Credit: Nick Romanenko
Rutgers’ Wise Young, world-renowned neuroscientist and spinal cord injury researcher, has been selected by Esquire magazine as one of the “Best and Brightest 2005” and is featured in the December issue of the magazine.
Another of Esquire’s picks for “Best and Brightest 2005” is acclaimed social theorist and author Richard Florida, a 1979 Rutgers College graduate. Florida is the author of two books that explore the role of creativity in the workforce and take issue with America’s xenophobic practices in the global community, “The Rise of the Creative Class” and “The Flight of the Creative Class.” He is the Hirst Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“Esquire’s dual recognition does Rutgers proud,” said President Richard L. McCormick. “Wise Young is an exceptional individual, a teacher par excellence committed to training the next generation of neuroscientists and an untiring advocate for biomedical research to ‘cure the incurable.’ We are pleased to count him as a member of our faculty. We are also pleased to see Rutgers College alum Richard Florida in the Esquire spotlight as well. His positions on the global competition for talent strike a responsive chord with many economists and politicians facing America’s struggle to retain scientific, technological and economic leadership on the world stage.”
Esquire takes five pages to tell Wise Young’s story, tracing his history from mid-century Hong Kong and Japan, through Reed College, Woods Hole and New York University, to his tenure at Rutgers. The article details his accomplishments in medicine and chronicles the evolution of his dedication to curing the injured and afflicted in a manner marked by exceptional sensitivity and humanity.
Before coming to Rutgers, Young was director of neurosurgery research at New York University and part of the team that discovered high-dose methylprednisolone as the first effective therapy for spinal cord injuries. That 1990 work upended conventional wisdom that such injuries led to permanent damage, refocused research and opened new vistas of hope for the quarter-million Americans paralyzed by an injury to the spinal cord.
Today, the dream of therapies that restore function and feeling is becoming a reality, and Young is leading the search for cures. He sees stem cell research as an important pursuit that holds tremendous promise for treating and curing a host of devastating diseases and disorders, including spinal cord injury, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Young is taking a leadership position at home and abroad in gathering support for stem cell research. He has carried his advocacy to patients and politicians in his home state and into the halls of Congress.
At the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers, Young has assembled a team of researchers who collaborate with more than 100 laboratories worldwide in the search for cures. He recently embarked on an initiative to set up a network of more than a dozen spinal-trauma centers in China capable of performing state-of-the-art clinical trials.
“Our goal is to move promising therapies, including those based on stem cells, from the laboratory into clinical trial as quickly as possible,” Young said. “A cure is possible for spinal cord injuries, and collaboration is the means by which that goal can be reached.”
Young’s collaborative spirit fits well with the university’s institutional strategy. Rutgers scientists are engaged in more than 200 scientific collaborations, about 50 of which are international in nature.
Young practices what he calls “compassionate science,” focusing on the needs of patients. He personally involves himself with people who have sustained these injuries and their families, holding regular open-house evenings at the Keck Center, where they are updated on the latest research findings and the newest therapies. “Our science benefits people. At the entrance to the center are photographs that many people have sent to us. We have named this the Wall of Hope,” Young said. “It is an ever-present reminder that our work is grounded in human lives.”