Oregon Health & Science University has established the Rocky and Julie Dixon Professorship in Neurology, an endowed faculty position supporting a leading faculty member of OHSU’s nationally acclaimed brain research programs.
The professorship was made possible by a $1 million gift from Portland business and civic leader John W. “Rocky” Dixon and his wife Julie. Their investment will generate support in perpetuity; bolstering OHSU’s future ability to retain and attract prominent neuroscientists who are making significant advances in the search for new treatments and cures for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative brain diseases.
The first Dixon Professor fits that description to a tee. Gary L. Westbrook, M.D., a professor of neurology in the School of Medicine and Senior Scientist in the Vollum Institute at OHSU, is an expert in neurotransmission, the regrowth of brain and nerve cells, and the functions of neuronal networks. Highly active in both local and international neuroscience circles, Westbrook serves OHSU in multiple capacities. He is co-director of the OHSU Vollum Institute, which focuses on basic neuroscience research. He is co-director of the OHSU Brain Institute, the umbrella organization over OHSU’s diverse research centers and programs in basic neuroscience, neurology, neurosurgery, behavioral neuroscience, and psychiatry. As the Dixon Professor, he will co-direct the activities of the Jungers Center for Neurosciences Research, a collaborative of the Vollum Institute and the Department of Neurology, created to translate basic research discoveries into practical treatments for neurodegenerative conditions.
“Gary is a gifted physician, leader and all-around great thinker,” said Dennis Bourdette, M.D., Roy and Eulalia Swank Research Professor and Chair of OHSU’s Department of Neurology and co-director of the Jungers Center. “Gary brings strong leadership to the Jungers Center, and has been instrumental in our efforts to recruit four brilliant scientists to OHSU to help advance our shared vision. He has been unwavering in his quest for excellence,” he said.
“As we strive to bring and keep the best and brightest scientists in Oregon and OHSU, endowed faculty positions like the Rocky and Julie Dixon Professorship are incredibly helpful,” said OHSU School of Medicine Dean Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A. “It takes innovators to fund science – people who understand the value of long-term thinking, and who understand and support the role of medical research. Rocky and Julie have that understanding, and they also know just how good the neurosciences are at OHSU—and support it. These three innovators—Gary Westbrook, and Julie and Rocky Dixon—will make a powerful team in the advancement of neuroscience research. This tremendous gift is deeply appreciated.”
OHSU President Joe Robertson said the professorship underscores the powerful role that philanthropy has played in OHSU’s growth into the top U.S. neuroscience research programs. “The legacy of Howard Vollum gave us the Vollum Institute and its world-class basic science. The vision of Frank and Julie Jungers gave us the Jungers Center and a platform to translate discoveries into treatments. Now the generosity of the Dixons is supporting the outstanding individuals who will drive our success. The fact that one person – Gary Westbrook – plays an instrumental role in all three of these endeavors speaks to his caliber as a scientist and leader.”
Dr. Westbrook received his medical training and did graduate study in Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. He was then an intern and resident at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Boston (Internal Medicine) and at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (Neurology). After clinical training, he spent six years in basic neuroscience research at the National Institutes of Health before moving to OHSU to join the Vollum Institute and Department of Neurology in 1987. He was elected in 2008 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support to advance Oregon Health & Science University’s vital missions, and to invest and manage gifts responsibly to honor donors’ wishes. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors’ wishes.