As the director of the Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center, Christopher Goetz is on the cutting edge of 21st-century medicine. He extols the work being done by his colleague Jeffrey Kordawer, who is experimenting with ways to correct the decreased production of the neurotransmitter dopamine in people with Parkinson’s. “If a gene that turns on the production of neurotrophins could be placed directly into the portion of the brain where dopamine cells are produced, the cells that are still alive might be nourished and stay alive longer,” says Goetz, 62. “That could potentially halt the progression of the disease. That’s really the future.”
Yet Goetz doesn’t focus only on medicine’s frontiers. He has worked on several books about Jean-Martin Charcot, the 19th-century doctor recognized as the father of neurology. Charcot emphasized the necessity of careful and accurate observation. “Sometimes in the modern era we forget the importance of anatomy,” Goetz says. “If you don’t know what a disease of the nervous system impacts, you are going to misdirect your treatment”—a lesson he passes on to the young doctors who will carry medicine into the decades ahead.
Photograph: Anna Knott