New director taking over Ruvo Center for brain studies in May

Updated March 5, 2018 - 11:58 am

Dr. Marwan Sabbagh fell out of his chair when, in July 2016, an email appeared in his inbox. It was Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the “Babe Ruth” equivalent in the world of neurological research. He was making plans to leave his post after eight years to allow for fresh eyes to take on the clinic’s brain disease studies.

He wanted Sabbagh, a neurologist at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix and longtime colleague in what they call a tight-knit community of Alzheimer’s disease researchers, to take over as his successor.

“Actually, Marwan (Sabbagh) was the first person I emailed when I knew I was going to step down,” Cummings, 69, said in an interview Wednesday at the Lou Ruvo Center on Bonneville Avenue in downtown Las Vegas, which opened in 2009.

Sabbagh smiled at the memory. He told his wife that evening about the opportunity, who immediately gave him her blessing.

When Sabbagh takes over in May, he’ll have a large list of tasks, including improving clinical trial recruitment, conducting Alzheimer’s diagnostic research and implementing programs for patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease and Lewy Body dementia, a progressive brain disorder.

Sabbagh will oversee existing Lou Ruvo clinics in Las Vegas, Cleveland and Weston, Florida, plus locations in development in Abu Dhabi and London.

It was Sabbagh’s passion for his work that helped Cleveland Clinic leaders choose him to as their next director, said Larry Ruvo, who founded the center in honor of his late father, who battled Alzheimer’s.

Sabbagh was chosen from a field of 10 candidates.

“They didn’t have the excitement,” Ruvo said. “They didn’t have the dream to do more.”

Sabbagh lit up as he talked about the work he hoped to do at Lou Ruvo. He’s working on creating a blood test to screen for Alzheimer’s, and a spit test to detect amyloids, a protein found in greater quantities in the saliva of those with Alzheimer’s.

He’s hoping to repurpose cancer drugs for the treatment of brain disease.

Cummings said while he’s spent most of his career researching brain health once patients are in the throes of illness, the field is changing to become more proactive — and he wants a younger mind to take it on.

“The field has exploded so that we can now identify the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease in people who have no symptoms, but they have positive brain scans,” Cummings said. “I think the shift in the field requires a new look.”

Part of that change will require revamped recruitment efforts. So far, it’s been difficult to locate patients who fit strict clinical trial requirements, Cummings said. After stepping down, he’ll work part-time at the center on clinical trials.

But Sabbagh, who comes to Lou Ruvo with 27 years of experience beneath his white lab coat, isn’t worried. He’s landed the job “people are now falling over themselves” to get, Sabbagh said.

On his wish list: expanding the Las Vegas campus and its staff. He wants people to automatically think of the Lou Ruvo Center when deciding where to go for care.

“I want to say that I left the world in a better place than I came into it,” Sabbagh said. “If you see what (Cummings) led in eight years, imagine what we’ll do in eight more years.”

Contact Jessie Bekker at or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda lost his home in California wildfire
Eric Wynalda, coach of the Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team, talks about losing his home in the deadly California wildfires during an interview in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 17, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Women face issues from Essure birth control implants
DeVonna "Kat" Normand said she had complications from the Essure birth control implants. Normand uses her Sin City Heat show at 22.3 TakeOver Vegas Radio internet radio station in Las Vegas as a platform to raise awareness about Essure and connect with other women who have used the device. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Truancy and Clark County schools
Tony Stark, one of 23 attendance officers with the Clark County School District, have a tall order tracking down students who aren't in school.
North Las Vegas Water Meters
Randy DeVaul shows off the new water meters that the city is installing.
Project 150 Thanksgiving 2018
About 100 volunteers for Project 150 box Thanksgiving meals for high school students and their families in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Three Square’s Maurice Johnson Talks About Food Waste
Three Square’s director of operations Maurice Johnson talks about food waste.
Parade preparation nears completion
Downtown Summerlin prepares for its annual holiday parade.
Clark County Wetlands promotes 2019 Wetland Walker Program
This year the park will be celebrating the Northern Flicker. The program is designed to teach about that bird, and encourage people to visit the Wetlands and walk the same distance the bird migrates each year.
Poet’s Walk Henderson introduces storytelling
Residents enjoy a storytelling activity.
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Meadows School founding kindergarten teacher retires after 34 years at the school
Linda Verbon, founder of the The Meadows School's kindergarten program and the first faculty member hired at the school, retired in the spring after 34 years at The Meadows. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like