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Rhode Island Hospital’s W. Curt LaFrance Jr., MD, MPH, Honored with American Academy of Neurology’s Epilepsy Research Award

W. Curt LaFrance Jr., MD, MPH
W. Curt LaFrance Jr., MD, MPH  

W. Curt LaFrance Jr., MD, MPH, director of neuropsychiatry and behavioral neurology at Rhode Island Hospital, has received the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award. Established in 2001, the award recognizes physicians in the early stages of their careers who have made outstanding, independent contributions to epilepsy research.

“Dr. LaFrance has done seminal work on non-epileptic seizures. His work has not only identified the risk factors and markers for such events, but also he has pioneered innovative treatments that are improving the patients’ symptoms and quality of life,” said Shlomo Shinnar, MD, PhD, the ANN chair of the epilepsy subcommittee.

The award was presented to LaFrance at the 2013 AAN annual meeting in San Diego for his work largely done through the collaboration between Rhode Island Hospital’s division of neuropsychiatry and behavioral neurology and the hospital’s comprehensive epilepsy program. He presented his research on neuropsychiatric aspects of epilepsy and nonepileptic seizures (NES), describing the research on the diagnosis and treatment of NES.

“My interest in seizure disorders was sparked while attending the J. Kiffin Penry Epilepsy Minifellowship Program during my combined neurology psychiatry residency at Brown Medical School,” LaFrance said. “I am indebted to Dr. Penry’s legacy for the experience and exposure that launched my research and am honored to receive this award in his name.”

Board-certified in both in neurology and psychiatry, LaFrance examines the overlap between brain and behavior in his clinic and in research. One of LaFrance’s areas of expertise is in the neuropsychiatric aspects of epilepsy with a research focus on treatment and diagnosis of patients with NES.

“Many treatments exist for epilepsy, but few exist for NES. Given the great need for NES treatments, my aim is to provide hope for this challenging population with NES and equip clinicians with effective treatment for this disabling and difficult to manage disorder, so often seen in our patients and epilepsy programs across the world,” said LaFrance.

The neuropsychiatry/behavioral neurology division at Rhode Island Hospital was established in 2003 to evaluate and treat individuals with brain-behavior disorders. Working in conjunction with several of Rhode Island Hospital’s programs, the division collaborates with the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, the division of neuropsychology and the Mood Disorders Program. The division of neuropsychiatry/behavioral neurology is affiliated with Brown University's departments of psychiatry and neurology, and conducts studies sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the American Epilepsy Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, other private foundations, and the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Rhode Island Hospital.