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Karen Mallet
(media only)

Georgetown, MedStar NRH Researcher Receives Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Grant

After highly competitive grant review, Peter E. Turkeltaub, M.D., Ph.D., was selected for a 2012 Clinical Scientist Development Award

WASHINGTON -- The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has selected Peter E. Turkeltaub M.D., Ph.D., as recipient of a 2012 Clinical Scientist Development Award. The highly-competitive grant, totaling $486,000 over three years, is intended to support junior physician-scientists as they transition to independence as clinical researchers.

Turkeltaub is a member of the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery, a joint program of Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network that focuses on the study of neural plasticity, the biological process that underlies the brain's ability to learn, develop, and recover from injury. Turkeltaub is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), and is director of the aphasia clinic in the research division at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (MedStar NRH).

Turkeltaub’s research focuses on brain plasticity and recovery following a stroke, the leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke often causes damage in the part of the brain responsible for language comprehension and speech – a condition known as aphasia. The Doris Duke grant will support Turkeltaub in examining a specific clinical intervention to help people recover from aphasia.

“I'm honored to receive this support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation,” Turkeltaub says. “My mission is to find new ways to improve the lives of people living with cognitive and language difficulties by enhancing the brain's ability to reorganize after an injury. This award will be critical for establishing my research program at Georgetown and at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital.”

“Peter is an outstanding selection for this grant because of his strong record of research accomplishments and productivity at every stage of his early career,” says Edward B. Healton, M.D., M.P.H, chairman of the Department of Neurology at GUMC. “His research is innovative and carefully designed to ultimately improve the lives of patients.”

“Aphasia is a tremendously frustrating and disabling condition for people with stroke and other brain injuries,” says Turkeltaub’s mentor, Alexander Dromerick, M.D., associate medical director for research at MedStar NRH. “Peter is developing an aphasia research center with the deep clinical resources at MedStar NRH and in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of Georgetown University faculty who study language. The Doris Duke grant will help catalyze this effort with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of people with aphasia.” Dromerick also is co-director of the Center for Brain Plasticity.

Recovering from aphasia, which affects a third of all people who have a stroke, requires robust neural plasticity. In most cases, recovery from aphasia is incomplete resulting in substantial long-term disability. Approximately one million Americans have chronic aphasia, and there are no effective medical treatments to improve recovery.

After a stroke causing aphasia, brain networks for language reorganize over time. This dynamic process involves compensatory recruitment of brain tissue in its left hemisphere and potentially badly adaptive recruitment of areas in its right hemisphere.

“One potential avenue for intervention might be to externally enhance left hemisphere activity, while inhibiting the right,” Turkeltaub explains.

He says transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a new technique that can safely and non-invasively modulate brain activity and possibly have a lasting effect on stroke recovery.

“We hypothesize that a course of tDCS designed to simultaneously enhance the left hemisphere and inhibit the right hemisphere can improve recovery from post-stroke aphasia, especially in the first few months after a stroke,” Turkeltaub explains. “I’m hopeful this research will lead to a new treatment option for people with aphasia.”

Clinical Scientist Development Awards are highly competitive. For the 2012 competition, U.S.-accredited, degree-granting institutions were invited to nominate junior faculty level physician-scientists conducting clinical research in any disease area. A panel of experts, including seven past awardees of Doris Duke clinical research grants, reviewed 126 proposals and recommended the strongest candidates for funding. Including the new grants, the foundation has awarded 202 Clinical Scientist Development Awards since 1998, totaling approximately $90 million.

“The foundation is committed to developing the clinical research workforce, and the Clinical Scientist Development Award is a cornerstone of that strategy,” said Betsy Myers, director of the medical research program at the Foundation. “Providing support to talented young physician-scientists as they move to independence is crucial, as they face the dual challenges of seeing patients and conducting research. Our hope is that the CSDA grant helps with this important transition.”

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse and neglect, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties.

Since 1998, the foundation’s Medical Research Program has committed approximately $259 million to strengthen and support clinical research that advances the translation of biomedical discoveries into new treatments, preventions and cures for human diseases. To learn more about the program or to sign up to receive competition announcements, visit

About the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery
The Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery, a Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network collaboration, focuses on the study of biological processes underlying the brain’s ability to learn, develop, and recover from injury. Through interdisciplinary laboratory and clinical research and patient care, the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery aims to find ways to restore cognitive, sensory, and motor function caused by neurological damage and disease.

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical Translation and Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. In fiscal year 2010-11, GUMC accounted for 85 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding. For more about GUMC, log on to

About MedStar National Rehabilitation Network
MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital is a private, not-for-profit facility with 137 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. MedStar NRH’s services are designed specifically for the rehabilitation of individuals with disabling injuries and illnesses such as stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury and disease, arthritis, amputations, post-polio syndrome, chronic pain, back and neck pain, occupational injuries, cancer and cardiac disease that require medical rehabilitation, and other neurological and orthopedic conditions. Annually, MedStar NRH admits approximately 2,200 inpatients and provides nearly 350,000 ambulatory visits at 34 MedStar National Rehabilitation Network outpatient sites located in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. We treat patients from the age of 6 and up and our pediatric unit — the National Center for Children’s Rehabilitation — is a joint service of MedStar NRH and Children’s National Medical Center.

MedStar NRH has appeared on the “Best Hospitals” list in U.S. News & World Report for 18 consecutive years and is currently ranked among the top hospitals for medical rehabilitation in America. MedStar NRH is fully accredited by The Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). We have CARF accredited specialty programs for Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, and Stroke. MedStar NRH is a proud member of MedStar Health., parent company to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, MedStar Harbor Hospital, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and the MedStar Visiting Nurse Association. For more on MedStar NRH, log on to


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