August 4, 2003

Fuqua gives $2M for chair in
late-life depression

Kathi Ovnic Baker

Businessman and philanthropist J. B. Fuqua has pledged $2 million to endow the J.B. Fuqua Chair in Late-Life Depression in the School of Medicine. This pledge follows $2 million in gifts from Fuqua beginning in 1999 to help found and support the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression at Wesley Woods.

“Endowment gifts of this magnitude are precious because they provide critical support at a time when clinical revenues are under growing pressure from all sides,” said School of Medicine Dean Tom Lawley. “This is especially so in the area of geriatric psychiatry, which is being squeezed by Medicare and private insurers.”

William McDonald, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression, has been nominated as the initial Fuqua chair. Board-certified in psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry, McDonald has been at Emory since 1993.

His research and clinical practice focus on mood disorders, including both mania and depression in older persons and those with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia. McDonald also directs medical student education in psychiatry and won teaching awards this year from both the Emory medical students and, nationally, from the American Psychiatric Association.

“The endowment is intended to support physicians working primarily in the field of late-life depression who are able to help move scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside for the benefit of patients,” Fuqua said. “To me, Dr. McDonald epitomizes the ideal combination of personal compassion and scientific enterprise that I hope will always be found in the occupant of the Fuqua chair.”

Since its founding, the Fuqua Center has emphasized community outreach and has pursued partnerships and collaborations with many organizations in order to reach primary care providers, nurses, social workers, clergy and others who work closely with older adults.

In addition to offering clinical services at Wesley Woods, where it is based, the Fuqua Center provides psychiatric services and educational programs for more than a dozen assisted living facilities and retirement centers, as well as the Community Care Service program, which provides case management for more than 1,200 elderly residents of metro Atlanta.

“Mr. Fuqua has made a huge difference in our ability to reach out to, and help, a large group of elderly persons who have traditionally suffered in silence,” McDonald said. “There is no good reason for an older person to endure the pain of clinical depression for months and years on end without medical intervention, any more so than there is for a younger person.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), clinical depression is an under-recognized and under-treated condition, affecting as many as 2 million of the nation’s 35 million persons aged 65 or above. According to NIMH research, as many as 5 million seniors are believed to suffer from depressive symptoms that interfere with normal functioning and leave them at heightened risk for developing major depression.

“Mr. Fuqua’s understanding of the importance of recognizing and treating late-life depression, and his vision in creating both the center and this new chair, will powerfully affect the lives of thousands of Americans,” Lawley said.