Meet the Team at Brain Injury Research Institute
Learn More about Our Founding Members
The Brain Injury Research Institute was founded by Julian E. Bailes, M.D., Bennet I. Omalu, M.D. and Robert P. Fitzsimmons in 2002—the purpose of which has been to study, and find ways to prevent, traumatic brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Since the center's inception, we have had the opportunity to perform research on the detection and treatment of CTE. Through these studies, we hope to further the research that has been done to ascertain genetic predisposition and pharmaceuticals that will lessen the disease's progression, and ultimately, provide a cure.
Having established a brain and tissue bank, the Brain Injury Research Institute now houses more than 30 brains for future research. Each of our founding members is dedicated to the study of traumatic brain injury, specifically concussions and sub-concussive trauma. In fact, Dr. Bennet Omalu, M.D. first discovered physical evidence of concussions and CTE in activities other than boxing. He is a Forensic Neuropathologist who serves as the Chief Medical Examiner for San Joaquin County, CA and an Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of California at Davis.
Founding member Julian E. Bailes, M.D. is the Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the NorthShore University HealthSystem and Co-Director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute, and is also a former NFL and current NCAA team physician.
Robert P. Fitzsimmons is the Senior Partner at Fitzsimmons Law Firm in Wheeling, West Virginia. Each of the center's founding members play an integral part in preventing CTE, as they each serve a specific purpose in the furtherance of our research. To learn more about each member of our team, review their individual biographies below.
Why a brain and tissue bank?
At the Brain Injury Research Institute, we examine the role of toxic proteins called tau. These are a sign of Alzheimer's disease and have been identified in the brains of deceased football players—who have played at both college and professional levels. Since a routine autopsy wouldn't detect specific diseases and trauma to the brain after an athlete's death, our goal is to identify these factors and research their effects on the brain. We have collectively examined over twenty brains since 2002, including those belonging to former NFL players Mike Webster, Justin Strzelczyk, Terry Long, Chris Henry and Andre Waters. Additionally, we have examined and diagnosed CTE in WWE wrestlers Chris Benoit and Andrew Martin.
Dr. Julian Bailes
Dr. Bailes was the former team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is presently the team physician for the West Virginia University Mountaineers football team. He has also been actively involved in the research and examinations done together with Dr. Omalu and is part of a group who has collected head injury data for the NFL, which is maintained at North Carolina University. He is the Medical Director of the Center for Study of Retired Athletes, based at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center, which has been funded by the NFL Players Association and has conducted numerous studies on the health of retired NFL players.
Dr. Bennet Omalu
Dr. Omalu was the first person to discover physical evidence linking football-related brain injury and dementia. He discovered the condition of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (commonly known as CTE) in 2002 in the brain of Hall of Fame Center for the Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Webster. He has studied, using detailed histological analysis, numerous brain specimens of contact sport athletes, finding extensive brain damage (tauopathy). He also is author of the book "Play Hard, Die Young" – a major part of our national effort to alert players, parents, coaches, trainers, and school administrators to the dangers of repeated concussions.
Robert P. Fitzsimmons
Mr. Fitzsimmons is a personal injury litigation attorney who has litigated numerous cases involving brain injuries, including closed head trauma. He was the attorney who handled the successful disability claim of former Hall of Fame and Pittsburgh Steelers great Mike Webster against the NFL, which is reported as the only disability lawsuit ever won against the NFL in court.
Dr. Jennifer L. Hammers
MEMBER OF THE BOARD
Dr. Jennifer L. Hammers is a member of the board with BIRI and practices as a forensic pathologist in Boston for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She is a native of western Pennsylvania where she attended medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and then residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at Allegheny General Hospital.
Advisory Board Members
- Rocky Bleier
- Thomas F. Burgoyne
- Roy Jones Jr.
- Steven A. Allred
- Dawn Marie
- Mark A. Colantonio
- Edson Arneault