UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute Marks 15th Anniversary with Landmark $14M Gift

From left, members of the extended Gardner Family: Peggy Gardner Johns, Gary Johns, Lori Gardner Sommer, Laura Mueller, Adam Mueller, Keri Young and Eric Mueller. Photos by Jay Yocis / University of Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute celebrated its 15th anniversary last Saturday with a gift for the ages: a transformational, $14 million commitment from the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation. Peggy Gardner Johns, the daughter of James and Joan Gardner, announced the gift before an audience of donors, physicians and researchers at the Queen City Club.

“As a result of long-standing friendships and the superb medical care our mother has received, we are honored and privileged to announce that we are making a significant impact on the future of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute,” Mrs. Johns said. “We are providing a commitment of $14 million to help provide the Institute with a new home.  We envision this home not merely as a facility. Rather, we envision a vibrant space that is alive with comprehensive care, multi-disciplinary clinics, and the kind of animated brain-storming that leads to revolutionary new treatments.”

Mrs. Johns’s remarks were met with gasps, tears and a standing ovation.

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Joseph Broderick, MD, Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, shared the history of the Institute’s relationship with the Gardner family, which began when Joan Gardner came under the care of Alberto Espay, MD, a specialist at what was then known as the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

“Alberto’s care made a major difference for her,” Dr. Broderick recalled. “Joan’s husband and the rest of the family became more interested in how they could accelerate research and better treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease. This led to several gifts: a $500,000 gift for a nurse navigator and a $5 million gift over five years to establish in 2008 the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders.”

Peggy Gardner Johns announced a landmark gift from the Gardner Family Foundation.

Mrs. Johns said she would never forget the day her father announced: “I want to eradicate this disease.”

When the family’s five-year commitment came to a close, Mrs. Johns said, they found themselves at a crossroads. “After a 10-year partnership with the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute – and with the Parkinson’s center in particular — would we go forward in the area of Parkinson’s? Would we switch paths? Or would we veer onto a new, wider, multi-lane highway that led to broad-based neuroscience eminence in Cincinnati?”

Joseph Broderick, MD

After months of meetings, brainstorming sessions and visits to other nationally recognized centers, the family approached a decision. Instrumental in the process was the Gardner Family Foundation Sub-Committee, which comprises Tom Mueller, Adam Mueller, Eric Mueller, Gary Johns and Kyle Johns. Together they did “the heavy lifting for the family by attending many extra meetings and bringing back recommendations so that the family could make an informed decision,” Dr. Broderick said.

The family’s decision resulted in the largest gift ever made to the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. “Today – tonight – we come another giant step closer to a new, higher benchmark of excellence – a transformation of the entire Neuroscience Institute and its 11 centers into a hallmark of integrated patient care, research and community partnership,” Dr. Broderick said.

Other 15th Anniversary Highlights

UC President Santa J. Ono, PhD, who provided opening remarks, praised the Institute for its growth and success over the last 15 years under the leadership of Dr. Broderick and co-founder John M. Tew, Jr., MD.

“The UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute was first envisioned by a young neurosurgeon more than 30 years ago, and since its founding 15 years ago, in 1998, we have succeeded,” President Ono said. “We have become very, very good at acting as one in the treatment and research of neurological disease. We have become so good that the UC Neuroscience ranks among my very top priorities as President of the University of Cincinnati. As an aside, let me say that while we have the #HottestCollegeinAmerica, we also have the #HottestNeuroscienceInstitute.”

UC President Santa J. Ono, PhD, commended UC Health, the UC College of Medicine and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute for working together “as one.”

President Ono described the Institute as a physical and virtual entity that is found in many different buildings, laboratories, operating rooms, and conversations. “It embraces different people, different specialties, and different neurological diseases and conditions,” he said. “It touches nearly everyone in our community in some way, and it reaches out to all corners of the world through discovery and education.

“The UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute was created to break down the silos that separated individual specialties and bring them together to generate optimal treatment and new discoveries for the benefit of our patients,” Dr. Ono said. “It was meant to spark ideas, to cross-pollinate, to unleash discoveries. It was meant to promote healing and to find cures. It was meant to be local and global at the same time.”

From left: Peggy Gardner Johns, Lori Gardner Sommer and Sandy & Bob Heimann.

Thomas Boat, MD, who the day before had completed his duties as Dean of the UC College of Medicine and Vice President for Health Affairs, shared highlights from the Institute’s last five years. Those highlights included impactful donations from members of the community:

•    Gifts of more than $2 million from  Sandy & Bob Heimann established the Sandy & Bob Heimann Chair in Research of Alzheimer’s Disease at our Memory Disorders Center
•    A $2 million gift from the Harold C. Schott Foundation helped launch the Brain Tumor Molecular Therapeutics Program, the first U.S. research program dedicated to studying brain metastasis.
•    A $2 million gift from George Wile created a neuroscience research endowment, which helped launch the Neurobiology Research Center
•    The Charles Shor Foundation helped fund the SMILE Study — the first blinded, randomized, controlled trial of stress reduction in epilepsy, which will result in the largest data set ever acquired for seizure prediction
•    The Marge and Charles J. Schott Foundation endowed a new chair for Stroke in Emergency Medicine
•    The Comprehensive Stroke Center benefited from gifts and the ongoing legacy of Bonnie Mitsui and her foundation
•    The UC Health ALS Clinic was established at Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care with a gift from the Barbara V. Peck and Justin Friedman Fund for research in ALS

Recognition and Unveiling

John M. Tew, Jr., MD, left and President Santa J. Ono, PhD

In another highlight, Dr. Broderick and Institute Co-Founder Robert Lukin, MD, unveiled of a portrait of Dr. Tew, which will hang in the proposed facility. Dr. Tew, a celebrated neurosurgeon for more than 45 years, now directs community outreach and philanthropic efforts for the integrative medicine program at UC and UC Health. Recalling the Institute’s beginnings, Dr. Tew said, “Bob Lukin, Fred Samaha and later Joe Broderick and Myles Pensak and I conspired together of build a neuroscience institute. Our principle goal was and remains the same: To lead the advance in neurological care.”

Thanking the donors and supporters before him, Dr. Tew continued: “Our team of caregivers, educators, and researchers have successfully collaborated to become the best in our endeavor. But none of our efforts would have begun without your support, encouragement and hard work.”

Richard Lofgren, MD, President & CEO of UC Health, acknowledged the accomplishments of Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, who served for five years as the Institute’s administrative director and is now is moving to a new leadership post at UC Health.

“Over the past five years her accomplishments include the development of four new Centers of Excellence and two programs within the Institute, the establishment of the Institute’s performance improvement agenda and quality committee, and the creation of UC Health’s TeleStroke Program,” Dr. Lofgren said. “Under her leadership, neuroscience revenue across the enterprise has increased by 40 percent, and our inpatient neuroscience market share has increased by over 4 percent.”

Dr. Lofgren also introduced Lori Uphaus, the new Administrative Director for the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

Gus McPhie, winner of the 2014 UC Foundation Trustees’ Award.

Rodney Grabowski, President of the UC Foundation, wrapped up the evening with a special thank you to Gus McPhie, who recently was honored for his time and service with the UC Foundation Trustees’ Award at the annual George Rieveschl Dinner. “I want to again acknowledge and congratulate Gus for his tireless advocacy and service, and to reiterate the important role volunteers play in our ongoing growth and success,” Mr. Grabowski said.

— Cindy Starr, MSJ

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