Kathi Ovnic Baker, 404/727-9371, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Sauder, 404/727-3366, email@example.com
ATLANTA -- Businessman and philanthropist J. B. Fuqua, whose $2 million in gifts helped found and support the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression at Emory University's Wesley Woods Center beginning in 1999, has followed those contributions with a pledge of $2 million to endow the J.B. Fuqua Chair in Late-Life Depression in the Emory University School of Medicine.
William M. McDonald, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and Director of the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression, has been nominated as the initial J.B. Fuqua Chair in Late-Life Depression. Dr. McDonald has been at Emory since 1993. He received his medical education and completed his internship and residency at Duke University and is board certified in Psychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry. Dr. McDonald's research and clinical practice focus on mood disorders, including both mania and depression, in older persons and patients with neurological disorders including Parkinsonís disease and Alzheimerís dementia. Dr. McDonald also directs medical student education in Psychiatry and won teaching awards this year from both the Emory medical students and, nationally, from the American Psychiatric Association.
"To me, Dr. McDonald epitomizes the ideal combination of personal compassion and scientific enterprise that I hope will always be found in the occupant of the Fuqua Chair," said Mr. Fuqua. "The endowment is intended to support physicians who are working primarily in the field of late-life depression and who are able to help move scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside for the benefit of patients."
Since its founding, the Fuqua Center has emphasized outreach to the community and has pursued partnerships and collaborations with many organizations in order to reach primary care providers, nurses, social workers, clergy and others who work closely with older adults. Educating the public that depression is a biological illness that if treated adequately drastically improves one's health and quality of life is key to eliminating the stigma currently attached to persons with depression.
In addition to offering clinical services at Wesley Woods Center, where it is based, the Fuqua Center provides psychiatric services and educational programs for more than a dozen assisted living facilities and retirement centers, as well as the Community Care Service program which provides case management for over 1200 frail elderly of the Atlanta metropolitan area.
The Fuqua Center is leading a pioneering effort to provide psychiatry services to underserved, remote regions of Georgia through telemedicine and collaboration with primary care physicians and other clinicians by developing a state wide referral network. In addition, the Fuqua Center is developing a Depression Information Service, modeled after the National Cancer Information Service, which will provide patients and clinicians with summaries of research findings regarding treatment options and information needed to locate a clinician.
"Enjoying the interest and support of J.B. Fuqua and the Fuqua Foundation has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," says Dr. McDonald. "Mr. Fuqua has made a huge difference in our ability to reach out to, and help, a large group of elderly persons who have traditionally suffered in silence. There is no good reason for an older person to endure the pain of clinical depression for months and years on end without medical intervention, any more so than there is for a younger person. We are in the middle of a revolution in the way we deal with depression and J.B. Fuqua has been critically important in arming us with the tools we need."
Emory University School of Medicine Dean Thomas J. Lawley said that Mr. Fuqua's gift is an example of the kind of private support that allows Emory to recruit and retain the finest scientific and medical talent in the country. "Endowment gifts of this magnitude are precious because they will provide critical support at a time when clinical revenues are under growing pressure from all sides," said Dr. Lawley. "This is especially so in the area of geriatric psychiatry which is being squeezed by Medicare and private insurers."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), clinical depression is an under-recognized and under-treated condition, affecting as many as 2 million of the nation's 35 million persons aged 65 or above. According to NIMH research, as many as 5 million seniors are believed to suffer from depressive symptoms that interfere with normal functioning and leave them at heightened risk for developing major depression.
"Mr. Fuqua's understanding of the importance of recognizing and treating late life depression, and his vision in creating both the center and this new chair, will powerfully affect the lives of thousands of Americans," Dr. Lawley added.
Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral ScienceS at Emory, said that the department is "incredibly grateful" to Mr. Fuqua for his support of the Center.
"This gift of an endowed chair will enable our Department and Emory to recognize the excellence of William McDonald, MD, director of the Fuqua Center and a leading researcher, teacher and clinician in the field," said Dr. Nemeroff. "Dr. McDonald, in addition to running the Fuqua Center, is the recipient of grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and several foundations, as well as the director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry."