Alzheimer’s institute to open this year amid flurry of support
A comprehensive care center for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders will open at the Health Science Center in 2016, fueled by millions in donations gathered in less than two years.
Over $41 million has been secured in cash and endowment support to launch South Texas’ first Institute for Alzheimer and Neurodegenerative Diseases, located in the Medical Arts & Research Center.
Of that, $735,000 was collected at the 2015 President’s Gala, themed “An Evening of Service.” Proceeds from the Sept. 26 event established the Bartell and Mollie Zachry Endowment for Alzheimer Research and Patient Care, in recognition of the gala’s honorees, Bartell and Mollie Zachry.
“They have made and continue to make exemplary contributions to San Antonio, to education and to the welfare of our entire community,” said Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP. “They are our city’s finest examples of integrity and kindness and they embody, in all respects, service.”
The Health Science Center must play an active role in tackling Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, Dr. Henrich told the more than 1,000 gala attendees. That mission is something the community has rallied behind, offering unprecedented support for the project in record time, he added.
“As one of America’s leading academic health centers, we must serve our community’s health-related needs,” he said. “The time is now to focus on new discoveries, treatments and auxiliary services to help those suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.”
The institute is designed to be a comprehensive care center and will feature expert diagnostics; physician specialists in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases; support programs for caregivers; and access to clinical trials of new therapies.
By 2025, the number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 7.1 million, a 40 percent increase from today. In Texas, the number of residents with the disease is projected to increase 48.5 percent. Texas ranks third in the nation in the estimated number of Alzheimer’s cases and second in the number of deaths attributable to the disease, behind California and Florida.
“There are many reasons to be concerned about this illness,” Dr. Henrich said, citing “its unrelenting cruelty in robbing a person of memory and faculty, the toll it takes on families and caregivers, its devastating effects on the economy and our collective sense of futility in trying to arrest its insidious lethal aggression.”
There are also personal reasons. A little more than a year before his death, Glenn Biggs, the university’s founding Development Board chairman, approached Dr. Henrich and School of Medicine Dean Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., about his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
“He came to us seeking guidance on where to go and what to do for his advancing condition,” Dr. Henrich said. “So you can understand our frustration in not being able to provide him answers that pointed him to a comprehensive care center or, even better, being able to assure him that prevention was available that could make a difference. After he left that day, Francisco and I pledged ourselves to this singular purpose.
“Glenn Biggs was the inspiration for our vision to establish the Institute for Alzheimer and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and we are committed to the promise we made to him and so many other families to see this vision achieved.”
Dr. Henrich said he will ask the UT Board of Regents for approval to name the center in his honor.
Biggs’ wife, Ann, was the gala’s honorary chair. In a video tribute to her husband, who died in May, she spoke of the hope he carried with him that someday a cure would be found.
“He wanted to help others,” she said. “This was his dream, and he would be so pleased. He took great pride in doing what he could to help the Health Science Center in all the years he had. It’s my pleasure to do what I can to carry on his wishes.
“Don’t give up hope. Something good is going to come.”
Gifts and pledges of $1 million or more
- Baptist Health Foundation
- The Greehey Family Foundation
- J.M.R. Barker Foundation
- Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation
- Klesse Foundation
- Kronkosky Charitable Foundation
- Keith and Pat Vigeon Orme
- Valero Energy Foundation