FAU Receives $750,000 Philanthropic Grant for Alzheimer’s Disease

Hands, Health Care, Alzheimer's Disease, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Care

The grant from the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation will establish best practice for coordinated care and research for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. (Photo by Alex Dolce)

By gisele galoustian | 9/18/2023

More than 720,000 Floridians will be living with Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Currently, Florida has the second highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and is the sixth leading cause of death in Floridians 65 and older.

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.