Global team to fight dementia begins pioneering training programme at Trinity

Posted on: 06 October 2016

Amongst those beginning their studies at Trinity College Dublin this Autumn, a small and highly experienced team of individuals will begin specialist training to become the first of an international network of ‘change agents’ in the global fight against dementia.

The first trainees at the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), a pioneering international programme for developing a new generation of leaders to fight dementia, represent a diverse mix of disciplines and skills from cognitive neuroscience to the arts and public policy.

GBHI is a partnership of Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies who gave €138.4 million last November to establish GBHI, the biggest philanthropic donation in the history of the Irish state and the largest single programme grant Atlantic Philanthropies has ever made.

The four trainees from Ireland, Spain, and the Netherlands will be the first to graduate as Atlantic Fellows and will go on to be advocates and leaders in brain health, implementing programs throughout the globe to help prevent or lessen the impact of cognitive impairment. Their work spans key points across the prevention, diagnosis, assessment and management arc of the dementia spectrum.

  • Dominic Campbell, the co-founder of Creative Aging International, an Irish company working globally to encourage creativity as an element of care for the aging will look at the role of artists and scientists in helping to reduce the fear of aging and its related illnesses in older people. Campbell develops projects that present positive ways of adapting to aging through entertainment or engagement models to encourage people to “fall in love with their older selves.” With GBHI he hopes to develop new project prototypes infused with art and creativity, backed by solid evidence and responding to need and local circumstance.
  • Cognitive neurologist Mircea Balasa from Spain is concerned that the diagnosis of dementia is often delayed, despite available resources. He will build on his clinical experience at the Alzheimer’s Unit at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona to work on delivering better approaches for earlier and more precise detection and diagnoses to those affected by cognitive impairment.
  • Falls are a highly prevalent problem for older adults. Geeske Peeters of Monash University in Australia is interested in preventing risk factors in middle aged adults to reduce falls later in life. The benefits of prevented fall risk factors are likely to also contribute to maintaining cognitive functioning, independence, and well-being in older adults. Peeters will use her GBHI fellowship time to develop an interdisciplinary network of experts in the delivery of public health campaigns, health behaviour, communications, policy makers, and industry to help deliver proven falls preventative strategies to the people that need them.
  • Adrià Rofes, a cognitive neuroscientist praised for his creativity and recognised for his research successes, will look to build international collaborations and deepen his own capacity to translate his research knowledge into policy and practice. He hopes that “through understanding brain-behaviour relations, we can improve clinical assessment and outcome protocols for brain conditions.” Originally from Spain, Rofes brings an international experience to his work having studied and trained in more than five countries.

As well as progressing their particular areas of interest, the four Atlantic Fellows will receive training in communications, health economics, brain protection, dementia prevention, and public policy directed toward changing outcomes for older people built on a foundation of brain health science and evidence.

President and Provost of Trinity, Dr Patrick Prendergast said: “The Atlantic Philanthropies has empowered Trinity and USCF to contribute to addressing a major problem for the benefit of society through an inter-disciplinary training of a cohort of leaders in dementia. We are delighted to welcome the first cohort of Atlantic Fellows into the Trinity family. We are confident that they will work hard to make impact across the world in the areas directly related to the treatment and prevention of dementia."

At Trinity, GBHI will be housed in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. It will be led by Professor of Psychology, Ian Robertson, and Connolly Norman Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, Brian Lawlor. It is expected that each year eight GBHI Atlantic Fellows will be selected from a wide range of areas such as medicine and public policy, social science, journalism, law, business and the arts, with four Fellows on each site.

(Brain image by Saad Faruque via Flickr)

About the GBHI

Co-led by Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the new Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) over the next 15 years will train 600 international fellows and scholars as leaders, advocates and key stakeholders in the shared fight against dementia. All will develop skills needed in communications, health economics and policy, built on a foundation of brain health science and evidence. The programme will graduate Atlantic Fellows who will return to their home regions as exceptional and empowered ‘change agents’, with career-duration mentoring, access to pilot funds, and an international network of colleagues collaborating to drive a common mission.

An innovative Scholars programme will focus on providing brain health experiences to a broad array of promising leaders from several environments, among them business people, lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, artists and others. Trainees will have opportunities to work at UCSF, Trinity College Dublin, or both, or at emerging GBHI hubs around the world. At least one-half of Scholars and Fellows will come from outside the US and Ireland, with initial emphasis on Latin America and the Southern Mediterranean. All Fellows’ and Scholars’ work will emphasise the local and global health inequities to be addressed by practitioners and policymakers.

These individuals will experience personalised training in brain protection, dementia prevention, and public policy directed toward changing outcomes for underserved older people. Linking these exceptional Fellows and Scholars to a community of committed graduates and faculty working collaboratively will make worldwide improvements in the scale and trajectory of dementia and brain health both feasible and real.

GBHI seeks allies to share in this mission. The unique GBHI training programme is dependent on identifying outstanding individuals who possess the drive and skills to change their environments around brain health and dementia prevention. At least eight new Fellows will be sought annually for two-year training.

The ultimate success of GBHI lies in the dynamic and diverse opportunities to engage the most talented trainees and provide the type of career-long support needed for continued development of leadership – practitioners, advocates, and stakeholders – in the global fight against dementia. We wish to partner with inspiring individuals and forward-thinking institutions around the world that can help us deliver this intensive training.

GBHI has shared operations in Trinity and UCSF and is co-led by Trinity’s Professor of Psychology, Ian Roberston, and Doctor Bruce Miller, MD, a behavioural neurologist and director of the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF.

Trinity and UCSF are in an excellent position to support GBHI based on their strengths in brain health research.

About Trinity College Dublin

Founded in 1592, Trinity College Dublin is the oldest university in Ireland and one of the older universities of Western Europe. Trinity College Dublin offers a unique educational experience across a range of disciplines in the arts and humanities, engineering and science, and social and health sciences. As Ireland’s premiere university, the pursuit of excellence through research and scholarship is at the heart of a Trinity education. Aging, as a multidisciplinary field, has been identified by Trinity College as a strategic theme with 140 academics actively involved in research across all aging related domains in a systematic way: The Mind, Body, Social Environment, and Built Environment. At present, interdisciplinary research is undertaken in areas such as brain aging, stroke and heart disease, population health, falls and syncope, mental health, geriatric oncology, end-of-life, elder abuse, health care services, technology innovations, smart cities, intergenerational transfers, pensions, financial security, and the life course. It involves experts from the fields of biology, public health, medicine, informatics, macroeconomics, finance, urban planning, engineering, technologies, globalization and migration, the law, sociology, business, and philosophy.

About UCSF

UCSF is a health science campus, providing outstanding training in all major medical disciplines, including nursing, physical therapy, dentistry, and medicine. The Memory and Aging Center (MAC) exists within the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine and provides the highest quality of care for individuals with cognitive problems, conducts research on causes and cures for degenerative brain diseases, and educates health professionals, patients, and their families about healthy aging and neurodegenerative disease. The MAC is situated in a stimulating environment within UCSF that includes partnerships with the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, UCSF Division of GeriatricsUCSF School of NursingUCSF School of Pharmacy, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy StudiesUC Hastings College of LawUCSF Global Health Sciences, and others.

About The Atlantic Philanthropies

The Atlantic Philanthropies is dedicated to advancing opportunity, equity, and human dignity. Established in 1982, when Chuck Feeney quietly committed virtually all of his assets to the foundation, Atlantic has since made grants approaching $8 billion. In keeping with Mr. Feeney’s “Giving While Living,” big-bet philosophy, Atlantic invests in systemic change to accelerate improvements in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The foundation, which has operated in Australia, Bermuda, Cuba, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam, will complete all grant making in 2016 and conclude operations shortly afterward.


Media Contact:

Yolanda Kennedy, Former Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences | | +353 1 896 4168