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Our History

Vestibular clinicians assessing a patientThe Robinson magnetic field search coil technique applied to humans. David Robinson is placing the coil with David Zee looking on.
Vestibular clinicians in Frenzel lensesDavid Robinson (center) with his two clinical disciples, John Leigh (left) and David Zee (right) wearing Frenzel lenses.

Research into vestibular and eye movement disorders in the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurology began in 1975 when David S. Zee, M.D., joined the faculty. Working with David Robinson, Ph.D., in the Department of Ophthalmology, Zee established an experimental and clinical laboratory for investigation of vestibular and eye movement disorders.

Shortly thereafter, at the behest of Guy McKhann, M.D., then-chairman of the neurology department, Zee began a vestibular clinic with routine vestibular testing for patients. Because of the unique collaboration between Zee and Robinson that combined cutting-edge clinical and basic research opportunities, the vestibular program became one of the leading clinical and research training centers in the world, attracting both patients and aspiring scientists from around the globe.

Over the next 40 years, Zee trained more than 70 postdoctoral fellows in both clinical and laboratory methods, producing an enormous body of medical science and developing the next generation of neuro-vestibular clinicians and scientists. During this time, the division built extensive, longstanding collaborations with scientific partners in biomedical engineering and otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.

In recent years, collaborative research projects and cross-disciplinary clinical work has extended to include physical medicine and rehabilitation, movement disorders and stroke, and others.

It is on this tremendous foundation, with new divisional leadership and first-rate junior colleagues with unique and complementary scientific and clinical skills, that we are forging ahead in new directions for both research and clinical practice. This will move our program forward as the leading center in the world for neuro-vestibular research, education and patient care.

- David S. Zee, M.D., Founding Director, Vestibular Disorders Center

Dr. Zee

I am indebted and eternally grateful to my mentor and friend of 20 years, David Zee, for his longstanding commitment to excellence in vestibular science, his invaluable contributions to the growth and development of countless trainees (among whom I count myself), and, finally, for his trust in me to take the helm of what he has built through his scientific creativity, unflagging effort, and calm leadership over 40 years.

- David Newman-Toker, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Vestibular Disorders Center

Dr. Newman-Toker


From the Center Director, David Newman-Toker, M.D., Ph.D.

In the Neuro-visual and Vestibular Disorders Center, we have bold, audacious goals. We seek to develop transformational initiatives in research, clinical care and education that have the potential for broad impact nationally and internationally for patients and science. Each of our programs seeks to accomplish one or more aspects of the center’s mission. The goals for each program are generally aimed at critical areas of scientific or clinical need.

For example, in basic science, spatial perception is an under-researched yet important scientific problem with direct links to common clinical problems such as chronic dizziness and unsteadiness. In clinical research, novel approaches to preventing misdiagnosis of common neuro-visual and vestibular disorders and dangerous mimics (such as stroke) are essential, now that the severity of the misdiagnosis problem in typical clinical practice is well-established.

In clinical care delivery, access to subspecialty care is a major barrier; technological solutions we are pursuing such as telemedicine and diagnostic decision support may help overcome such barriers. Finally, there is a major need to build capacity in research, clinical care and teaching linked to neuro-visual and vestibular disorders through expanded and enhanced training programs.

Learn more about Dr. Newman-Toker

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