O'Donnell Brain Institute receives $1 million Besing gift

Gilbert Besing

By Sharon Reynolds

Ignited by a passion to make life better for other families dealing with brain disorders, Tricia and Gilbert Besing have made a $1 million gift to establish the Gil J. Besing Endowment Fund in support of UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. The gift is particularly meaningful to the family as it was inspired by Mr. Besing’s mother, Sylvia, who suffered from a rare form of dementia called cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA).

Since 2009, Mr. Besing has served as a Trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation, supporting advancement in scientific discovery, healing, and medical education. He said he is pleased to give to an institution that he is closely connected to and admires.

“UT Southwestern is a world-renowned academic medical center and research facility right here in Dallas, and its leaders do everything to excel at whatever they undertake,” Mr. Besing said. “One example of that is the O’Donnell Brain Institute, which is on the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s and related diseases. Our hope is that the Institute continues to advance medicine in the field of brain disease and research.”

“We are tremendously grateful to Tricia and Gilbert Besing for this support,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “The Fund they created to honor Gil’s mother is enabling UT Southwestern researchers to discover potential new treatment options which offer hope to countless patients and their families.”

Hope for millions with brain disorders
CAA – the disorder that affected Sylvia Besing – is caused by abnormal accumulation of the amyloid protein in arteries of the brain. While the disorder can be detected with advanced brain imaging techniques, there is not an effective treatment.

“CAA is increasingly recognized as a cause of both dementia and brain hemorrhage in older individuals,” said Dr. Mark Goldberg, Chair of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics. “This important gift will support scientists and clinicians of the O’Donnell Brain Institute as we seek effective treatments for serious brain illnesses such as CAA.”

The O’Donnell Brain Institute’s multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians are united in a bold mission to find the underlying causes of brain diseases that will provide the foundation for future preventions and cures. Current treatments are severely limited for many diseases of the brain, and particularly in the case of neurodegenerative disorders, no therapies have been able to slow down disease progression. Many people suffering from a brain disorder today face a poor prognosis because, without knowing the disorder’s cause, physicians can only treat symptoms.

An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from brain-related diseases that result in years – or even decades – of debilitating effects. Brain diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s and depression to traumatic brain injuries and stroke have caused a staggering economic burden approaching $1 trillion. But it is the human cost that cannot be quantified. The patient’s loss of self is magnified by the emotional strain that family members as caregivers experience.

Through the O’Donnell Brain Institute, clinicians and researchers are offering advanced diagnostic capabilities and treatment options of the full spectrum of brain, spine, muscle, nerve, and psychiatric disorders.

Leaving a lasting legacy
A Dallas native and graduate of UT Austin, Mr. Besing is the original founder, President, and CEO of Cardinal Capital Partners, a Dallas-based investment firm. He also holds active leadership roles in numerous charitable organizations. Mrs. Besing, a UT Austin alumna, is an avid supporter of many charitable and civic organizations in North Texas. Together, they are working to make Dallas a city where all citizens can prosper.

“Gil and Tricia are leaders in understanding that medical progress is often made possible as a result of donors providing invaluable philanthropic support,” said Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “The Besings were generous participants in the Innovations in Medicine campaign and are stepping up again as partners in building the O’Donnell Brain Institute. The commitments they have made to support a healthier future for our community are deeply inspiring.”

Mr. Besing said Dallas has become the Southwest’s leading city in metropolitan business in part because of its commitment to diversity. He is grateful to city leaders who are elevating Dallas through smart growth with projects like the bike trail system, a thriving cultural landscape, and South Dallas revitalization initiatives – all to make the city more livable and connected.

“Dallas has a great history of philanthropy,” Mr. Besing said, “and we’re happy to play our small role.”

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Goldberg holds the Linda and Mitch Hart Distinguished Chair in Neurology.