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Planned Gift to Alzheimer's Disease Research Honors Late Spouse

Sylvia Dodson

Sylvia Dodson supports Emory research to honor her husband James

When James Dodson began facing symptoms of dementia, his wife Sylvia turned to Emory for his treatment and care. Their experience was so meaningful that she honored his memory with a planned gift to Emory brain health research.

"I hope that research will find what is causing the different dementias and the cures," says Sylvia, who worked with the Office of Gift Planning to plan her gift. "Money is needed for research for Alzheimer's and related dementias and my hope is when there is a breakthrough about the causes and cures, it happens at Emory."

So does Allan Levey, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the NIH-funded Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

"The research being done today has put us closer than ever to promising discoveries for Alzheimer's, both in terms of improving early detection and for developing effective treatments," he says. "This increase in funding will continue the momentum as we seek to find a cure for this devastating disease."

The Dodsons were married 42 years and made their home not far from Emory in Gwinnett County, where Sylvia taught piano and James had retired from a career as a senior bank examiner with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. When he began experiencing his first symptoms, they sought help from Emory specialists. James lived at Budd Terrace, a nursing home community that is part of Emory Healthcare, for 16 months until his death in 2006.

Sylvia always wanted to know as much as possible about what he faced, and not until an autopsy did she learn he had suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Levey invited her to a closer look at his team's efforts to demystify dementia.

"We looked through microscopes at the plaque and tangles associated with this disease, and it's overwhelming to think that someone would have this going on in their brain," she says. "At the time he was sick, I was so intent on taking care of him and going back and forth that there are many things that I missed. Understanding this better now, and keeping up with research, is a passion of mine."

James was known for his quiet compassion for others and willingness to lend a hand, and Sylvia models this today as a loyal volunteer with the Alzheimer's Association, counseling other caregivers. When families dealing with this disease contact her, she shares the knowledge gained through Emory.

"Over and over I hear from people that they have a friend who is going through this and wants to call me," she says. "My husband was a very helpful and compassionate person, and today I hope I can be of help to others."

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