Philanthropist honored for support of neuroscience research

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public affairs | September 05, 2008

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From left: Howard Gendelman, M.D., Harriett Singer and Don Gilden, M.D., of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, at the third annual Community Pride Neuroscience Dinner. Singer was honored for her avid support of UNMC's neuroscience research and Dr. Gilden, who is Louise Baum Professor and chairman of the department of neurology at Colorado, served as the event's keynote speaker.
Harriett Singer was there, on the ground floor, supporting UNMC's neuroscience research at a time when seeing a world-class program was simply a dream and one with a very uncertain future.

There was no research even being performed on Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease let alone developing new therapeutics and vaccines.

On Aug. 21, the Omaha philanthropist was recognized for her support in jump starting the program to its current stature at the third annual Community Pride Neuroscience Dinner, hosted by Howard Gendelman, M.D., chairman of the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience and director of the Center for Neurovirology and Neurodegenerative Disorders.

"Harriett's faith in our research and her friendship through the years proved invaluable," Dr. Gendelman said.

Dr. Gendelman described Singer as an extraordinary person and community leader who helped initiate a scientific program and make dreams reality.

Don Gilden, M.D., Louise Baum Professor and chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, marveled at the outpouring of community support in Omaha for medical research.

"It's the life blood of any successful program and refreshing to see," Dr. Gilden said.

Dr. Gilden was the keynote speaker at the dinner and spoke about the important lifeline research provides for medicine.

"It's a wonderful time to be in science and the time is now for UNMC neuroscience," he said.

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Clark Ikezu, 13, son of UNMC's Tsuneya Ikezu, Ph.D., and a member of the Omaha Area Youth Philharmonic, entertained guests at the Community Pride Event with his violin playing. Clark Ikezu is an 8th grader at Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School and he won the Orchestra Omaha Youth Concerto Competition in 2006 and performed a violin concerto with the Omaha Symphony in 2007.
Dr. Gendelman used the dinner as an opportunity to introduce Howard Fox, M.D., to the community. Dr. Fox is the newest member of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience department. He is an internationally regarded researcher in brain degeneration and will develop a program in bench to bedside research. He works on creating treatments for the devastating effects of such neurological disorders as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and HIV-induced dementia.

A recruit from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Dr. Fox joins a growing team of researchers dedicated to eliminating these deadly diseases. A father of three, Dr. Fox will be joined at UNMC by his wife, Nora Sarvetnick, Ph.D., who will lead transplant immunology.

"Coming to UNMC feels like coming home. The warmth, friendship and support I received has been remarkable," Dr. Fox said. "I see a rich future in making Nebraska neuroscience the best worldwide."