NEWS | October 27, 2015

Omalu named a 2015 Health Hero by WebMD

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

Bennet I. Omalu, associate clinical professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC Davis, has been named a 2015 Health Hero by WebMD for his work identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and his relentless efforts to increase awareness of the risks caused by blows to the head, which have led to stricter rules for athletes playing high-impact sports.

Bennet I. Omalu, pictured here at a recent public forum on concussion at UC Davis, has found that blows to the head -- regardless of whether they result in a concussion -- contribute to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition caused by damage to nerve cells and abnormal protein deposits in the brain. The disorder causes difficulties with cognition, emotions and behaviors, which do not become noticeable until many years later.  Bennet I. Omalu, pictured here at a recent public forum on concussion at UC Davis, has found that blows to the head -- regardless of whether they result in a concussion -- contribute to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition caused by damage to nerve cells and abnormal protein deposits in the brain. The disorder causes difficulties with cognition, emotions and behaviors, which do not become noticeable until many years later.

Omalu is one of four awardees, who include Glenn Close, Ronald "Jake" Clark and Kenneth Shinozuka. The winners will be recognized at a gala event at the Times Center in New York City Nov. 5. The event can be followed live via Periscope at 6:30 p.m. ET @ WebMD and on Twitter #HealthHero.

Bennet Omalu is a forensic pathologist, neuropathologist and epidemiologist, and serves as Sheriff-Coroner and Chief Medical Examiner for San Joaquin County.

In September 2002, while working for the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, coroner's office, he performed an autopsy on legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster.

When the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist delved deep into Webster's brain, he discovered clumps of tau, an abnormal protein common in the brains of elderly Alzheimer's patients but never before seen in a relatively young football player.

Omalu named the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and linked it to the brain trauma football players sustain. Omalu's discovery -- and persistence -- eventually forced the NFL to institute stricter rules to limit head injuries and transformed the way the game is played.

Omalu has been with UC Davis as a volunteer associate clinical professor of pathology and laboratory medicine since 2008, where he contributes to educating the next generation of physicians. He is the author of the books Play Hard, Die Young: Football Dementia, Depression and Death and the soon-to-be-released Concussion. He is portrayed in the upcoming motion picture "Concussion" by actor Will Smith.

Omalu has been a volunteer clinical faculty member at UC Davis since 2008.