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Gerald Malcolm Stern: neurologist who championed patients with Parkinson’s disease

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 19 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4440
  1. Matt Limb
  1. Croydon, UK
  1. limb{at}

Neurologist Gerald Stern was a champion for patients with Parkinson’s disease, a widely respected teacher, and an influential researcher whose work advanced clinical treatment. He helped to set up both the Parkinson’s Disease Society (later Parkinson’s UK) in the late 1960s and the influential Parkinson’s Disease Research Group of the UK in the 1980s. Stern was among the first people in the UK to publish a controlled trial of levodopa’s efficacy following its celebrated emergence in the US.1

“He was arguably the best opinion on Parkinson’s disease in the world during his heyday,” says neurology professor Andrew Lees, the Parkinson’s Disease Research Group of the UK’s co-founder and Stern’s “academic son.” Lees says Stern’s bringing together of around 100 neurologists and geriatricians to do clinical trials—unpaid and independent of the pharmaceutical industry—was “quite revolutionary” at the time and led to “some very important findings.”

“He excelled in clinical pharmacology and showed that you could do high quality research outside the straitjacket of the university and also combine it with a busy clinical practice,” says Lees. “I think that’s a good message for young people to learn.”


Levodopa (l-dopa), a chemical building block that the body converts into dopamine, is still one of the main drugs used to reduce the impediment of Parkinson’s disease some 50 years after it was first trialled in the US.

Before then, the disease progressed relentlessly and, apart from stereotactic thalamic surgery and anticholinergic drugs, there was little one could do. Despite these …

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