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Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Ernie Freeman

Spotlight On: Dr. Ernie Freeman 

Nationally known neuroscientist and Kent State University at Salem faculty member, Dr. Ernie Freeman, researches the causes of Multiple Sclerosis when not teaching human anatomy and physiology. Multiple Sclerosis, often referred to as MS, is an autoimmune disease that attacks ones' brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and effects approximately 1 in 1000 individuals. Freeman is also the Co-director of the Kent State University, Oak Clinic Consortium for Multiple Sclerosis and Neurodegenerative Disease Research.  The consortium, which was established in 2003, is dedicated to the treatment and cure of multiple sclerosis through targeted clinical and basic science research. To date, the research carried out by Dr. Freeman and his group has received funding from the National MS Society, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and several pharmaceutical companies. Though a group of scientists work in tandem, Freeman's specializes in understanding what the cellular and/or molecular determinants are in this neurodegenerative process. Basically, he is researching what causes the breakdown and loss of neurons, which ultimately is correlated with an individual's level of physical disability.

IMAGE: Dr. Ernie Freeman
Freeman has always had an interest in how the brain functions. Although he wasn't personally affected by MS prior to his research, "it's amazing how many people know someone with this disease," he says. Freeman finds his research fascinating. Where some might find the tedious research boring, to Freeman, "it's all about discovery. You're a pioneer. Every week, if not every day we're seeing something new. Something that has never been uncovered before – it's little things, but it's new."

Like most researchers, Freeman hopes that his research will have a significant impact in peoples' lives. However, he knows that finding a cure for MS will take the efforts of many.  "Personally, on a very day to day focus, I hope to understand the processes that control the development, function and dysfunction of neurons," Freeman says.

When teaching at Kent State Salem, Freeman uses his research to demonstrate the concepts he's explaining in the classroom. "I tell my students 'I'm not going to lecture you. What I'm teaching you is real,'" he says. "And I'm excited when I see students come to an understanding and appreciation of the material they're learning."

Freeman hopes that his teaching, like his research, has a significant impact in people's lives. "I love watching my students grow," he says. "Especially those mature students who have been out working and realize that they don't want to keep doing what they've been doing for the rest of their life. They come in, they're motivated and they do so well. I am so happy for them because I know in three or four years, once they've graduated and landed a job, their lives will be different."  

Because of his daily work with area students, Freeman says he can see the impact he, his colleagues and the University as a whole are making in the lives of those in the area. "Kent State Salem and East Liverpool, specifically, are key players in improving the lives for those living in this community," he says. "You have professors here who are dedicated to education, and they are very enthusiastic about improving the lives of their students."

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