James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorders Established with $5.5 Million Gift

Donors and doctor pose for photo.

Joan and James Gardner with John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. Photo by UC Academic Health Center Communications Services.

A $5.5 million gift has established the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the Neuroscience Institute at University Hospital and the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.

The gift to the University Hospital Foundation from the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation will endow clinical and research programs while accelerating collaboration among scientists and physicians.

“The Gardner Family endowment will propel Parkinson’s disease research and care in Cincinnati to a new level of excellence and will encourage the broad collaboration of others,” said John Tew, MD, clinical director of the Neuroscience Institute and professor of neurosurgery at UC. “It will ensure that the Neuroscience Institute can continue to inspire the best and brightest scientists and physicians in our quest to provide better treatments for people with Parkinson’s disease and to achieve our ultimate goal of finding a cure.”

The center treats 2,000 patients from the region and beyond and conducts numerous laboratory and clinical research projects. In 2006 it was named the first national Davis Phinney Research Center—a collaboration among universities to promote sharing of laboratory and clinical research data related to Parkinson’s disease.

“The Gardners sincerely hope that their gift will generate additional resources for the benefit of research that will ultimately cure Parkinson’s disease,” said James Gardner. “We have confidence in the leadership team at the Institute and hope this gift can position the center as a beacon of hope, capable of discovering the first treatments to prevent and reverse Parkinson’s disease.

“As good stewards of our resources,” Gardner continued, “the Gardner family expects the Neuroscience Institute to achieve certain benchmarks over a five-year period. We are working on defining those desired benchmarks, and we are grateful for this performance challenge, as it keeps us focused on the Institute’s commitment to the treatment, prevention and cure of Parkinson’s disease.”

UC President Nancy Zimpher noted the wonderful generosity of the Gardner family to aid in the advancement of medical research that will translate into better care for patients.

“The commitment shown by Mr. and Mrs. Gardner will greatly affect the lives of many people in our region and will be a lasting legacy to them in our community. We are proud that they have put their trust in us to advance this important effort,” Zimpher said.

Joseph Broderick, MD, research director of the Neuroscience Institute and chair of the UC department of neurology, said the gift guarantees the center’s continued rise in national stature.

“We have assembled a world-class team of clinicians and researchers in Cincinnati,” Broderick said. “The Gardner gift is exhilarating to every member of our Parkinson’s team because it ensures and enhances our ability to work creatively in a multitude of new directions.”

“The Gardner Center is another tremendous example of strong collaboration between University Hospital and the University of Cincinnati to care for the residents of our community,” added James Kingsbury, executive director of University Hospital. “By working together with the outstanding support of families like the Gardners, we’ll be able to make significant improvements in the care of patients with Parkinson’s disease and their families.”

The announcement was made at the start of the fourth annual Sunflower Revolution, the largest Parkinson’s event in the region. In addition to a fundraising gala and bike ride, the Sunflower Revolution provides a free symposium and expo for patients and physicians. It also brings together scientists from the national Davis Phinney Research Centers and members of the Davis Phinney Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. Those scientists met Friday to discuss new opportunities for research and clinical collaboration.

Clinicians at the Gardner Center provide patients with advanced medical care and surgical treatments. New patients are evaluated by a team of specialists, who then determine an individualized treatment path from within the complete spectrum of therapies. Physician researchers also offer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials that test new therapies and advance scientific understanding of the disease.

In an effort to understand how the disease begins and progresses―and with the ultimate goal of curing the disease―laboratory researchers at the Gardner Center are studying Parkinson’s disease at the molecular level and in animal models. Approaching the disease from multiple directions, their work includes:

  • cellular replacement therapy, including transplantation of dopamine-producing neurons;
  • examination of the accumulation of markers of brain cell degeneration as they change over a lifespan;
  • examination of exacerbated dopamine cell loss in a rodent model of combined depression and Parkinson’s disease;
  • delivery of novel, beneficial growth factors to the precise region of the brain that degenerates in Parkinson’s disease; and
  • study of a dual-risk model, in which an animal exposed to a toxin early in life develops Parkinson’s over the course of a long lifespan.

The Gardner Center is the second endowed center at the Neuroscience Institute, a regional destination dedicated to patient care, research, education, and the development of new treatments in seven areas of neuroscience. The Waddell Center for Multiple Sclerosis was established in 2002 with a $5 million gift from Virgilee and Oliver Waddell.

The Neuroscience Institute also is dedicated to the treatment of stroke, brain and spinal tumors, epilepsy, traumatic brain and spinal injury, Alzheimer’s disease, disorders of the senses (swallowing, voice, hearing, pain, taste and smell), and psychiatric conditions (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression).

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