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Neurology chair, MS researcher named Gilbert Glaser Professor

Medicine@Yale, 2009 - Nov Dec


David A. Hafler, M.D., chair and chief of neurology at Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH), has been named the first Gilbert H. Glaser, M.D., Professor.

Hafler, a leader in the effort to better understand the molecular basis of multiple sclerosis (MS), joined the faculty of the School of Medicine this September. An authority on the mechanisms of autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system, he was previously director of molecular immunology in the neurology department at Harvard Medical School, where he was the Jack, Sadie, and David Breakstone Professor of Neurology (Neuroscience) and a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Hafler has been a major force in defining the causes of multiple sclerosis. He was among the first to apply the technique of T-cell cloning to human disease, identifying the targets of activated immune cells in patients with MS.

More recently, Hafler became an associate member of the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT, and founded an international collaboration with scientists from the University of Cambridge and the University of California, San Francisco. The group led an initiative to explore the genetic basis of MS, culminating in the first whole genome scan identifying MS-associated genes, work published in 2008 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The new professorship honors Gilbert H. Glaser, M.D., professor emeritus of neurology and chair of the medical school’s Department of Neurology from 1971 to 1986.

Glaser, who was the department’s founding chair, is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of the field as a distinct medical specialty. His work in neurology and neuroscience as both an investigator and a teacher advanced both disciplines nationally and internationally. In particular, Glaser’s research on epilepsy, which included one of the first identifications of a specific location of epileptic discharges in the brain, has helped to improve both surgical and non-surgical treatments of the disorder. Yale’s epilepsy program under Glaser’s leadership was one of the nation’s first and has evolved into one of the most active and advanced in the world.

Glaser received the W. G. Lennox Award from the American Epilepsy Society in 1963, and served as president of the American Academy of Neurology from 1973 through 1975.