Bridging Medical Communities
In collaboration with stroke neurologist Valery Feigin, MD, Wiebers helped initiate a number of substantial medical developments within Russia. The first was the establishment of a population-based epidemiological research resource in the city of Novosibirsk, Siberia, which generated the first population-based stroke data for that region (refs #149, 153, 168, and 189). The Russian studies showed that the incidence and prevalence of stroke in the Novosibirsk population were among the highest in the world. They also showed that hypertension, left ventricular hypertrophy, ischemic heart disease, mitral valve disease current, cigarette smoking and high body mass index (overweight or obesity) were all significantly associated risk factors that could be modified to decrease the likelihood of ischemic stroke rates (refs #149, 153 and 189).
Mayo Clinic provided equipment, medicine, medical journals and Wiebers assisted with a knowledge base that were collectively used to set up an Institute of Neurology in Novosibirsk, the only one in Siberia and the second one in Russia. Wiebers was honored for his work from the Novosibirsk City Executive Committee, from the Novosibirsk School of Medicine and Municipal Committee of Public Health (Honorary Professorship in Neurology) and from the Irkutsk State Medical School, Irkutsk, Russia(Doctor of Medicine, Honorary Degree).
Wiebers later endeavored to further enhance the medical and scientific interaction and communications between Russia and the United States by sponsoring a three month visit to Mayo Clinic by Dr. Michael Piradov from Moscow, Russia, as the first Mayo Visiting Scholar in 1994 under a newly created program at Mayo. Piradov, who had met Wiebers on one of Wiebers’ earlier visits to Russia, was Vice Director of the Russian Institute of Neurology in Moscow. During one of Wiebers’ trips to the Soviet Union in 1990, he became one of only a few U.S. physicians to have the opportunity to be a Visiting Professor and speak at the Ministry of Health and Institute of Neurology of the U.S.S.R. in Moscow. The text of the final paragraph of his speech was as follows:
We cherish your friendship and we wish you success, peace and fulfillment. Together we can solve many problems in medicine and in life. Let us work with one another to achieve a higher understanding among peoples and nations with compassion for all life, realizing that we are all fellow travelers on this small planet.
Strong Heart Study
In 1996, Wiebers, as Director of the Mayo Stroke Center, along with Jack Whisnant, MD, and Strong Heart Study colleagues, provided the only available population-based data regarding the incidence and prevalence of stroke and numerous associated risk factors in American Indians (refs #341, 319, 345, 338, 303, 328). The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of U.S. National Institutes of Health supported the comprehensive investigation of cardiovascular disease and risk factors among American Indians. The data established, among other things, that American Indians suffer higher rates of stroke than Caucasian and African American populations , stroke rates were previously thought to be lower among American Indians, and that control of diabetes and HbA1c levels were of primary importance for preventing stroke in the American Indian population.
In 1999, Wiebers helped set up the first clinical stroke unit in Vietnam at Tran Hung Dao Hospital in collaboration with Dr. Nguyen Van Thong, Vice Director of the Department of Neurology at that institution. The Vietnam Association of Neurology honored him that same year at their annual meeting and unveiled the Vietnamese translation of the medical textbook Handbook of Stroke by Wiebers, Feigin and Brown, a copy of which was gifted by the Association to every neurologist in Vietnam. Wiebers and Mayo subsequently hosted a large delegation of Vietnamese physicians and officials at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA, to expand information sharing to numerous medical specialties as had been done with stroke and cerebrovascular diseases.
New Zealand Initiatives
Wiebers also helped to set up the first Stroke Care Unit in New Zealand, at Middlemore Hospital, and was recognized by the New Zealand Ministry of Health for his role in this. During a 2001 visit to New Zealand, he presented the Keynote Address at the Stroke Society of Australasia Meeting in Auckland entitled: “The Future of Stroke Medicine”. In this talk, Wiebers reflected upon the impact of stroke on society, on how this area of medicine evolved, on the practice as it currently stands and on what types of approaches have the potential to be most helpful in the future. He made a vigorous case for a more prevention-oriented approach to stroke, as opposed to a reactive, and called for advances in the prediction and prevention of not only stroke but also of risk factors that lead to the various types of stroke.
In 2005, Wiebers became a senior international advisor and collaborator in a wide-ranging European Union initiative to track and analyze intracranial aneurysms over time. This project related to the European Commission's thematic priorities for research and development to integrate and strengthen the European research area in the realm of Information Society Technologies. The end goal of the initiative was to create a decision support system based on multi-scale computational suites for personalized rupture risk and treatment planning for brain aneurysms to prevent hemorrhagic stroke. The IT infrastructure is projected to play a vital role for incorporating existing research, specific data, and emerging information into the gamut of factors that allow neurologists, neurosurgeons and endovascular neuroradiologists to make the best clinical decisions and provide the best recommendations to their patients with known or suspected intracranial aneurysms. For more information, please visit: http://www.aneurist.org/ .