Our Division's History

Columbia University Medical Center has a long and illustrious history of research, education, and patient care in Parkinson's disease (PD) and other movement disorders. Beginning in the 1940s, Dr. Lewis Doshay established a Parkinson's Disease Clinic and carried out extensive trials on the use of synthetic anticholinergics to treat PD. In 1964, after his retirement, the directorship of the clinic passed to Dr. Melvin Yahr who, with his trainee Dr. Margaret Hoehn, created the Hoehn and Yahr scale, one of the most widely used measures of PD disability to this day. Dr. Yahr also established one of the first NIH-funded PD Research Centers in the United States. He recruited and trained some of the world's leading investigators in PD, including Dr. Stanley Fahn and Dr. Roger Duvoisin.

When Dr. Yahr left to become chairman of neurology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in 1973, Dr. Stanley Fahn became the director of the Division of Movement Disorders. Dr. Fahn, a pioneering clinician-researcher, expanded the scope of the center to include other related disorders that cause abnormal involuntary movements, such as dystonia, tremors, ataxia, chorea, Tourette syndrome, and myoclonus. In addition, Dr. Fahn co-founded the Parkinson Study Group—one of the principal organizations for the study of PD and related disorders—as well as the Movement Disorder Society, and the journal Movement Disorders, the principal journal in the field. Over the decades, the Division of Movement Disorders grew to become one of the top clinical and research programs in the country, through which more than 100 movement disorder subspecialists have been trained.

In 2013, Dr. Fahn stepped down as chief of the division, yet remains active in the department, both clinically and academically. Dr. Un Jung Kang, a protégé of Dr. Fahn, took his place as the chief of the division July 1, 2013 to January 11, 2019. As of January 12, 2019, Dr. Przedborski, became the new chief of the Division of Movement Disorders.

The mission of the division remains the same. Together with our valued patients and their families, we seek to develop better treatments for movement disorders and, eventually, a cure. We will continue our research to identify the earliest changes in the brain that result in involuntary movements, define the genetic and/or environmental contributions to this process, and test new therapies to improve the lives of those with movement disorders.