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‘This Has Never Been Done Before:’ Plans Progress for Richard H. Pickup Center for Brain Health

A transformative $50 million gift from the late Newport Beach philanthropist Richard Pickup will change the course of memory and cognitive disorders care at Hoag and nationwide. Richard, who passed away earlier this year, helped shape the course of health care with his longtime support of Hoag neurosciences.

Plans for a dedicated Richard H. Pickup Center for Brain Health are underway that will provide a pioneering space where research, diagnosis and treatment combine with programs for patients and their caregivers in a wholly unique way.

“Most of the country is a dementia desert. There is not enough expertise to diagnose in a timely manner. Even within our fellow hospital systems that have the expertise, the focus is on data collection and research management, not on the impact of disease on the patient and their family,” said Aaron Ritter, M.D., the Larkin Family Endowed Chair in Integrative Brain Health and director of the Memory & Cognitive Disorders Program within Hoag’s nationally ranked Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute.

When someone suffers a heart attack, gets a diagnosis of cancer or diabetes, or even injures their knee, a whole system coalesces into place around the patient. Prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, mental and social services support – a well-established playbook of comprehensive care supports a patient.

Hoag is among the few institutions nationally focused on creating the same high-quality network of treatment, research, services and support for neurodegenerative conditions.

“We are dedicated to creating a Center that is impactful in all areas – not just diagnosis and medication treatment, but occupational therapy, physical therapy, nutrition, education, family and caregiver support that address all the needs of dementia-related illness,” Dr. Ritter said. “This gift allows us to create something that has never been done before.”

Already a leader in cutting-edge research, clinical trials, prevention and diagnosis, Hoag is well-positioned to create the kind of comprehensive model that will change how dementia and cognitive decline are addressed nationwide, said Adam Kanter, M.D., F.A.A.N.S., executive medical director of the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute.

“Hoag’s reputation within this field has attracted the kind of innovative trials and approaches that are leading the way in Alzheimer’s research,” said Dr. Kanter, citing a revolutionary Alzheimer’s vaccine study underway at Hoag as just one example. “It’s fitting that an institution that has invested so significantly in pushing the boundaries of treatment discovery and delivery would apply that same drive to the totality of the patient and caregiver experience.”

While the Richard H. Pickup Center for Brain Health will be unique, some programs will likely build upon the model Hoag pioneered over the past decade through its Orange County Vital Brain Program and partnerships with community organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Family Center in Huntington Beach. That model stresses the importance of proactive brain health, including lifestyle modification, regular memory screenings, and early detection and treatment of age-related brain disorders. It also emphasizes keeping people with dementia meaningfully active and engaged, while providing respite for caregivers.

“When someone is diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, they and their family members are often left to figure it out on their own,” said Lauren Bennett, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, a clinical neuropsychologist and director of neuropsychology at Hoag. “Hoag has developed a support system that can make the journey less isolating and stressful, but the Center will take it a step further. We envision a comprehensive approach that considers the medical, financial, social and emotional aspects of dementia, recognizing patients and their caregivers as unique individuals deserving of holistic support.”

To learn more about the importance of brain health listen to Dr. Lauren Bennett’s Empowered by Hoag podcast.