Mayo Clinic Neuropathologist Awarded International Professional Society’s Highest Honor
Dennis Dickson, M.D., a neuropathologist at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida, will receive the highest honor bestowed by the American Association of Neuropathologists (AANP), an international society of physicians and scientists who study, diagnose, and treat diseases related to the brain, nerves, and muscles.
The honor—the Award for Meritorious Contributions to Neuropathology—recognizes a member who has made significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge in neuropathology as well as service to AANP, where Dr. Dickson once served as president and as chair of the Program Committee. The award will be given to him June 17 at the AANP’s annual meeting in Baltimore.
Dr. Dickson is a neuropathologist who focuses on studies of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He is director of the Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research. He also oversees the Mayo Clinic brain bank. For more than 20 years, he has built one of the largest and well-characterized brain banks in the world—a resource that has benefitted research of many scientists and clinicians.
Dr. Dickson was born in Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and his medical degree from the University of Iowa, where he also spent a post-sophomore year in anatomic pathology and neuropathology. He completed residencies in anatomic pathology and neuropathology at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City in 1986, where he was the director of Neuropathology for 10 years before arriving at Mayo Clinic.
One of his first research papers described monoclonal antibodies specific to neurofibrillary pathology in Alzheimer’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare Parkinsonian disorder. Dr. Dickson went on to develop the world’s largest brain bank for PSP and related disorders.
Studying donated brains has led to a number of discoveries, including new genes and genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, PSP, and other major neurodegenerative disorders, such as Lewy body dementia, frontal lobe dementia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. More recently, he studied the frequency of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the Mayo Clinic brain bank with research fellow Kevin Bieniek, Ph.D., and found it only in brains of former athletes involved in contact sports.
In addition to providing a final diagnosis, neuropathologic findings provide closure to the family and feedback to the physicians involved in care of the patient. They also help elucidate the molecular pathology of these disorders, which will eventually lead to better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of these disorders, according to Dr. Dickson.
Dr. Dickson has been nationally and internationally recognized with awards, such as the Metropolitan Life Award, Saul R. Korey Award from the AANP, the Fred Springer Award from the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, the Alfred Meyer Award from the British Neuropathological Society, and the Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology. In 2015, Dr. Dickson was named a Mayo Clinic Distinguished Investigator.