PIA Executive Committee:

Perioperative Cognition and Delirium


Chair: Roderic Eckenhoff, MD 

Dr. Eckenhoff is an anesthesiologist/scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He holds the Austin Lamont Chair in Anesthesiology & Critical Care, and is Vice Chair for Research in that department. His primary research interest has been in the molecular pharmacology of the general anesthetics, particularly the volatile drugs, but more recently the alkylphenols. This research continues to evolve and is still supported by a multidisciplinary program project grant. In conducting this research, he has noticed effects on protein structure and function that should translate to neurodegenerative diseases, neuroinflammation, and other side effect targets of the general anesthetics. This line of investigation has blossomed into a second major and translational focus, around which he has recruited the world’s best scientists to meet regularly and collaborate. He has also made forays into drug discovery, using high-throughput approaches to reveal novel anesthetic chemotypes. These chemotypes have evolved into novel chemical biological tools, such as bifunctional photoactive/click anesthetics, that are deployed to generate further understanding of anesthetic targets. These collaborative studies have led to the development of new drugs and knowledge that should ultimately improve perioperative care. Dr. Eckenhoff’s work has been funded mostly through NIGMS and NIA.  

Vice Chair: Emma Cunningham, MD, PhD

Dr Emma Cunningham is an Academic Clinical Lecturer in Geriatric Medicine in the Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast (QUB). She has recently completed her specialist training in geriatric and general medicine and runs weekly memory clinics. Dr Cunningham is also a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health with the Global Brain Health Institute (www.gbhi.org). 

Dr Cunningham undertook her medical training in QUB, graduating with distinction in 2004. After house officer posts in the north and south of Ireland, and a medical officer post in Uganda, she began specialty training in geriatric and general medicine in Northern Ireland. Dr Cunningham was awarded her PhD, thesis entitled ‘Delirium and cognitive dysfunction after primary arthroplasty surgery – An observational study of neuropsychological performance, serum and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers and genetics’ by QUB in 2015. Since February 2016 she has combined clinical commitments and academic work in her role as Academic Clinical Lecturer. Dr Cunningham works alongside Professor Peter Passmore and Dr Bernadette McGuinness within the Ageing Research Group. She completed a clinical and research attachment with the Dementia Research Centre and Leonard Wolfson Biomarker Laboratory, University College London and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen’s Square in 2016.

Dr Cunningham’s research utilizes cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers of dementia in an attempt to better understand who is at risk of delirium after surgery, and what the implications of postoperative delirium are for future cognition. Recent work published in collaboration with University College London suggests that delirium following elective arthroplasty may indicate an underlying Alzheimer’s disease process. Her work has been recognised with international prizes from the Alzheimer’s Association (2017 Perioperative Cognition PIA Travel Award) and European Delirium Association.

 Programs Chair: Miles Berger, MD
Dr. Berger’s research team focuses on understanding the cause of postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) and delirium, and whether these disorders are caused by perioperative changes in Alzheimer's disease pathways and/or neuroinflammation. Dr. Berger’s team is also interested in whether delirium or POCD are associated with an increased long term risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Towards these ends, they use a combination of methods including cognitive testing, CSF and blood sampling, functional neuroimaging, and rigorous biochemical assays. This work has the potential to improve long term outcomes for the more than 16 million Americans over age 60 who undergo anesthesia and surgery each year. Dr. Berger’s work has been funded by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER), the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) and the National Institute on Aging (NIH).

 Communications Chair: Sarinnapha (Fah) Vasunilashorn, PhD
Dr. Sarinnapha (Fah) Vasunilashorn is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School (HMS), and Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Gerontology from the University of Southern California and completed postdoctoral training in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and in the Translational Research in Aging Program at BIDMC/HMS. Her research focuses on understanding the shared pathophysiology underlying the relationship between delirium and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Specifically, she is examining genetic and inflammatory markers to understand delirium and its associated long-term cognitive outcomes. She is a recipient of the New Investigator Award from the ISTAART PIA Perioperative Cognition and Delirium, and is funded by an Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship, a National Institute on Aging (NIA) Career Development Award, and the NIA Small Grant Program.  

Steering Committee Member: Haroon Burhanullah, MD 

Dr. Burhanullah graduated from Dow Medical College in 2004. He did postdoctoral research fellowship in Neuroimaging from Johns Hopkins UniversityHomewood campus and was awarded President Obama’s Stimulus award. He completed residency in Psychiatry and was the chief resident of the program. He received the American Psychiatric Association Resident’s Recognition award and was elected as President of Residents chapter at NJ psychiatric association. Dr. Burhanullah completed fellowship in Geriatric Neuropsychiatry from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Currently working as a faculty at the Johns Hopkins University in the division of Geriatric and Neuropsychiatry. He is the Director of Consultation Liaison service Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Bayview. His research interest is in pathophysiology of delirium and the interrelationship of delirium superimposed on dementia. 

 Steering Committee Member (Elect): Lis Evered, PhD

Dr.  Evered is an Associate Professor at University of Melbourne, with a Masters in Biostatistics and a PhD in neuroscience. She holds a National Health and Medical Research Council dementia Research Fellowship. Lis is Scientific Head of Research in the Department of Anaesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne. She has many publications in cognitive clinical research. Lis founded and is a previous Chair of the Perioperative Cognition and Delirium PIA and is currently Communications Chair. She is Associate Editor for British Journal of Anaesthesia, Senior Editor for Anesthesia & Analgesia, and a reviewer for many peer-reviewed journals including New England Journal of Medicine. She is the recipient of more than $6M in competitive funding including a US Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant. Lis is Chair of the International nomenclature consensus working party which has revised postoperative cognitive disorders from research to clinical guidelines and strongly advocates for a multidisciplinary approach to the perioperative care of older individuals. Lis is an invited speaker at many international conferences and visiting Professor at many international institutions. Her main area of research interest is identifying the impact of surgery and anaesthesia on the cognitive trajectory of older individuals and identifying biomarkers and patient characteristics to identify at-risk individuals preoperatively. 

 Steering Committee Member: Catherine Price, PhD
Catherine Price is an Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Perioperative Cognitive Anesthesia Network within the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.  She is a board certified neuropsychologist with joint appointments between the Departments of Clinical Health Psychology and Anesthesiology within the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.  Her academic goal is to address the intersection of neuropsychology, neuroimaging, and cognitive change either due to neurodegenerative disorder acceleration or insults from medical interventions (such as elective surgeries with anesthesia). Her career developed in a series of stepping-stones. First, she garnered foundational expertise on brain-behavioral concepts. Next, she immersed herself in a number of endeavors: 1) research addressing cognitive profiles in common neurodegenerative disorders; 2) expertise development in cognitive-neuroimaging applications; 3) focused research on white-gray matter disease interactions for mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s Disease-vascular dementia spectrum profiles, and Parkinson’s Disease; 4) focused prospective research on older adult brain-behavioral changes after surgical/anesthesia exposure; and 5) research into digital neuropsychological applications for early disease recognition within the perioperative setting.  For the Perioperative Cognition and Delirium PIA within the Society to Advance Alzheimer's Research she will work to improve evidence based scientific advancement of perioperative cognitive identification and care for patients with and without neurodegenerative disorders electing surgery with anesthesia.

 Steering Committee Member: Katie J. Schenning, MD, MPH, MCR
I am an  Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.  My research focus is on perioperative brain health of older adults. I am particularly interested in the prevention postoperative neurocognitive disorders and preoperative patient optimization. My clinical practice is focused on neuroanesthesiology as well as preoperative medicine

 Steering Committee Member: Niccolò Terrando, PhD
Dr. Terrando is originally from the countryside of Torino, Italy. After high school, he moved to the U.K., reading for a dual honors degree in neuroscience and biochemistry (B.S. with honors) at Keele University. He received his Ph.D. from Imperial College London (D.I.C.) working at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology under the mentorship of professors Mervyn Maze, Sir Marc Feldmann and Claudia Monaco. He undertook his postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco where he described with colleagues at the Gladstone Institute of Neurology a key role of macrophages and blood-brain barrier disruption in mediating neuroinflammation and cognitive decline after surgery. In 2012 Dr. Terrando moved to the Karolinska Institute as Assistant Professor and worked together with the European Society of Anesthesiology serving as preclinical coordinator for the EuroSTAR taskforce regarding anesthesia safety on the developing brain. He moved back to the US joining the faculty and establishing his laboratory at Duke University in 2015. Dr. Terrando’s research is centered on surgery-induced neuroinflammation and perioperative neurocognitive disorders. His laboratory mission is to define the underlying mechanisms leading to memory deficits after surgery and to develop safe strategies to resolve neuroinflammation in the perioperative setting.

 Immediate Past Chair: David Scott, MD, PhD

Dr. Scott is a specialist anaesthesiologist and Director of Anaesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Australia and a Professor at the School of Medicine, University of Melbourne. He has a PhD in the neuropharmacology of neuropathic pain. He is also Immediate Past President of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and is a strong advocate for a collaborative multidisciplinary approach to perioperative care. Over the last decade, his research has focused on outcomes - including blood management, safety of postoperative opioids, and the cognitive effects of anaesthesia and surgery – particularly delirium and dementia. His clinical and research interests more broadly include cognitive change, regional anaesthesia, acute pain management, and cardiac and vascular anaesthesia. He has been a Chief Investigator on a number of nationally and internationally funded research grants particularly focusing on cognition in the elderly, and has presented nationally and internationally on many of these topics with over 90 published papers and book chapters. He has been a member of the Perioperative Cognition and Delirium PIA since its inception (formerly a Deputy Chair) and has an ongoing desire to encourage and support collaboration across disciplines in the important area of perioperative cognitive disorders in the elderly.