We are sad to announce that Sandra Helmers MD, MPH, 59, died of cancer on Sunday, March 13, in her Decatur, Georgia, home surrounded by family and friends. She was professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and a member of the Epilepsy Foundation’s Professional Advisory Board. Her work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Managing Epilepsy Well (MEW) Network and public health was invaluable to the Foundation and all who live with and care for people with epilepsy. She was a tireless advocate who will be sorely missed.
We extend our deepest sympathies to her wife, Cathy Pfeiler, and their children.
Sandy was one of the few clinical epileptologists who could seamlessly treat and care for both children and adults with epilepsy. She was a tireless advocate for her epilepsy patients. She excelled at taking care of patients with epilepsy who also had severe and complex developmental disabilities, positively improving their quality of life as well as their family members’.
Her colleagues recall her contagious laugh, her compassion, and her creative problem solving. Sandra was still collaborating with colleagues and working on projects from home until her final weeks. She worked closely with the CDC on epidemiologic studies of epilepsy and health care access for patients with epilepsy. In collaboration with the CDC and the Rollins School of Public Health, she helped to create WebEase, an interactive, online program to help people self-manage their epilepsy. She worked for two decades on the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, from clinical trials to improving the therapy for medically refractory epilepsy. She also worked with the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project to try to understand more about genetic epilepsy and taught in the J. Kiffin Penry Epilepsy mini-fellowship program every year at Wake Forest.
She was a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. She was a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, completing her residency at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine and her fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine. She was on faculty at Children’s Hospital of Boston, Harvard Medical School, followed by Emory University School of Medicine.