Francesca Bagnato, MD, PhD

Associate Vice Chair
Associate Professor
Clinical Neurology

Dr. Francesca Bagnato is a dual-board (European and American) neurology certified physician, currently on faculty at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Bagnato is a general neurologist with special interest in neuroimmunological conditions. She is licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee and Kentucky. She sees patients with neuroimmunological diseases at the Neuroimmunology Clinic of Vanderbilt University Medical Center as well as the Nashville VA HealthCare system. She joined Vanderbilt in October 2015 after serving as staff scientist at the NIH. She was recruited to establish the neuroimaging program of the neuroimmunology division.

Dr. Bagnato routinely serves Research Advisory Committees such as that of of the Italian MS Society, the British MS Society, the National Institutes of Health, the Veteran Administration, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (Neuroimaging) and Department of Defense. She is a standing member of the Clinical Pilot Research Committee of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the TN/KY Healthcare Advisory Committee National Multiple Sclerosis Society (HAC-NMSS) and the National Medical Advisory Committee of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMAC-NMSS). She is an ad hoc member of several NIH Study Sections and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (Neuroimaging). Dr. Bagnato is the Director of Research-MSCoE-East for the Veteran Administration. She is the author of more than 100 publications, has delivered numerous talks around the world and she is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Neurological Association.

Dr. Bagnato has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Special Award for Performance Management Appraisal Program (HHS Employee Performance Plans) of NIH; the NIH-Post Baccalaureate IRTA Committee Award in Recognition of the Outstanding Contributions to the Education and Guidance of Post Baccalaureate Trainers; the NIH-NINDS Merit Award for Mentoring; and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Healthcare Professional Champion Award for her work in MS Research, Education, and as a Healthcare Provider Serving Those in the Community.

Dr. Bagnato earned a medical degree at the University of Rome La Sapienza in 1996. She accomplished a dual European and American Residency in Neurology, which she completed at the University of Rome La Sapienza and the University of Maryland in Baltimore, MD. She earned a PhD in neuroscience which she completed while performing her studies at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD in 2006. 

Research Information

Dr. Bagnato’s lab has two main complementary research goals. First: the lab aims to understand the pathobiology of MS and the substrate of its disability using noninvasive imaging methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also coupled with artificial intelligence. Second: the lab aims to identify a surrogate marker of neurodegeneration that can be used as measure of outcome during both natural history and experimental clinical trials, assessing neuroprotection and repair in patients with MS. To this end, a major focus is to identify, characterize and quantify disease mechanisms otherwise hidden on conventional clinical imaging. These pathological processes include microglia activation, myelin and axonal injury. By working in close collaboration with basic scientists and clinicians, our work starts with the histopathological validation of novel MRI methods and ends with the application of these innovative techniques in patients with MS.

Dr. Bagnato’s lab is generously supported by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society the National Institutes of Health, the Veteran Administration and the Voros Innovation and Impact Fund generously created in support of her lab.