Above is a picture of the CTMSS 2023 Gala Dinner, where Dr Mohamed Abdelghani (president of the CTMSS at that time) awarded the CTMSS Medal of Honor to the first 3 winners of this award (Prof Tony Barker, Prof Mark George and Prof John Rothwell).
The field of Clinical TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) is relatively young. Not too long ago, perhaps less than 30 years ago, Prof. Mark George was asked to leave a scientific meeting on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) when he introduced the possibility of using TMS for brain stimulation to treat depression without inducing a seizure.
This contrasted with ECT, which treats depression by triggering a seizure. Not only did ECT specialists find the concept of TMS peculiar, but the wider psychiatric community openly doubted its effectiveness as a treatment modality. Reflecting on that time, I can only think how fortunate it was to have Mark George leading the field, as he never gave up. His perseverance and ability to overcome hurdles stemmed from his deep understanding of the science behind TMS and the workings of the brain, as well as his logical and sensible hypotheses.
Fast forward about 30 years from those challenging times, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the largest psychiatric organisation globally, has awarded Prof. Mark George the 2023 APA Award for Research in Psychiatry. It’s worth mentioning that this award is given to individuals whose research and work have transformed the practice of psychiatry. Prof. George views it as an accolade for the field of brain stimulation, particularly clinical TMS.
I still vividly remember the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Mark. He delivered a captivating TMS lecture at the University of Oxford in the UK. At that point, I was contemplating delving deeper into the world of TMS, and our conversation after the lecture left a lasting impression. Mark’s down-to-earth demeanour and warm reception solidified my admiration for him.
Perhaps that encounter fueled my decision to embark on a journey two years later to the beautiful city of Charleston, where I participated in the TMS course at MUSC and spent an additional week with Mark and his exceptional team. It was during this memorable trip that I truly experienced the legendary Southern Hospitality firsthand.
On Tuesday, May 23rd, during this year’s APA annual meeting in San Francisco, Mark delivered the award lecture on brain stimulation. The night before his lecture, the Foundation for Advancement of Clinical TMS (FACTMS) and the APA Caucus on Neuromodulation jointly organised a reception party in San Francisco to celebrate and honour him for receiving this award. Dr. Michelle Cochrane, the head of the Caucus on Neuromodulation, and Dr. Randy Pardel, the president of FACTMS, led the event. Michelle and Randy are two of the most prominent TMS doctors, and both have served as presidents of the Clinical TMS Society (CTMSS).
I’m humbled to say that since Mark introduced me to the world of TMS, I have developed a collegial relationship with him and a friendship that I will cherish for life. This is not due to anything special about me, but because of Mark’s humility, approachability, and genuine interest in others’ perspectives.
During my tenure as the president of the Clinical TMS Society (CTMSS) from 2022 to 2023, I initiated the establishment of the CTMSS Medal of Honor, the society’s highest and most prestigious recognition. It came as no surprise that the Board of Directors unanimously voted for Mark to be the first recipient of this Medal of Honor. As this was the inaugural year for the medal, there were two other recipients: Prof. Tony Barker and Prof. John Rothwell.
Unfortunately, Mark couldn’t join us during the CTMSS 2023 Gala Dinner held in Colorado Springs, where we presented the Medal of Honor to the three recipients. On that day, I mentioned that what sets Mark apart in our field is the fact that nearly everyone in attendance could have accepted the Medal on his behalf. Many clinicians working with TMS, myself included, can be considered “TMS children” of Mark George.
While I reside in London and the FACTMS event was organised in San Francisco, I felt compelled to be present. It wasn’t because I’m a board member of the foundation, FACTMS, but rather because I firmly believe that Mark’s receipt of the CTMSS Medal of Honor, coupled with the APA Award for Research in Psychiatry in the same year, represents a collective victory for all of us. It symbolises a triumph for science, logic, altruism, and kindness.
So, I packed my bags and flew from London to San Francisco for a short stay that lasted less than 36 hours. During the cocktail party, I had the honour of delivering a brief speech and presenting Mark with the CTMSS Medal of Honor. The impact of Mark’s work and his personality resonates far beyond measure. At the end of my speech, I expressed my deepest gratitude to Mark for his invaluable contributions to the field of TMS, the discipline of psychiatry, and humanity as a whole.
We might think that we have achieved great feats in the field of neuromodulation and TMS since Prof. Tony Barker invented the first TMS device in the 1980s and since Prof. Mark George treated the first depressed patient using TMS in the 1990s. We now have over 20,000 TMS research papers published every year, and TMS has become an established treatment for various conditions.
However, what is even more exciting is that those working in the field know that we are merely scratching the surface of what we can achieve using TMS as a clinical tool. That’s why Prof. Mark George receiving the APA Award for Research is a victory for all of us.
In conclusion, Mark George’s journey in pioneering TMS and his well-deserved recognition through the APA Award for Research and the CTMSS Medal of Honor represent a triumph for the field of brain stimulation, psychiatry as a whole, and the countless lives that have been positively impacted by TMS. We stand united in celebrating this milestone and eagerly anticipate the future advancements and breakthroughs that will arise from the continued exploration and application of TMS.
Dr Mohamed Abdelghani is one of the pioneers of introducing TMS in UK clinical practice. In 2016 he founded the first clinical TMS in the NHS in London and South England at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and he continues to lead this service until the present time. More about Dr Mohamed Abdelghani