Michael Racke, M.D., (second from right) congratulates Jerry Wolinsky, M.D., (second from left) on receiving the CMSC’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. They are joined by Fred Lublin, M.D., (far right) and Amy Lovett-Racke, Ph.D.
Michael Racke, M.D., (second from right) congratulates Jerry Wolinsky, M.D., (second from left) on receiving the CMSC’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. They are joined by Fred Lublin, M.D., (far right) and Amy Lovett-Racke, Ph.D.

Jerry S. Wolinsky, M.D., professor emeritus of neurology, recently was recognized with two prestigious distinctions for his innovation and dedication to helping those with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) awarded Wolinsky its 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award at its 31st Annual Meeting in New Orleans in appreciation of his career-long commitment to MS research, education, and patient care.

In addition, the Society for Clinical Trials (SCT) awarded him the 10th Annual David Sackett Trial of the Year Award at its 38th annual meeting in the United Kingdom for the Oratorio clinical trial, for which he was the senior investigator. (Watch Wolinsky accept the award in this video.)

Since 2008, the SCT has awarded the Trial of the Year to a randomized, controlled trial published either electronically or in print that improves humankind, provides a basis for a beneficial change in health care, reflects expertise in subject matter, and overcomes obstacles in implementation.

“I was overwhelmingly delighted on the part of an extraordinary number of people to accept the clinical trial award – there is no way just one person can take credit for it,” he said. “It’s just wonderful when international projects like this come together – academicians, clinicians, institutions and trialists of all types, and, of course patient volunteers and the many colleagues and support teams of the sponsor. It was a highly cooperative group, and a trial that is an important milestone in an area where a number of efforts in this phase of multiple sclerosis have failed. This recently FDA-approved drug, ocrelizumab, may usher in something substantially different for our patients.”

The lifetime achievement award was a complete surprise, he said.

“Many people, including my wife, Gerlind, and my colleagues kept me in the dark for months and throughout the meeting. I thought I was just going up on the stage to introduce the speaker,” he said. “Gerlind rarely comes to meetings with me and in fact had just returned from a lengthy trip from Germany the day before joining me in New Orleans at this meeting. I told her she really need not come  for just a day or two in New Orleans, but …. June Halper and other officers of the CMSC had been in collusion with Gerlind for several months in the clandestine plan to have her discretely in the audience and me in the dark about the award. It was surprising as well as rewarding.”

Wolinsky served as the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Group and the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Analysis Center in the Department of Neurology from 1983 until his retirement last year. He has served on the editorial board of the Multiple Sclerosis Journal and Multiple Sclerosis and Related Diseases as well as on review and advisory committees of the National Institutes of Health, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, and the Sylvia Lawry Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research.

He received his medical degree from the University of Illinois and completed residency training in clinical neurology, a fellowship in experimental neuropathology, and held a faculty appointment at the University of California San Francisco. He has authored over 300 publications relevant to neurovirology, neuroimmunology, clinical trials, and multiple sclerosis imaging.

“When you are dealing with a field like MS and therapies, these are all pieces of a big puzzle we are working on to put together. This is an international collaborative effort at its best, and it has been very rewarding with a greater number of people who can benefit,” Wolinsky said.

Wolinsky said the advances in multiple sclerosis have been “absolutely outstanding.”

“When I got to Texas, the number of patients in Hermann Hospital with MS used to be 15 percent of the service at any time. Now when these patients are hospitalized, we consider it to be failure of management, because we control the acute attacks so much better with new drugs that are being developed and put into use,” he explained.

He said the future for MS patients is positive. “Not all of the patients with MS may feel the benefits of these newer drugs, but if we never did any better, which I know we will, we will still see patients with fewer attacks, less disability, and fewer with progressive disease going forward.”

Looking back at his career and dedication to this disease, Wolinsky said he is most proud of, “My son and daughter having done so well with their careers.”