Brigham and Women’s Hospital Launches the ‘Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases’
Ann Romney is accustomed to being in the public eye, but most of the press coverage has always focused on her husband, Mitt, the former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate. Now, Ann Romney, 65, is putting her health in the spotlight.
Romney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998 at age 49. She was experiencing severe numbness and fatigue, and told Good Morning America in 2012 that getting diagnosed with MS was her “darkest hour.” But now, rather than turning her attention to raising money for political campaigns, she’s using her platform to raise $50 million for the “Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases” at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).
Through the center, which BWH announced Tuesday, researchers will collaborate to accelerate treatment, prevention, and cures for the world’s most complex neurologic diseases: multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors. BWH reports that collectively, these five diseases affect more than 50 million people worldwide.
According to a report by BWH, the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases “will create fertile ground for discovering breakthroughs and applications for scientific research by bringing together researchers and scientists working worldwide across each of the five disease states.”
Romney will serve as a global ambassador for the new center. “I know firsthand how terrifying and devastating these neurologic diseases can be, and I want to do everything in my power to help change outcomes for future generations,” she said in a statement. “The team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital gave me the gift of enduring hope and that is what this center is about – improving and saving the lives of the 50 million people facing a heart-breaking diagnosis. I hope everyone who shares this vision will join our effort.”
The new center will be led by Romney’s doctor at BWH, Dr. Howard L. Weiner and his research partner, Dr. Dennis J. Selkoe. In 2012, Romney told the Los Angeles Times that after her husband’s failed presidential run, she planned to donate the proceeds from her cookbook to ongoing research at BWH. She then became “fascinated” with the work that Weiner and Selkoe were doing in their fields and wanted to do more. Both doctors have been studying neurologic diseases for more than 30 years.
“We’ve proven that promising advances in neurologic diseases occur when research in one disease state is applied to other disease states,” Dr. Weiner said in a statement. “What makes this center different is the integration which allows us to discover connections between diseases that otherwise would not have been realized if the research remained in silos. My colleague Dr. Dennis Selkoe and I have been collaborating since 1985, and the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases gives us a platform to take it to the next level.”
According to the report, the center will be a “virtual, global center” located in the upcoming Brigham Building for the Future at BWH, which is slated to open in 2016.
“By combining Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s unique assets with the world’s most advanced resources and minds, the center will accelerate life-giving breakthroughs,” said Dr. Betsy Nabel, president of BWH, in a statement. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Selkoe and Dr. Weiner as co-leaders of this center. Their track record of neurologic discoveries and integrative strategies is at the foundation of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases.”
Romney is aware that $50 million is not going to be all that is needed. But she told the Los Angeles Times that it’s a good start and would “allow researchers to leverage and pursue other grants.”
The beauty of a medical collaboration like this is that it is non-partisan. BWH reps say that the new center will be “overseen by a bipartisan board that will include Marc Mezvinsky (Chelsea Clinton’s husband), Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, television host Meredith Vieira, Fox News host Neil Cavuto (who has spoken openly about his own MS diagnosis), Mitt Romney, and Spencer Zwick, who led the Romney campaign’s fundraising effort in 2008 and 2012.”
While the new center will be non-partisan, the Romney’s clearly are not, which has led many to speculate that Mitt will attempt another presidential run. It looks like Mrs. Romney and her children are not on board.
“Done,” she told the Los Angeles Times when asked about the upcoming election. “Completely. Not only Mitt and I are done, but the kids are done,” she said, referring to her five sons. “Done. Done. Done.”
Raising $50 million for public health is better than raising it for campaign ads, anyway.
To learn more about the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases and to join its mission, please visit BWHAnnRomneyCenter.org.