About Dorina, James' wife
Throughout my life, our parents always stressed the importance of a solid education. My father - after surviving the Nazi occupation of Greece - overcame the severe poverty of post-WWII Europe to earn both a medical degree specializing in cardiology and pathology, and a Ph.D. in microbiology. He was one of seven children but was determined to study and work hard to make a better living for himself and his future family. My mother pursued a bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of London. She also studied piano and opera at the Greek Conservatory. My parents met while my mother was a Red Cross Volunteer at the hospital my father was working at. They were married a couple of years later.
Both of our parents instilled to us the passion for science and medicine but also for foreign languages and the arts. My mother taught us English. We also studied French, piano, and music composition, and were involved in athletics, especially swimming. This very commitment of my parents’ to receiving a great education brought my sister and I to the United States.
When I was 18 years old, I left Athens, Greece and came to the United States to earn a double major in psychology and sociology at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. A year later my sister joined me and pursued a Bachelors degree in Genetics. Upon graduation, I continued on with graduate studies by earning a Masters of Health Science degree in Psychiatric Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University’s, Bloomberg School of Public Health. While I was in Baltimore, Maryland, my sister came to Houston to earn her Masters of Science in Molecular Genetics from the University of Texas, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I came to Houston to visit my sister and I was really impressed by the many opportunities this city has to offer, especially with the medical research opportunities at the Texas Medical Center. Upon fulfillment of my first internship at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, The Center for Attention Deficit Disorders, I accepted a second internship at the Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Neurology. In the Neuropsychology Unit, I performed neuropsychological testing to patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis', Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Administration Medical Center. I found research for neurological disorders very fulfilling and challenging, and decided to pursue a Doctoral degree in Biomedical Sciences with a focus in Neuroscience, specifically in Human Brain Neuroimaging from the University of Texas - The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. My Ph.D. focused on examining the effects of morphine in the brain using functional MRI technology, as morphine is the most common medication cancer patients take to alleviate pain.
My sister also earned her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from the University of Texas, School of Biomedical Sciences - The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She is currently living in Boston, working on pancreatic cancer research at Harvard University.
While I was a doctoral student, Jim and I met at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. About a year after meeting, James proposed to me at the same museum. We were married in June 2006, and now live a few blocks away in the Southampton neighborhood where we are active in the community. James is currently PAC Treasurer for the Precinct 222 Democratic Club.
I am now a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience, where I conduct research using real-time functional MRI (fMRI) neurofeedback. fMRI goes a step further than a regular MRI by not only visualizing the structure of the brain but also, the function of what different brain areas are responsible for. This neurofeedback method monitors brain activity patterns in real-time, and then uses these patterns to provide neuronal feedback to the subject. My first postdoctoral fellowship focused on the promotion of speech via the neuronal feedback provided during the fMRI scan. My second postdoctoral fellowship focused on patients who have sustained a stroke or, traumatic brain injury that impairs their vision, which results in blindsight. My research strives to use this cutting-edge real-time fMRI neurofeedback technology to restore the vision of stroke or, traumatic brain injury patients. This research is especially vital since we have so many veterans who have sustained traumatic brain injury from improvised explosive devices resulting in not only cognitive and psychological impairment but also visual field deficits or, blindness.
My research work has been sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, as well as private foundations. Although it is a very challenging journey to be conducting medical research especially as a woman and when funding for research has been cut or ignored by Congress for over a decade, I have not given up. It remains extremely fulfilling to keep making very small steps closer to ending human suffering and increasing our understanding of the brain and its functions.
Finally, I would like to mention my involvement with the Denver Harbor Clinic in Houston, where I serve on the Advisory Board (www.denverharborclinic.org). The Clinic provides accessible quality, primary health care in a compassionate and respectful manner, regardless of ability to pay. The thousands of disadvantaged patients seen every year at the Denver Harbor Clinic are primarily of Hispanic origin with little access to any health care services. The Clinic offers residents from the Methodist Hospital an opportunity to gain valuable training and experience while providing a valuable community service. Many find it the most rewarding time during their medical school education.