Meet a PennMedicine Researcher

Douglas H. Smith, MD

Douglas H. Smith, MD

Douglas H. Smith, MD, Robert A. Groff Endowed Professor of Research and Teaching in Neurosurgery, is the recipient of the 2020 William Osler Patient Oriented Research Award, which is granted to members of the Perelman School of Medicine faculty for a body of work with an emphasis on clinical research.

Dr. Smith is the foremost authority on diffuse axonal injury (DAI) as the unifying hypothesis behind the short- and long-term consequences of concussion.  After realizing early in his career that concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), was a much more serious event than broadly appreciated, Dr. Smith and his team have used computer biomechanical modeling, in vitro and in vivo testing in parallel with seminal human studies to elucidate mechanisms of concussion. The acute changes characterized by the Smith group have provided a pathway to develop novel diagnostic tools, and he has played a leadership role in demonstrating that DAI can trigger long-term neurodegeneration that can persist for decades after injury. As the foremost expert in concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Dr. Smith was recently invited to serve as a founding member of the NFL’s Scientific Advisory Board, and is also the Scientific Director of the Big 10/Ivy League’s consortium on concussion. The U. S. State Department chose him to lead an investigation into neurological deficits induced in members of the embassy in Havana, which led to the development of diagnostic criteria for a newly discovered disorder, “Havana Syndrome.” He received the Dorothy Russell medal, the highest honor conveyed by the British Neuropathological Society for his seminal contributions towards understanding the neuropathologies of TBI. A colleague noted, “Overall, Dr. Smith and his group have brought science to a major health concern that has been neglected and poorly understood; his work will change how we treat this problem in deep and fundamental ways.”