Dr. Karen E. Anderson Named Director of Huntington Disease Center at Georgetown

Posted in News Release

WASHINGTON – Karen E. Anderson, MD, has been named director of the Huntington Disease Care, Education and Research Center (HDCERC), a joint endeavor of Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. The Huntington Disease Center, established in 2012, is the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary center to focus on treatment, education and research in the Washington, D.C., area.

Anderson, a neuropsychiatrist with dual appointments in the departments of psychiatry and neurology, will lead a team of neurologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, genetic counselors, social workers and other specialists who make up the Huntington Disease Center.

“Because it is an inherited condition, caring for individuals with Huntington disease (HD) means treating the entire family, and our center philosophy, cura familia or ‘care of the family’ encompasses this concept,” says Anderson, who was previously a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where she founded and directed an HD clinic. “I’m excited to lead this terrific center team. One of our primary immediate goals to expand access to HD care and develop a regional network of expertise.”

To that end, the Huntington Disease Center has already established a satellite site at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Maryland in addition to the clinic at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

The Huntington Disease Center is supported by a generous $1 million gift from the Griffin Foundation earlier this year, which was key in Anderson’s recruitment. An initial gift from the foundation in 2012 helped launch the center.

“Patients and families in the metro Washington, DC area have had to travel long distances to find professionals trained in caring for Huntington disease,” says John Griffin, president of the Griffin Foundation. “This travel is difficult and harmful for both the caregiver and the patient. Having this center at MedStar Georgetown other MedStar facilities will serve a large population of those in need of treatment. Dr. Anderson has been filling this role for years and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the new HD Center which should become the model for others.”

“As a clinician and a researcher, Dr. Anderson’s leadership goals builds on GUMC’s mission of cura personalis – care of the whole person, which is essential for the many families coping with this devastating disease,” says Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD, executive vice president for health sciences at GUMC and executive dean of Georgetown’s School of Medicine. “In addition to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to our patients, Dr. Anderson will ensure a considerable focus on research to discover new approaches to both treat the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.”

Richard Goldberg, MD, president of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, agrees and says Anderson is extremely focused on the families in her care.

“Dr. Anderson has extensive experience working closely with all the disciplines involved in the care of Huntington patients,” Goldberg says. “With Dr. Anderson’s leadership, the HD Center’s team of neurologists, psychiatrists, social workers and others will provide those with Huntington disease and their families with the highest level of quality and compassionate care. Our patients will greatly benefit from Dr. Anderson’s clinical and research expertise. “

Anderson’s research interests include behavioral symptoms in patients with HD and other movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. She is a member of the executive committee of the Huntington Study Group, the foremost academic association for HD research in North America.  Her work includes collaboration with the European HD Network on global efforts to study and treat emotional symptoms in HD.  Anderson conducts clinical trials for treatment and disease modification in HD, and is trained in programming for deep brain stimulation therapy for movement disorders.

Anderson earned her medical degree from University of Chicago Pritzker Medical School. She completed her internship at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and her residency and postdoctoral research training in psychiatry at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where she began her work in HD. She has subspecialty certification in neuropsychiatry and behavioral neurology.

HD is a hereditary, progressively degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure. HD causes involuntary movements, cognitive decline and a host of emotional disturbances.  It slowly diminishes a person’s ability to walk, talk and reason. All children of someone with HD have a  50 percent risk of developing the condition. There is only one approved treatment for the movement symptoms and no therapy to date has been shown to halt or slow progression. Conservative estimates suggest about 30,000 people in the U.S. have HD and about 150,000 individuals are at risk of having inherited the HD genetic change.

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital with 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis—caring for the whole person—MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.

MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital—Knowledge and Compassion…Focused on You.

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.