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UMMC MIND Center - Mayo Clinic Study of Aging Campaign reaches halfway mark thanks to Thames’ gift

Published on Wednesday, April 28, 2021

By: Karen Bascom, kbascom@umc.edu

Suzan and Tommy Thames
Suzan and Tommy Thames

The UMMC MIND Center - Mayo Clinic Study of Aging has now surpassed the halfway mark of its $5 million fundraising goal, thanks to a generous gift from Suzan and Tommy Thames. With the addition of this gift, the Study of Aging Campaign has now raised $2.3 million. The MIND Center hopes to complete fundraising for this ambitious project by the end of 2021.

“We are incredibly grateful for Suzan and Tommy’s longstanding support,” said Dr. Thomas Mosley, Robbie and Dudley Hughes MIND Center Chair and director of The MIND Center. “For the last five years, Suzan has played an integral role as our Community Advisory Board chair in promoting awareness of our center and championing our cause. This has resulted in the ability to secure additional private funding for The MIND Center’s mission to stop Alzheimer’s.”

Thames, who lost her mother and her sister to Alzheimer’s, said their diagnoses were “such a shock” for her family.

“At the time, we had so many questions and did not know very much about the disease,” she said.

Since then, Thames has become a staunch supporter of The MIND Center and an advocate for others navigating the memory care landscape.

“Tommy and I knew that we had to help other families battling these tragic diseases, and we did not have to look very far to find a cutting edge organization right here in Mississippi to get involved with The MIND Center. We want to prevent families from experiencing the loss and grief associated with Alzheimer’s disease. To do that, we have to support research that will help us identify these diseases earlier so we can target treatments more effectively. That is what the Study of Aging is aiming to do.”

Regarding the Study of Aging, Thames said that she and her husband hope their gift will bring more awareness and inspire others to contribute, as they are able. “We want to encourage others to get on board and make this The MIND Center’s time to shine,” she said.

The MIND Center and Mayo Clinic have collaborated on brain aging and dementia for more than 20 years. The goals of the Study of Aging include: exploring the factors that contribute to brain aging and dementia; identifying better methods to diagnose and prevent Alzheimer’s disease; and understanding the interaction between brain and physical function, such as gait and balance, and how to protect those abilities as we age.

About one in eight Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, will develop Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Mississippi has the country’s third-highest death rate from this devastating illness. Alzheimer’s also has a substantial financial cost. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the Medicaid cost to care for people with Alzheimer’s in Mississippi in 2020 was $606 million, and this number is expected to rise by 22.9% by 2025.

However, Mosley said there is good reason to be optimistic.

“We are at a crossroads in science where major new developments in brain imaging and diagnostic biomarkers are converging with powerful new genetic technologies. Leveraging advances in neuroscience and our strong collaboration with Mayo Clinic, the UMMC MIND Center – Mayo Clinic Study of Aging will have broad and potentially profound implications for understanding the causes, prevention, and treatment of dementia,” Mosley said.

The funds raised for this study will help The MIND Center purchase positron emission tomography (PET) imaging equipment, genetics and biomarker laboratory equipment, and hire physicians, scientists and research staff. The money will also be used for administrative support, participant recruitment and seed funding for new research projects.

“Philanthropic support of this study makes it possible for The MIND Center to provide critical answers for one of the most complex and heartbreaking diseases currently plaguing our country," Mosley said.

The research and infrastructure developed through private fundraising will also help The MIND Center apply for additional grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.

And while other universities and institutions are doing research on Alzheimer’s and dementia, “The MIND Center has an advantage and ‘ace in the hole’ with its experience in longitudinal studies and its excellent team,” Thames said.

“It is pretty astounding to me that all of this specialized research and care is happening right here in our own backyard, in Jackson, Mississippi. I genuinely believe that a cure for Alzheimer’s lies within the walls of The MIND Center,” Thames said.

For more information on how to donate to The MIND Center contact Melissa Robinson at mrobinson6@umc.edu or visit https://www.umc.edu/mindcenter/Ways-to-Help/Give-Today.html

Study of Aging