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Meet Joel Salinas of Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Brain Health

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Salinas.

Joel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Throughout my training in neurology, I was often confronted with patients with devastating brain diseases. There were patients like 80-year-old Debbie, who treated everyone like her grandchild. She arranged the flowers at her church every Sunday. First, she would forget the names of the flowers, then the names of regular churchgoers. When she forgot where she lived, her family brought her to my clinic. We performed a scan of her brain and found that she had suffered small strokes years before and was now crossing the threshold into Alzheimer’s disease.

Age-related brain diseases are not a normal, healthy part of the aging process. They are manifestations of a long cascade of smaller biological events that begin decades before we experience their first neurological symptoms, forcing us to make the first contact with a neurologist in a clinic or the emergency room.

Seeing the common trajectory of devastating age-related brain diseases in all of us, I wanted to get to the origin of the problem. That meant rethinking the way we approach brain diseases and brain health, going upstream as early as possible in the cascade of disease events and stop these diseases before they ever have a chance to start.

This shared desire brought a group of like-minded patients, researchers, and clinicians to create the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Brain Health, to focus on preventing brain disease, preserving brain health, and restoring brain function across the lifespan.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The traditional medical model was designed around a culture and a system aimed almost entirely around treating acute illnesses when they crop up, like a game of whack-a-mole. One of the biggest challenges we faced was figuring out how we could provide a new way of caring for people before they develop brain disease or before their existing brain diseases slowly continues to worsen below the surface.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Brain Health – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are a unique collection of experts from across the neurosciences with long track records in providing excellence in clinical care and studying brain diseases and brain health using the most cutting-edge tools available in the sciences. The Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Brain Health brings together the leading global expertise of our hospital and Harvard Medical School to work alongside patients to discover new ways to prevent brain disease and preserve brain function across the lifespan. We serve three groups of people: those who have an active brain disease and want to have access to non-drug therapies, those at high risk for brain disease, and those who are highly motivated to preserve their brain function.

It is important to note that when we think about brain disease or brain health, we think of all the functions of the brain, which means that we remove the common artificial boundaries between neurology, psychiatry, and other brain-related specialties. Specialists from across the clinical neurosciences provide each patient with a thorough, multi-disciplinary, and individualized risk assessment and long-term treatment plan. This is a critical first step for patients to develop a life-long plan for protecting their brain function. Through the Institute, our patients gain access to all of the clinical neurosciences at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as our therapists, nutritionists, and even the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine. Because our clinicians and investigators work side-by-side on groundbreaking research devoted to finding new ways to prevent brain disease, preserve brain health, and restore brain function, we offer all of our patients the opportunity to participate in the research programs of the Institute.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
The Institute has just launched and we are looking forward to developing all of the services that we offer, including emerging diagnostic and therapeutic technologies and provide our patients with direct access to exciting research studies in the field of treating brain and nerve diseases.

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