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Hughes’ gift to MIND Center may help ‘save the next generation’

Published on Thursday, April 23, 2015

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

Dr. Thomas "Tom" Mosley Jr., a nationally renowned authority on brain aging, was honored on April 14 as the recipient of the Dudley & Robbie Hughes Distinguished MIND Center Chair. 

A gift of $2 million from Robbie and Dudley Hughes of Jackson endowed the faculty chair for the Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia (MIND) Center, which Mosley directs in its work to expose the causes of, and find treatments for, Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia. 

"It is critically important for the center to have the chair for the long-term success of the MIND Center," said Mosley, professor of medicine (geriatrics) and neurology, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor and associate director of geriatric medicine.

"It ensures that UMMC will be able to recruit a top scientist and sustain our leadership in this area long after my career is over."

Robbie and Dudley Hughes
Robbie and Dudley Hughes

The ceremony in Jackson also paid tribute to the Hughes family, whose MIND Center donation is personal: Dudley Hughes, a titan in the oil and gas industry, had struggled with dementia. One week after he and his wife were recognized at the event, he died, on April 21. 

Several members of his extended family have been affected by the disease as well. 

"I would not have any of them live through the anxiety, confusion and loneliness of this disease," Robbie Hughes said last year after the endowment was announced. 

The disease, for which there is no known prevention or cure, brings on memory loss, impaired reasoning and personality changes. 

"That is why I wanted to do what I could to stop dementia from ravaging our family, and families like ours," said Robbie Hughes, a successful stock market investor. 

Mosley has known the MIND Center benefactors for about four years. 

"You will not meet a kinder, more gracious family," he said. "Mrs. Hughes, along with us at the MIND Center, is really thinking about how we can save the next generation. If we don't put money behind research, we're not going to be able to do it." 

Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, afflicts 5.3 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, reports the Alzheimer's Association. 

To better understand the disease, the MIND Center is leading several collaborations in research with other top medical centers in the United States and Europe. In March 2014, it opened its first clinic, which offers state-of-the-art treatment and patient-based research.

Lately, it has embarked on one of the largest and most wide-ranging studies to pinpoint early risk factors for dementia and brain aging. 

As founding director of the MIND Center, Mosley was among the first to discover that abnormal brain changes can begin in healthy, middle-aged people. His research also revealed that these changes go hand-in-hand with cardiovascular risk factors - meaning that early intervention could affect them. 

His involvement in a collaborative, groundbreaking effort that detected memory loss related to genetics could be the first step toward developing new treatments. 

Continued progress at the center depends on funding from the National Institutes of Health and support from people like Robbie and Dudley Hughes, who were named Philanthropists of the Year in 2009 by the Mississippi Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 

In 2013, the MIND Center recognized Robbie Hughes as a Community Champion. 

"Mrs. Hughes is very interested in the work of the MIND Center," Mosley said.

"I'm deeply honored by her generosity and her support of the center and of me personally. I couldn't be more honored than to have the Hughes' name linked with mine."