Dr. Parminder Vig has spent more than thirty years at UMMC studying neurological disorders.
Dr. Parminder Vig has spent more than thirty years at UMMC studying neurological disorders.
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People of the U: Parminder Vig

Published on Monday, October 7, 2019

By: Karen Bascom

It was 31 years ago on October 4 that Dr. Parminder Vig came to the United States to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He had just defended his Ph.D. thesis, but didn’t even have his diploma yet.

“I didn’t attend graduation, so they had to mail it to me from India,” said Vig, who started working in the Department of Neurology when Dr. Robert Currier was chair.

Today, Vig is a professor of neurology and chief of the department’s neuroscience research division. He studies spinocerebellar ataxias, or SCA, a group of rare genetic disorders that affect the brain and cause loss of muscle control.

“When I started working in this area, we knew very little about these conditions, and didn’t know which genes were involved in ataxias,” Vig said.

In 2016, Vig was named co-inventor on a patent issued to UMMC that covers an experimental therapy for SCA type 1 and ways to shuttle drugs past the blood-brain barrier. Nominated by his peers, he also received UMMC’s meritorious research service award in 2017.

Vig enjoys working at the Medical Center because of the independence given to research faculty.

“The environment here gives room to grow and the freedom to explore new ideas,” he said.

That freedom includes working with collaborators across campus and beyond. With other co-inventors, Vig is in the process of filing two other patent applications related to drug delivery and new treatments for traumatic brain injuries and central nervous system disorders. He is also working with researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi to study the neurological impacts of West Nile and Zika viruses.

One of Vig's hobbies is digital painting, where he creates landscapes, portraits and wildlife. 

Off campus, Vig spends his time creating art. Like science, it requires a readiness to learn from your mistakes, Vig said. When he once made pottery as an engagement gift for a relative, he tried firing it in the kiln quickly before fully dry. It cracked.

“Like an experiment, you have to have patience,” Vig said. “In research, you are expected to face your failures and still keep going. You don’t get the rewards right away.”

He also enjoys digital painting. Using his finger as a brush, he can adjust the thickness and color of the strokes on his tablet or phone. He creates nature scenes and portraits, taking around fifteen to thirty hours each to complete.

He also enjoys bass fishing and growing fruit and vegetable gardens at his home in Flora. He’s most proud of the mango trees he keeps in a greenhouse.

“They die if the temperature gets below 45 degrees, but in the greenhouse where the temperature gets up to 120, they love it,” Vig said.

Likewise, Vig and his family have thrived in Mississippi. He and his wife, a pediatrician who completed her residency training at UMMC, have two adult children: Their son is an orthopaedic surgery resident in Albany, New York, and their daughter is a senior in the honors college at the University of Mississippi.

“I feel that people treat others well here,” Vig said.

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