Erin Furr Stimming
Erin Furr Stimming

The comprehensive Huntington’s disease program at McGovern Medical School, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), has been named one of the HDSA Centers of Excellence for 2016 by the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA).

The new HDSA Center of Excellence at UTHealth/UT MOVE is one of just 39 across the country and the only one in Texas to receive the prestigious designation. UT MOVE is the UTHealth Movement Disorders & Neurodegenerative Diseases Program in the Department of Neurology.

“HDSA Centers of Excellence represent an elite team approach to providing the comprehensive and expert Huntington’s disease care to families, while simultaneously committing to the clinical science that will bring treatments for HD forward,” said Louise Vetter, president and CEO of HDSA. “We are proud to recognize the excellence in HD care made possible by Dr. Erin Furr Stimming and the team at UTHealth.”

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal inherited disorder that causes degeneration of brain cells, according to the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms of the disease, which gets progressively worse, include uncontrolled movements, abnormal body postures and changes in behavior, emotion, judgment, and cognition. The disease typically begins in the prime of a person’s life, between the ages of 30 and 50. Eventually, HD affects the ability to reason, walk, and speak. More than 30,000 Americans have HD. Every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the altered gene, placing 200,000 Americans at risk. There is no cure.

“It’s a complex, devastating disease,” said Erin Furr Stimming, M.D., associate professor of neurology and director of the center, which received $15,000 as part of the designation. “The funding will allow us to continue our clinical efforts, enhance education, patient support and raise awareness about HD. We are honored to be recognized by this organization and we are grateful for their support.”

Furr Stimming, a movement disorder neurologist associated with Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, began building the UTHealth team three years ago. The UT Physicians clinic (832-325-7080) includes a psychiatrist, genetic counselor, social worker, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and speech therapist. UT Physicians is the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

According to HDSA, the centers share an exemplary commitment to bringing comprehensive care to HD-affected families across the United States. This year, HDSA will be allocating $1,092,250 to the Centers of Excellence program, which is a 38 percent increase in funding from the $790,000 awarded in 2015. Support for the 2016 HDSA Centers of Excellence was made possible in part by the generosity of the Griffin Foundation.