Atlantic Philanthropies announces 6 Atlantic Fellows at Global Brain Health Institute

Posted on: 24 July 2018

The Atlantic Fellows programme made a major step forward this month in its efforts to advance fairer, healthier, and more inclusive societies, with 267 Fellows now participating in seven programmes operating across five continents. Six of those fellows hail from Ireland and are among the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health, working on brain health initiatives at the Global Brian Health Institute (GBHI) which is a partnership between Trinity College Dublin and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).

The Irish fellows are among the first full global cohort of Atlantic Fellows, which includes advocates, lawyers, artists, business professionals, health practitioners, government officials, academics and researchers.

“The Atlantic Fellows are energetic, diverse, international leaders who are acting on the world’s urgent needs and collaborating to build healthy and equitable societies. The Fellows’ work, individually and as a community, represents our highest aspirations for what our founder Chuck Feeney and the Atlantic Philanthropies set out to achieve over 35 years ago,” said President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, Christopher G. Oechsli.

Programme Director of the GBHI, Professor Brian Lawlor, said: “It’s an extraordinary privilege to be part of this Atlantic Fellows Community. The Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health are training inter-professional leaders who will find new ways to decrease the scale and impact of dementia worldwide by creating scientific evidence, innovative care and policy change. Trinity, as one of the two founding sites for the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health, is becoming a  world leader in the area of equity and disparities and how these factors impact on brain health and the development of dementia.”

Each of the seven Atlantic Fellows programmes is focused on solving a distinct 21st-century problem. They include reducing the impact of dementia worldwide; achieving health equity in South Africa, Southeast Asia and the United States; advancing racial equity in the United States and South Africa; improving the well-being of communities in Australia and the Pacific by drawing on the knowledge and expertise of Indigenous people; and addressing global inequalities.

In the GBHI, in Ireland, many of the fellows are focused on addressing the complexities of dementia and on shining a light on local and global health inequities. Already a major health concern, the number of people in Ireland with dementia is projected to triple to 152,000 by 2046. By 2050, the number of people with dementia could triple from 47 million to 132 million, overwhelming families, communities, public health care systems, and economies throughout the world.

Co-Director of the GBHI, Professor Ian Robertson, said: “There is no bigger source of social and economic inequity than the inequality in brain health, because the human brain, the most complex entity in the known universe, is the source of all that we do, think, feel and achieve. Our brains are physically shaped throughout life, strengthened and grown by experience, including by education, training, exercise, diet, jobs and relationships. Social and health inequalities deprive our brains of this stimulation and increase our risk of diseases such as dementia later in life.”

“But late life loss of brain health also triggers these inequalities, and this ‘double whammy’ of social inequity causing poor brain health and vice versa means that the Atlantic Fellows at the GBHI are essential leaders in a global effort to build brain health and hence reduce both dementia and inequity. They are already doing this across the globe, using their scientific knowledge to foster policies and interventions that influence the lives of millions of people worldwide.”

The six Atlantic Fellows from the GBHI include:

  • Dominic Campbell, co-founder of Creative Aging International, is developing new project prototypes infused with art and creativity to help reduce the fear of age and its related illnesses among elders
  • David Loughrey, a research psychologist, is researching the relationship between hearing loss and the development of dementia through neurocognitive assessments of older adults with hearing loss
  • Catherine Jordan, an experimental psychologist, is pursuing the relationship between musical expertise and the development of dementia, and the mechanisms underpinning this association
  • Elaine Howard, programme manager in dementia at Genio Social Investments, is testing and delivering a method that supports organisational change in healthcare systems to deliver personalised care for people with dementia
  • Christine FitzGerald, a nurse and psychosocial researcher, is developing a psychosocial evaluation strategy to mobilise and enhance psychosocial interventions at a national and international level
  • Fionnuala Sweeney, a journalist, is creating an innovative multi-digital, multi-lingual science-based platform to raise global brain health awareness, promote preventative strategies, and change attitudes and policies. She is a presenter on RTE’s Late Debate and will be presenting a radio series on dementia this autumn

In addition to these six Fellows, Emma Cunningham (who cares for and strives to improve the care of patients with early dementia and older patients undergoing routine surgery),  Corinna Grimes (who aims to improve quality of life for those with palliative and end of life care needs and for their loved ones), and Claire McEvoy (who aims to identify and test dietary and lifestyle approaches to preserve cognitive abilities during aging and prevent or delay dementia), are also Atlantic Fellows at GBHI, but based in Northern Ireland.

GBHI research case study: Prevent

Prevent is a three-year research programme that aims to detect early features of the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease in people with no symptoms of the disease. GBHI researchers are leading the project, as part of a large-scale study in collaboration with Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh universities, Imperial College London, and INSERM Neuroscience, in France.

In total 700 participants will be involved in the first large-scale international research project of its type, which seeks to understand the disease process in people with no signs of dementia, decades before Alzheimer’s disease may develop.

By identifying early markers for Alzheimer’s disease, the Prevent researchers hope they may be able to design and implement targeted intervention programmes to help delay, or indeed prevent the onset of dementia, For more information, see here.

About the Atlantic Fellows programme

The Atlantic Philanthropies has committed more than US $660 million to seed and support the work of the global network of thousands of Atlantic Fellows over the next 20 years. The full list of Fellows, and more information on the programmes can be found here.

The Fellows programmes are an intentional effort to bring together mid-career individuals from diverse professions, backgrounds and areas of expertise to learn from one another, find solutions to pressing problems and achieve demonstrable impact.

The Fellows programmes include:

  • Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health based at The Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco
  • Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in Southeast Asia based at The Equity Initiative at the China Medical Board in Bangkok
  • Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity based at the International Inequality Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa based at TEKANO
  • Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity based at The University of Melbourne
  • Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity based at Columbia University in New York City and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg
  • Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity based at the George Washington University Health Workforce Institute

The Atlantic Philanthropies launched the first Atlantic Fellows Programme in 2015 and the seventh Fellows programme in 2018, with 267 Fellows participating around the world. The full list of programmes and fellows can be found here.

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