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Huntington's Disease Program Team

The Huntington's disease program at Rush comprises a team of experts to provide compassionate, coordinated care for patients and families affected by Huntington's at all stages of the disease.

The program has been designated as a Huntington's Disease Center of Excellence by the Huntington's Disease Society of America since 2005; Rush was the first in Illinois to earn this distinction.

Deborah A. Hall, MD, PhD

Deborah Hall MD, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences and an adult neurologist and movement disorder specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She is the interim director for the Huntington's disease (HD) program.

Hall received her MD from Indiana University and her PhD from University of Colorado, where she completed residency and fellowship. She has training in genetics, epidemiology and human subjects research. She conducts research primarily in two areas: Parkinson's disease and fragile X.

Her work in Parkinson's disease focuses on early interventions, such as neurotrophic factors and exercise, genetics and genomic causes of disease, and treatment for complications including falls. She also conducts research in the field of ataxia, specifically fragile X-associated disorders, by investigating epidemiology, clinical features of movement and balance, and interventions.

She has been National Institutes of Health funded for the last 10 years as a primary investigator, and she received the Rush University Faculty Award for Research in 2014. She is the chair of the Rush Institutional Review Board, which reviews research studies at Rush.

Hall also has a busy clinical practice focused on movement disorders within the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush. She is the director of the FXTAS Clinic at Rush and the Movement Disorder DNA Repository within the Section of Movement Disorders at Rush. In addition, she is clinical director of the neuroscience block for the first-year medical students at Rush University.

Christa Cooper, PA-C, MMS, MPH

Christa Cooper, PA-C, MMS, MPH, physician assistant, Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Program, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Christa Cooper, PA-C, MMS, MPH, is a physician assistant in the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Program at Rush. She graduated from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience, and minors in psychology and leadership. As part of her neuroscience training, she completed two years of lab research on Huntington's disease.

After finishing her undergraduate program, Cooper was accepted to Arcadia University in Glenside, Penn., where she completed dual master's degree programs in medical science (physician assistant studies) and public health. Her public health thesis, which researched patient-provider communication, was completed in 2011. Upon graduation, she was inducted into the Pi Alpha National Honor Society of Physician Assistants. She passed her national physician assistant board examination in June 2012.

Cooper is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants; American Public Health Association; and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Melany Danehy, MD

Melany Danehy, MD, psychiatrist, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Melany Danehy, MD, assistant professor, is a board-certified psychiatrist has been part of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Program at Rush University Medical Center since 2005.

Her location in the movement disorders center, alongside the neurologists, has provided a unique opportunity for collaborative patient care and a team-based approach for many years. She specializes in the treatment of the mental and behavioral difficulties in Huntington's disease (HD), Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders. She uses her knowledge of medications to tailor treatment programs, avoiding possible negative effects on movement disorders and, where possible, using medications that have dual purpose in treating both psychiatric and movement disorders. She adds a unique perspective to the neurology team that is often missing in many centers, but is essential in the treatment of movement disorders patients and their families.

Danehy received her medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago and her psychiatry training at Rush University Medical Center. She has presented at national and state conferences for the Huntington's Disease Society of America, as well as at Parkinson's Disease Support Groups. She also enjoys clinic teaching of fellows, neurology and psychiatry residents, and medical students at Rush.    

Alexa Hart, MS, CGC

Alexa Hart, MS, CGC, genetic counselor, Huntington's disease program, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Alexa Hart, MS, CGC, is a board-certified genetic counselor with more than five years of experience. She has a clinical interest in Huntington's disease, with focus on family systems and decision-making. She also has extensive experience in genetic counseling issues related to family planning and predictive testing.

Hart received her Master of Science in genetic counseling from Northwestern University. She is active in professional societies, including the National Society of Genetic Counselors and the Genetic Task Force of Illinois.

Sarah Mitchell Chen, MSW, LCSW

Sarah Mitchell Chen, MSW, LCSW, social worker, Huntington's disease program, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Sarah Mitchell Chen, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with more than eight years of experience working with adults with chronic diseases, with older adults and with caregivers. She helps Huntington's disease patients and their families address non-medical barriers to wellness and improve their health outcomes. She also co-facilitates a bi-monthly Huntington's disease support group held at Rush.

Mitchell Chen earned a Master of Social Work from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. 

Before joining Rush in March of 2014, Mitchell Chen was a social worker on a short term rehabilitation unit at a skilled nursing facility for five years. During her time at the nursing home, she helped patients and caregivers adjust to increasing care needs and explore options for care.

Brian (Tucker) Eads, MA, LSW

Brian Tucker Eads provides outpatient psychotherapy to adolescents and adults facing a variety of challenges, including depression, anxiety, illness, caregiver stress and life transitions. His work with individuals draws on acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and mindfulness practice.

Eads received his master’s in clinical social work from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. He is currently completing a postgraduate fellowship in contextual behavior therapy at the Emotion Management Program.