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Global Brain Health Institute Reaches Milestone, Sets Sights on Continued Impact for Brain Health

By Niall Kavanagh

The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) reached a significant milestone June 24 when Atlantic Philanthropies finalized a gift to UC San Francisco and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to continue to address the global dementia epidemic.

“Over the past four years, GBHI has built the foundation for a global network of leaders to address the social and physical determinants of brain health,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies. “This groundbreaking community is actively changing the practices, narratives and policies that will improve the quality of our lives.”

In 2015, the Atlantic Philanthropies granted $177 million to UCSF and Trinity College Dublin to create the Global Brain Health Institute. The latest commitment of $107 million, based on GBHI reaching institutional milestones, fulfills the final portion of this award. The financial backing reflects the ambitions of Atlantic and its founder, Charles “Chuck” Feeney, to advance fairer, healthier, and more inclusive societies.

Bruce Miller portrait
Bruce Miller, MD, the co-director of the Global Brain Health Initiative. Photo by Steve Babuljak

“We are deeply grateful and humbled by the continued commitment of Atlantic Philanthropies to address dementia, one of the most urgent social and healthcare challenges of our lifetime,” said Bruce Miller, MD, co-director of GBHI and director of the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF who leads the initiative with Ian Robertson, PhD, a neuroscientist at TCD. “Through the training of a new generation of leaders, we truly have a chance to transform our society.”

The number of people with dementia worldwide – about 48 million – is expected to triple by 2050. The prevalence is increasing in part due to the aging population, but also because of global health disparities, including high rates of poverty and limited access to health care.  

Established in 2015, GBHI offers a 12-month fellowship, the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health, at UCSF and Trinity College Dublin, respectively. Over 15 years, the program aims to train 600 leaders from around the world to reduce the scale and impact of dementia through research, clinical care, policy and art. 

We are deeply grateful and humbled by the continued commitment of Atlantic Philanthropies to address dementia, one of the most urgent social and healthcare challenges of our lifetime.

Bruce Miller, MD

This fall, the Atlantic Fellows program will welcome its fourth cohort, expanding its network of fellows to 119 from 36 countries, including a third from South America. Upon completing the program, fellows return to their home countries with professional and financial support to implement the dementia-focused programs, policies and practices they develop during their training with GBHI.

For instance, Eleonore Bayen, MD, PhD, a French physician, created a popular public health campaign, MyBrainRobbie, centered on short videos to teach children brain-healthy behaviors. Jorge Llibre Guerra, MD, a neurologist from Cuba, has developed research suggesting that ethnic disparities in dementia risk can be explained by social and economic differences, raising important policy implications he is working to address in Cuba.

“We are very excited about what has been accomplished over the past four years,” said Victor Valcour, MD, PhD, executive director of GBHI. “We are changing the world.”