|Eldad Melamed: A Memorial|
The Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorders Community has lost one of its most outstanding neurologists and clinical scientists: Professor Eldad Melamed died on October 1, 2015 – taken victim by a malicious illness that had remained unknown to most of his countless friends and colleagues around the globe until shortly before his untimely death. He left a wife, to whom he had been married to for almost 50 years, two daughters, and nine beloved grandchildren. With his passing, the World Parkinson Congress has lost one of its supporters and highly regarded faculty members - a man of great intellect, humanity, impeccable character, boundless energy, incomparable warmth, and an unforgettable sense of humor.
Eldad Melamed was born in 1942 in Tel Aviv after his parents had fled Europe to escape the Holocaust. For his father this had meant leaving medical school at the Berlin Charite Hospital and to never go back into medicine. Eldad, in turn, graduated with an MD degree from the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical School, in Jerusalem , where he subsequently – after 3 years of military service – began his residency in Neurology in 1971. Following completion of his Neurology training in 1976, he initially studied cerebral blood flow at the National Hospital, Queen Square in London, and the Bispjeberg Hospital in Copenhagen with NA Lassen. The decisive turn in his career as a researcher occurred in 1978 when he joined Richard Wurtman’s Institute of Neurochemistry and Neuropharmacology, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. It was then , that Eldad – together with Franz Hefti – embarked on studies into the mechanisms of action of Levodopa and after returning to Israel in 1980 he was determined to dig deeper into the mysteries of Parkinson’s disease. He went on to establish a chemistry laboratory at the "Hadassah" hospital in early recognition of the need for translational approaches to advance understanding of disease and find better therapies and at the same time clinical problem developed a flourishing clinical neurology service.
When he was only 45 years old, he became Chairman of the Department of Neurology at "Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus", Petah Tiqva, a position he held for more than 20 years. During these years he trained and inspired a generation of neurologists and neuroscientists who have themselves gone on to great clinical and academic achievement, with many dedicating their careers to the study of Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders.
Eldad Melamed was a brilliant and astute clinician, who had the knowledge, diligence, deductive reasoning, compassion, patience, and insight that characterize great neurologists. At the same time he was a highly motivating teacher, loved and revered by his students and fellows. As one of them (Ruth Djaldetti, now herself a Professor of Neurology) remembers: “Rounds with him were an exciting experience. Every patient was ‘fascinating’ and he looked for interesting twists in each case that might open avenues for future research studies.”
Eldad Melamed and his team made seminal clinical and basic science contributions to the field of Parkinson’s disease including studies on the phenomenology and mechanisms responsible for levodopa-induced motor complications, new formulations of levodopa, oxidative stress, brain metabolism, apoptosis, and more recently also into the role of stem cells as a future treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.
Eldad Melamed authored more than 400 peer-reviewed papers in the field of Movement Disorders and has received countless honors and distinctions during his career, including being named an Honorary Member in the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society (MDS). He served as President of the Israel Neurological Association, was Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Israel Parkinson Disease Association and was awarded the Norma and Alan Aufzien Chair for Research in Parkinson’s disease at Tel Aviv University, Sackler School of Medicine. He served on numerous scientific advisory boards including the Scientific Advisory Board of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research where he remained a member until the time of his death.
We recall the many joyous occasions in which we would exchange intellectual thoughts, and humorous anecdotes. He was never shy to discuss his ideas and challenge others in his pursuit of truth. And he had the capacity to recount stories that would leave his audience exhausted from laughter. He enjoyed great food, great music, great friends and especially his beloved family. During an interview of leaders of the movement disorder society, he was asked if his parents wanted him to become a physician – he replied that his parents didn't care what he became, as long as he was a “mensch” – and what a wonderful "mensch" he was: someone whom we shall never forget.
Werner Poewe, Innsbruck C Warren Olanow, New York