Dr. Michael Griswold is recipient of the Dea Dea Adams Baker MIND Center Professorship.
Dr. Michael Griswold is recipient of the Dea Dea Adams Baker MIND Center Professorship.
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MIND Center receives $1 million endowed professorship

Published on Monday, July 3, 2023

By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, awdilworth@umc.edu

Fred Rodgers Adams Jr., his siblings and most of his cousins developed dementia in their later years. The family connection wasn’t lost on his daughter.  

“Many of them died from it as the official cause of death,” said Dea Dea Adams Baker of Jackson. “This got our attention years ago as it became apparent dementia was appearing more and more in my older relatives.”

Already familiar with the Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center through its fundraising campaigns, Baker wanted to get involved. 

Three years after Adams’ death, at 88, Baker has donated $1 million to The MIND Center for an endowed professorship, in honor of her father and mother, Dorothy “Dot” Adams, who died in 1993, and her aunts and uncles who died of dementia.

The recipient of the professorship, Dr. Michael Griswold, professor of biostatistics and data science, and director of The MIND Center’s science, evidence and technology core, is among the best in his field and has significantly impacted all research at The MIND Center, said Dr. Thomas Mosley, Robbie and Dudley Hughes MIND Center Chair and director, The MIND Center.

Portrait of Dr. Thomas Mosley

“I think when many of us think about biostatistics, we are typically only thinking about data analysis, which in our studies is complex, and so obviously getting this correct is critical,” said Mosley. “But someone as skilled as Dr. Griswold in data science is actually involved in much more than data analysis.

“He shapes every aspect of a study from start to finish. From defining the problem, determining what to measure and how, identifying the best study design, identifying the best way to collect and manage the data, determining the most appropriate analysis — even from data that may not be perfect — drawing appropriate conclusions from the data and finally how to most effectively communicate those findings.”

Griswold said he was humbled, stunned and speechless at the news.

“It’s really quite an honor, which I can only attribute to the excellence and commitment of the whole MIND Center team that I’m blessed to work with,” he said. “This will help us keep working diligently, and hopefully our endeavors will be seen as an enduring tribute to Dea Dea and her family.

The Dea Dea Adams Baker MIND Center Professorship was created in honor of Baker's parents, Fred and Dorothy Adams, shown here in 1972.
The Dea Dea Adams Baker MIND Center Professorship was created in honor of Baker's parents, Fred and Dorothy Adams, shown here in 1972.

“To borrow a line Mr. Adams is reported to have treasured, ‘Seems the harder we work, the luckier we get.’ We’re very lucky to receive this generous gift, and it will definitely help The MIND Center work to expand our Alzheimer’s and dementia research programs.”

The MIND Center’s research has already had a real-world impact on clinical care for older adults, leading some of the largest and longest-running studies in the world to identify factors that increase risk for cognitive decline and dementia as well as those that may be protective, said Mosley.

But there’s a lot more work to be done to develop new treatments and preventative strategies.

“The Dea Dea Adams Baker MIND Center Professorship will help recruit, acknowledge and retain the best researchers, and provide a consistent source of funding to support the faculty member’s research,” said Mosley.

That’s why The MIND Center and its work are vital, said Baker. “I hope this donation will help The MIND Center to not only solidify the leadership and credibility our current professors give us, but also attract more experts.

 “We cannot afford to lose the contributions of these professors whose intelligence and experience have been instrumental in our research and credibility. In order for The MIND Center to grow and continue to make strides in research and application, we have got to have the best of the best directing our programs.”

Mosley hopes Baker’s endowment will serve as a charge to others.

“Gifts like this help shine a bright spotlight on the importance of the work that needs to be done and will inspire others to do likewise.”

Griswold, who has published more than 190 peer-reviewed articles in top journals, is a nationally recognized expert in designing, analyzing and distributing platforms to help study, understand and improve healthy body and mind aging. He is principal investigator of a large data science contract from the National Institute on Aging to enable more fair and open data sharing from its longest-running and ongoing cohort study: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.

He has also helped guide the design and implementation of the new collaborative cohort study with Mayo Clinic: the UMMC MIND Center-Mayo Clinic Study of Aging and its ancillary studies.

Before his work with The MIND Center, Griswold, who also holds an adjunct faculty position in the Department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, served as founding chair of the UMMC Department of Data Science.

“Dr. Griswold's work at The MIND Center has elevated all that we do,” said Mosley. “He is well-deserving of this honor.” 

Interested in learning more about The MIND Center or how to support its efforts? Contact Dr. Melissa Robinson at mrobinson6@umc.edu .