Although the epidemic of age-related brain dysfunction – of which Alzheimer’s disease is a major factor – is growing at an alarming rate, there is a disconnect between the existing care model designed for urgent care and the progressive nature of this chronic condition, which tends to worsen over time.
To address this widespread health concern, Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine has received a $750,000 philanthropic grant from the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation to develop partnerships and programs that will establish best practice for coordinated care and research for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). The Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation is a private foundation based in South Florida and is dedicated to supporting programs and organizations that devise strategies for improving human health.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation for their generous support, which will help us to launch an important program that will serve hundreds of thousands of Floridians and their families for years to come,” said FAU President Stacy Volnick. “Florida Atlantic University is uniquely positioned to provide the necessary resources to our communities to increase awareness, aid caregivers, allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment, and devise research programs to transform the care of neurodegenerative diseases.”
The $750,000 grant from the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation represents the first-year start-up of the program, which will help to coalesce key projects, collaborators and donors involved in the ADRD arena.
“This grant awarded to Florida Atlantic University will help to propel research, patient care and community outreach for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and continues Carl DeSantis’ incredible legacy of generosity and caring for others,” said Jeff Perlman, director of the Carl Angus Foundation and executive vice president of CDS International Holdings, Inc. “Patients and their caregivers often encounter many challenges navigating this complex, chronic and costly disease. FAU’s innovative approach will take managing neurodegenerative disorders to new heights.”
With this grant, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine will employ a nurse navigator who will provide optimized multi-disciplinary care and serve as the point of contact for patients and their families. The college also will employ an outreach coordinator who will ensure that patients and their families are connected with the appropriate resources they require as the disease advances. In addition, a full-time data scientist will join the team to review patient survey data, which will be included in research modeling and will benefit countless patients in the future throughout Florida and the nation.
The new program is an initiative to serve the health care needs of the community through collaborative education with research integration and interprofessional practice. The vision is to drive the region’s future health care by leveraging collective resources, developing an exceptional workforce, and innovating the care provided to the region’s aging population. As the program progresses, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine plans to add two endowed faculty positions: a clinical neurologist specializing in ADRD; and a scientist/biomedical engineer dedicated to the study of various neurodegenerative disorders.
“Alzheimer’s disease has devastating effects not only on the individual experiencing this neurological disorder, but also on their family as they watch their loved one slowly decline,” said Curtis Whitehair, M.D., interim dean, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine. “New treatments and interventions to enhance care models for Alzheimer’s and related dementias are greatly needed. This generous grant from the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation will help our physicians and scientists combat a neurological disorder that currently impacts nearly 55 million people worldwide.”
At the core of addressing ADRD, amyloidosis, stroke and other cognitive disorders is the newly created Clinical Neurosciences Department within FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine. At the helm of the department is Michael R. Dobbs, M.D., the inaugural, endowed FarifaxWood Chair of Clinical sciences who directs “discovery to cure” initiatives for these complex and severe disorders, and will lead this new program. Faculty expertise in the department include neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation and basic neuroscience studies.
The program established with the grant from the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation will enlist resources and expertise from FAU’s Clinical Neurosciences Department, FAU’s Center for Brain Health, and The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at FAU Medicine. Through prior philanthropic support, the college established the Center for Brain Health with a gift from The Harry T. Mangurian Foundation and the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at FAU Medicine with a gift from The Marcus Foundation. The Center for Brain Health focuses on precision medicine approaches to ADRD, and leverages resources and collaborations to increase research on these diseases. The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at FAU Medicine combines a variety of evidence-based clinical services with the goal of meeting patients’ health care needs.
From his early days in Miami, foundation founder Carl DeSantis, was passionate about health and nutrition. His interest spurred him to create Rexall Sundown in his garage growing the company until it became one of the world’s leading vitamin manufacturers and brands. Never one to rest on his laurels, DeSantis invested in a beverage company named Celsius, which disrupted the energy drink category by offering consumers a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. DeSantis enjoyed a legendary career as an entrepreneur leaving a legacy in a variety of industries ranging from nutrition and beverages to eco-tourism, real estate and hospitality. Known for his generosity and kindness, DeSantis touched thousands of lives through his entrepreneurial endeavors.
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About the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine:
FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine is one of approximately 156 accredited medical schools in the U.S. The college was launched in 2010, when the Florida Board of Governors made a landmark decision authorizing FAU to award the M.D. degree. After receiving approval from the Florida legislature and the governor, it became the 134th allopathic medical school in North America. With more than 70 full and part-time faculty and more than 1,300 affiliate faculty, the college matriculates 64 medical students each year and has been nationally recognized for its innovative curriculum. To further FAU’s commitment to increase much needed medical residency positions in Palm Beach County and to ensure that the region will continue to have an adequate and well-trained physician workforce, the FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine Consortium for Graduate Medical Education (GME) was formed in fall 2011 with five leading hospitals in Palm Beach County. The Consortium currently has five Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited residencies including internal medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and neurology.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six campuses located along the southeast Florida coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and outpaced its peers in student achievement rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps vanish. FAU is designated a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked as a top public university by U.S. News & World Report and a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.