PHOTO CAPTION: (From L to R) Donna Vuchinich, President & CEO of UH Foundation; Claire Litchman; Dr. Christina Bell, Assistant Professor of Geriatric Medicine; Dr. Kamal Masaki, Acting Chair of the Department of Geriatric Medicine; Jerris R. Hedges, Dean of JABSOM; Mark Litchman; Jeffrie Jones, UH Foundation
PHOTO CAPTION: (From L to R) Donna Vuchinich, President & CEO of UH Foundation; Claire Litchman; Dr. Christina Bell, Assistant Professor of Geriatric Medicine; Dr. Kamal Masaki, Acting Chair of the Department of Geriatric Medicine; Jerris R. Hedges, Dean of JABSOM; Mark Litchman; Jeffrie Jones, UH Foundation

BY MARGOT SCHRIRE – The world just got a little closer to understanding and treating neurodegenerative disorders thanks to the Litchman family of Honolulu.  With a gift of $150,000, Claire, Mark, Bambi and Marlene Litchman have started the Litchman Family Endowment for the Study of Neurodegenerative Disorders and Mental Illness.

This endowment will help fund research at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) into the causes, diagnostic tools, and potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s Disease, and mental illness. Funds can be used for a range of activities including costs associated with the development or dissemination of research findings, faculty or support staff salaries, and equipment.

“JABSOM is developing a growing expertise in the arena of neuroscience research,” said Jerris R. Hedges, Dean and Professor of Medicine, Barry and Virginia Weinman Endowed Chair.  “Initially, this fund will enable us to invest in the neuroscience research of some of our outstanding junior investigators to develop the preliminary data they need to compete for larger, competitively-funded grants.  This fund will ultimately allow us to serve Hawai’i, and those in our community affected by these disorders, with better diagnostic tools and treatments.”

Mark & Claire Litchman are part-time Hawai‘i residents and generous supporters of the University of Hawai‘i. In 2009, they created the Claire B. and Mark L. Litchman.

Endowed Scholarship in Nursing in Honor of the U.S. Nurse Cadet Corps of World War II at the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene at UH Mānoa. Claire Litchman served in the U.S. Nurse Cadet Corps.  Mark L. Litchman, Jr. is a retired attorney and former Washington State Representative. He served in the Washington State House from 1955-71 and served as the state majority leader as well.

“Our philosophy is to help our community by giving generously to support our educational institutions.  The G.I. Bill educated millions of veterans who eventually made the U.S. Number One.  We veterans and others must give back the rewards and opportunities afforded us so we can serve future generations,” noted Mark Litchman.

The impact of the Litchmans’ generosity is already being felt through their funding of a new research study entitled “Changes in Independence of Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.” This research project, under principal investigator, Dr. Christina Bell, MD in the JABSOM Department of Geriatric Medicine, grows out of a larger study currently funded by the Hawaii Community Foundation and will examine nursing home patients with dementia and strokes.

This new study focuses on the care of nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease and explores changes in their level of independence.  Nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease gradually lose the ability to walk, participate in activities and communicate, and physicians do not know how to prevent this loss of ability.  The effects of hospitalizations on the function of nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease have not been well examined in a study following patients over time.  Using information from medical records of 200 nursing home patients cared for at Kuakini Medical Center between 2003 and 2006, the research team will examine the functional changes of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and examine how these changes vary depending on therapy provided, hospitalizations and other diseases.  Ultimately the results of this study will help physicians improve their care of nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease, result in improved quality of life for patients, and reduced costs of care.

MARGOT SCHRIRE at the UH Foundation authored this report. Contributions to JABSOM can be made at www.uhf.hawaii.edu/GiveToJABSOM or please contact Jeffrie Jones at the University of Hawai‘i Foundation (808) 692–0873 or e-mail Jeffrie.Jones@uhfoundation.org

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