‘My hobby is neurology’
DR. MICHAEL REZAK, MA ’72 explains brain function to a patient. Rezak is on the faculty at Northwestern University’s department of neurology and serves as director of the Movement Disorders Center at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare.
DR. MICHAEL REZAK, MA ’72 has studied at many institutions, but he says his best educational experience was at Bradley, where he graduated with a master’s degree in physiological psychology.
“Bradley was nurturing. Professors went out with us after normal hours, and we’d talk about the brain and psychology. It was an open environment where students could ask any question. It was such an enlightening, mind-expanding experience. I felt I could do anything I wanted to, that I should follow the direction my interests were taking me,” says Rezak, who came to Bradley on the recommendation of his University of Wisconsin professor, the late ANTHONY FAZIO, MA ’63. “The program at Bradley focused on how the brain behaves and how behavior relates to brain functions. It spurred my interest in learning more.”
Rezak’s master’s thesis focused on the brain and what parts of the brain were responsible for what behaviors. “It was fascinating, and everything took off from there. I had planned to do counseling, but my experience at Bradley was the spark that moved me to continue my education.”
Spurred by that interest, he earned a doctoral degree in neuroanatomy and a postdoctoral fellowship in neurophysiology, then attended medical school at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine. He completed his residency in neurology at Yale University Hospital, then taught at Yale for a couple of years before returning to the Chicago area, where he is on the faculty at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in the department of neurology. He also is the director of the Movement Disorders Center at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare.
“We’ve built a sizeable movement disorders center, and we offer full-service for patients with Parkinson’s, tremors of all kinds, dystonia, Huntington’s disease, Tourette Syndrome — really any condition where there is too much or not enough movement that is not related to a stroke,” Rezak explains.
In addition to treating patients, the Center is involved in research. “A recent article in our hospital magazine was about the National Institute of Health study looking at a multi-center trial studying creatine, which people buy in health food stores. Anecdotal evidence says it may help slow down Parkinson’s, but no one has tested it scientifically to see if it really works. We’re involved in that study, as well as a number of other research projects. The one I’m most excited about is an early detection research center trying to identify people who are destined to develop Parkinson’s but don’t have any symptoms yet. This information is important, because if we have medicines that may slow or stop this progressive disease, we want patients to get on board with these as early as possible. People have to lose about 80 percent of dopamine (the neuro-transmitter that is lost in Parkinson’s) before they have their first motor symptom,” Rezak says, emphasizing the importance of treating patients as early as possible, maybe even before symptoms occur.
Looking back on the path of both his education and his career, Rezak concludes, “It was a long road, but it was worth it. I was able to follow my interests, and I love what I do. My vocation is the same as my avocation. My hobby is neurology.”
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