Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., has been appointed interim executive director for the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida.
DeKosky, a prominent Alzheimer’s disease researcher and UF alumnus, came to UF in July as the institute’s deputy director and a professor of neurology in the College of Medicine. He succeeds Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., who served as executive director for the institute since 2010.
“Dr. DeKosky’s broad experience as a highly respected researcher and medical school dean makes him an excellent choice to lead the McKnight Brain Institute on an interim basis,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “As a distinguished clinician and investigator, Dr. DeKosky understands how patient outcomes can be improved by applying the results of neuroscience research to patient care.”
Prior to joining the McKnight Brain Institute, DeKosky was an emeritus professor of neurology at the University of Virginia and, from 2008 to 2013, served as vice president and dean of its medical school. Earlier, he spent 18 years at the University of Pittsburgh in roles that included chairman of the neurology department and director of the Alzheimer’s disease center. As a researcher, DeKosky focused on understanding the neurochemistry, neuroimaging, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. He also co-authored the first report of the dementia associated with traumatic brain injuries among professional football players.
At UF, DeKosky did graduate work in psychology and neuroscience, received a medical degree in 1974 and completed a residency in neurology.
DeKosky said he is especially honored to lead an institute on the same campus where he earned his medical degree. The research work being done at the McKnight Brain Institute and elsewhere on the health campus is on an “upward and exciting path,” DeKosky said. His broad experience directing laboratories, overseeing an Alzheimer’s center, running an institute for neurodegenerative diseases and being a medical school dean will benefit the McKnight Brain Institute while the search for a director is conducted, he said.
He said he is eager to help facilitate research, especially within the department of neurology, which has a new chairman and has grown with the addition of scientists who do clinical and basic research. That, and UF Health’s recent designation as an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, makes it an exciting time to become the interim leader of the Brain Institute, DeKosky said.
“The Alzheimer’s research center, along with clinical care and translational research, are key parts of being a destination for care when you or a loved one has cognitive problems later in life,” he said.
In addition to assuming administrative duties as interim executive director of the Brain Institute, DeKosky said he will continue working on the significant projects that drew him to UF. That includes facilitating the translation of neuroscience research into diagnostic, neuroimaging and therapeutic advances that benefit patients, he said. DeKosky will be starting a translational research clinic that will bring new, experimental treatments to north central Florida. He also plans to establish a memory and cognition clinic that will include physicians, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists and nurses. In addition to seeing new patients, the memory clinic will be used to train new specialists and integrate research with patient care, DeKosky said.
A national search will be conducted for a permanent executive director.
UF Health’s continued growth in National Institutes of Health research funding, its focus on cross-disciplinary research and a faculty that includes internationally known researchers such as DeKosky will produce a robust field of candidates for executive director of the Brain Institute, said Thomas A. Pearson, M.D., Ph.D., UF Health executive vice president for research and chair of the executive director search committee.
“University of Florida Health continues to attract new research funding and some of the most talented and ambitious researchers in the nation. We are confident that many outstanding candidates will emerge,” Pearson said.