A renewed focus on exploring the mysteries of the brain and their role in memory disorders was in the spotlight on Tuesday, February 21, during an endowed chair ceremony at the Miller School of Medicine to celebrate James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., who became the inaugural holder of the Alexandria and Bernard Schoninger Endowed Chair in Memory Disorders in the Department of Neurology.
At the beginning of the ceremony, Miller School Dean Henri R. Ford paid tribute to Dr. Ralph Sacco, long-time chair of the department who passed away earlier in the year.
“During his tenure, Ralph created a lasting impact, particularly in stroke care, but also in our innovative patient care and training programs,” Dean Ford said. “He also established a strong research enterprise in neurological disorders as evidenced by the recruitment and work of researchers such as Dr. Galvin.”
Since coming to the University in 2020, Dr. Galvin, a renowned neurologist, has been making innovative discoveries about why some populations are more at risk for memory disorders and what innovative new tests and new therapeutics can be used to improve their lives. An endowed chair is one of the highest academic honors that can be given to a faculty member.
Dedication to Excellence and Advancement
“It recognizes their dedication to their pursuit of excellence in research and the advancement of novel ideas which help solve challenging problems,” explained Jeffrey Duerk, Ph.D., executive vice president of academic affairs and provost of the University of Miami. “Endowed chairs offer sustained support that researchers need to nurture their work and apply it to new knowledge that drives innovation in health care. But they are also a gift to our students, as they now have the opportunity to learn from the best and the brightest.”
The Schoninger Chair would not have been possible without the long-time support of the late Bernard and Alexandria (Allie) Schoninger and the foundation established in their names. Bernard Schoninger helped design and build thousands of affordable homes for veterans returning from World War II, and later expanded into the construction of shopping complexes.
Together with his wife, Allie, they were a philanthropic force dedicated to medicine and the arts. In the early 2000s they made an extraordinary gift of $5 million to support biomedical research at the Miller School. In gratitude, the Schoninger Research Quadrangle was named in the family’s honor. The family went on to make several additional and very generous gifts to support brain health initiatives in the Department of Neurology.
Jane Schoninger Marcus was on hand with her family to represent her parents’ legacy at the ceremony.
“I’m so overwhelmed with this show of gratitude for my family and so thrilled that Dr. Galvin is going to be holding this endowed chair and moving us into another area of dementia research,” Marcus said. “I’m so proud of my parents and the way they supported the medical school. I am also grateful to the Miller School’s former dean, the late Dr. Bernard Fogel, who was instrumental in guiding my parents and ensuring their philanthropic wishes were met.”
Transformational Understanding of Brain Disorders
Prior to introducing Dr. Galvin at the ceremony, Jose Romano, M.D., interim chair of neurology, echoed Dean Ford’s acknowledgment of Dr. Sacco and expressed gratitude to him for bringing Dr. Galvin to the University. “His work is really leading to transformational changes in how we understand degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy Body dementia,” Dr. Romano said. “His multidisciplinary approach has led to understanding not only the factors that put people at risk, but also what makes them resilient in the face of that risk, and that is an important condition.”
“I am thrilled and deeply honored to accept the Alexandria and Bernard Schoninger Endowed Chair in Memory Disorders and would like to thank Jane and her family for their commitment to brain health,” Dr. Galvin said. “I have always loved science and learning and was always interested in understanding the what, the how, and the why. As we move forward each day, we will continue to ask those questions as we take care of patients who have memory disorders and try to make a significant and positive impact in their lives and the lives of their families.”
In addition to holding his endowed chair, Dr. Galvin is chief of the Division of Cognitive Neurology, director of the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health, and director of the Lewy Body Dementia Research Center of Excellence.