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Professor Coauthors Stroke Study

Philip Wolf, a MED professor of neurology, found that incidence of stroke has declined over the past 50 years.

Philip Wolf, a professor of neurology and research professor of medicine at BU’s School of Medicine, recently coauthored a study that found that the incidence of stroke has decreased in the United States over the past 50 years, although stroke severity has not. The study was published in the December 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“By following time trends in incidence of a disease, in this case stroke, it’s possible to discern the direction of the trend: up, down, or changed,” says Wolf, who is also a professor of public health at the School of Public Health. “This knowledge can provide clues to contributing factors, as was found for smoking and lung cancer and for heart attacks in the 1940s and 1950s, among many examples.”

So what are some of the contributing factors for stroke? The list includes elevated blood pressure and cigarette smoking as stroke risks that have been controlled, or treated, in the past half-century, according to Wolf, thus causing a drop in stroke incidence. Wolf has been a principal investigator in epidemiological studies of neurological diseases, especially those related to stroke.

Wolf received his medical degree from the State University of New York College of Medicine at Syracuse and completed his residency in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he met C. Miller Fisher, who he says has been an inspiration to him.

“Dr. Fisher’s thoughtful and original studies of stroke patients, beginning in the late 1940s, established the clinical manifestations and underlying pathologic mechanisms for the varieties of stroke and stimulated interest in stroke research,” Wolf says. “Dr. Fisher has been the mentor, personally and through his writings, to several generations of stroke neurologists.”

Wolf is a fellow of the American Heart Association’s Stroke and Epidemiology Councils and served on the executive committee of both councils. He has received the Jacob A. Javits Neuroscience Award from the Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, the Humana Award for Excellence in Clinical Stroke from the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association, the Mihara Award from the International Stroke Society, and the American Stroke Association’s C. Miller Fisher Award. He has also served on the editorial board of the journal Stroke, written more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, and coedited the textbook Stroke: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Management, 4th Edition (2005).