Inequality focus as Carroll takes global neurology role

25/10/2017 - 15:11

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WA neurologist William Carroll has been named president of the World Federation of Neurology, the field’s top global position.

William Carroll wants to develop the field of neurology in Africa. Photo: Attila Csaszar

William Carroll has an ambitious agenda for the World Federation of Neurology when he takes up its presidency next year.

Perth-based Professor Carroll told Business News this month his aim while head of the WFN was to establish neurological care protocols in those parts of the world currently lacking services and facilities.

Founded in 1957, the WFN represents all national neurological societies and aims to improve the care of neurological patients worldwide.

“I want to continue the role of the WFN in its primary mission, and as part of that I will be continuing to progress the development of neurology in Africa,” said Professor Carroll, who operates as a neurologist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and a multiple sclerosis (MS) clinician and researcher at the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science.

“I think (under my leadership) there’ll be a change of emphasis in terms of getting a global plan to tackle these inequalities.

“And the second thing is there’ll be a change in the way our regional organisation structures operate in identifying and addressing those problems.”

Professor Carroll said Western Australia and Australia were exemplars of what a country should provide in terms of neurological expertise.

“What WA provides is a stable base to be able to undertake this more internationally focused work,” he said.

The African Academy of Neurology is the most recently founded regional association, joining its American, European, Asian Oceanian, Pan American and Pan Arab counterparts at the WFN.

Professor Carroll said the WFN was on the threshold of establishing four fully operational training centres for neurologists in Africa.

“We have become a bigger organisation; we need to do more and we need to do it better and faster,” he said.

Professor Carroll said his vision involved encouraging more neurologists to get on board with WFN and to invest in the education of neurologists in countries that were lacking appropriate pathways.

Professor Carroll said his decision to pursue a career in neurology had been driven by a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

“When you look back on a career and people ask you why you do what you do and how did you get there, it turns out, I think, that you go for where the challenges are,” he said. 

Since graduating from the School of Medicine at the University of Western Australia, Professor Carroll undertook training in neurology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London and subsequently gained further experience at a number of US institutions.

MS and experimental optic neuropathy have been Professor Carroll’s principal research and publication focuses since the 1980s.

As a member of the International Progressive MS Alliance Scientific Steering Committee, it’s his mission, outside of the WFN, to shift attention onto progressive MS and reduce its disabling effects.

“We’ve pretty much been able to shut down the early common form of multiple sclerosis, particularly in Australia because we have all the medications available and we’re able to adopt a fairly aggressive approach stopping inflammation,” Professor Carroll said.

“But unfortunately if the inflammation is not shut down, they can then go on to get a condition known as secondary progression MS, where it doesn’t matter what you do they still slowly worsen.”

He said the MS alliance had allocated three four-year grants worth €4 million to research groups targeting progressive MS.

“One approach with progressive MS is to attack low-grade inflammation, which we can influence, and then the second is to stop the loss of axons, which are the long nerve fibres in the spinal cord,” Professor Carroll said.

“They (the researchers) are looking at means by which you can protect axons, so stop them degenerating, and how you can repair them.

“And the other side of it is to try and influence the immune system that exists inside the brain and spinal cord, which is different to the one that exists inside the rest of the body.”

Professor Carroll said the trials were currently one year in, and at two years should provide a clearer picture of likely results.

“It’s exciting that we’re actually making a start at it,” he said.

Professor Carroll is also a director of Multiple Sclerosis WA, chair of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia International Research Review Board, and foundation vice-president of the Pan-Asian Committee for the Treatment, Research, and Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis (PACTRIMS).

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