By Paul Govern
Neuroscientist Véronique Belzil, PhD, MS, will join Vanderbilt University Medical Center as associate professor of Neurology and director of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research, effective Jan. 8, 2024.
ALS, while rare, is the most common motor neuron disease in adults. At any given time in the United States, between 15,000 and 21,000 people are living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. (Physicist Stephen Hawking was another famous person who had the disease.) With no cure or significant treatments yet available, the disease is fatal for most patients within three to five years of diagnosis.
“Dr. Belzil is a recognized leader in ALS research whose state-of-the-art experimental approaches are well suited to synergize with VUMC’s strengths in genomics and bioinformatics and our goal of making health care personal,” said Dane Chetkovich, MD, PhD, Margaret and John Warner Professor and chair of the Department of Neurology. “Thanks to a partnership with the Live Like Lou Foundation, Vanderbilt was able to recruit Dr. Belzil to establish the first basic science lab in Tennessee and one of a few in the country that is solely dedicated to fighting this terrible disease. Recruiting Dr. Belzil is an important step forward for Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and most importantly the patients and families who need us to do everything we possibly can to find a cure for ALS.”
Belzil comes to Vanderbilt from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where she serves as assistant professor of Neurology. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology are from McGill University in Montréal and Walden University in Minneapolis, respectively. She completed a doctorate in neuroscience from Université de Montréal in 2012, followed by a fellowship at Mayo, where she joined the faculty in 2014 as instructor of neuroscience.
“I am looking forward to establishing a world-renowned collaborative and translational ALS research center by prioritizing open science, teamwork, interdisciplinary expertise, and national and international collaborations,” Belzil said. “The Vanderbilt ALS Research Center will become a natural extension of my own laboratory’s mission: develop patient-centered approaches to quickly bring findings from bench to bedside so ALS becomes curable.”