are greatly improved."

The Center is pursuing innovative research, including immune-modulatory therapies and ways to inhibit gene expression of the "bad lymphocytes" considered to be the disease's main culprit. "We're trying to understand the primary mechanisms of the disease, the immunologic components that determine the patient's course," Dr. Apatoff continues. "We want to selectively identify and control aberrant immune responses, as opposed to older therapies that globally suppress the immune system and have all sorts of complications and side effects."

The Center is relatively unusual in that it not only serves a large patient population and conducts research but also trains residents from both NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

With views over the courtyard to the south adding to the relaxing feel of the comfortable, inviting reception area, the Jaffe Multiple Sclerosis Unit will consist of patient examination rooms; doctors' offices; an infusion room; and a support suite for nurse practitioners, a social worker, clinical trials coordinator and compliance coordinator.

The Feil family has funded the Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Care and Research Center since 2000, when they established the Louis and Gertrude Feil Professorship of Clinical Neurology in honor of Dr. John Caronna. In addition, the family has long supported the initiatives, programs and people of Weill Cornell, including endowment of The Judith Jaffe Multiple Sclerosis Fund, The Yvette and Seymour Feil Prize in Medicine, The Louis and Gertrude Feil Professorship of Medicine, The Gertrude and Louis Feil Scholarship Fund, and most recently, a substantial contribution to the Friends' Fund of Dr. R.A. Rees Pritchett.

Multiple Sclerosis

An estimated 400,000 Americans suffer from multiple sclerosis (M.S.). It generally first occurs in people between the ages of 20 and 50, more commonly in women, causing inflammation in the white matter of the central nervous system. It can ultimately destroy myelin, the protective sheathing that insulates and protects nerve cell fibers in the brain, optic nerve and spinal cord. Unchecked, M.S. can be very debilitating, with the nerve damage causing bladder and bowel disorders, cognitive and memory problems, visual disturbance, sexual dysfunction, depression and other symptoms. The exact cause is not known, but the disease appears to be initiated when the immune system mistakes the body's own myelin as a foreign substance.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College - located in New York City - is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine. The Medical College, which is a principal academic affiliate of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, offers an innovative curriculum that integrates the teaching of basic and clinical sciences, problem-based learning, office-based preceptorships, and primary care and doctoring courses. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research in such areas as stem cells, genetics and gene therapy, geriatrics, neuroscience, structural biology, cardiovascular biology, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and psychiatry - and continue to delve ever-deeper into the molecular basis of disease in an effort to unlock the mysteries behind the human body and the malfunctions that result in serious medical disorders. Weill Cornell Medical College is the birthplace of many medical advances - from the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer to the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., and most recently, the world's first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease. Weill Cornell's Physician Organization includes 650 clinical faculty, who provide the highest quality of care to patients.

Joan and Sanford I. Weill Cornell Medical College