In the largest charitable gift in Unity Health System’s history, Paychex Inc. founder and chairman Thomas Golisano announced a $10 million donation to the local health system on Thursday.
The gift will help finance an expansion and relocation of Unity’s brain injury unit, which is to be renamed the Golisano Restorative Neurology and Rehabilitation Center, Unity CEO Warren Hern said.
"We’re obviously ecstatic over this gift," Hern said. "We are very grateful to Mr. Golisano."
The 21-year-old brain-injury unit is a regional center for treating people with traumatic brain injuries, stroke victims and other neurologically impaired patients. It is staffed by eight neurologists trained in several subspecialties. Seventy-five physical, occupational and speech therapists work in its rehabilitation programs.
The unit admits some 300 patients a year and sees 42,000 patients a year in its outpatient rehabilitation program.
As part of its $159 million hospital and nursing home expansion, Unity already was planning to move the brain injury unit from its current location at the St. Mary’s campus in Rochester to the 156-acre campus in Greece. The brain unit’s relocation is to be completed in two years.
The $10 million windfall would allow the center to expand programs in ways it could not have done without the gift, said Mary Dombovy M.D., medical director of Unity’s neurology unit and chairman of the system’s rehabilitation department.
"’Brain injury unit’ is really becoming a misnomer," said Dombovy, the unit’s founding director. "We’re really moving beyond that."
Previously, scientists believed that brains could not restore damaged nerve pathways, Dombovy said, and that misconception limited the ways in which patients were treated. Therapies for patients with diminished use of limbs, for example, taught them to use more fully functioning limbs instead.
In recent years scientists discovered that damaged nerve pathways can be restored. New treatments including drugs and gene therapies were discovered. In conjunction with such aids, Dombovy said, neurologists and rehabilitation therapists are learning to use sophisticated brain imaging and honing observation techniques to guide patients through therapies that help them regain some use of non-functioning limbs or relearn lost language skills.
Golisano’s gift would help to put the Unity rehabilitation center at the forefront of research and development of new treatment methods as new techniques evolve, Dombovy said.
"Given its experience in this field, I believe Unity has all the elements in place now to create a regional center of excellence for rehabilitation service," Golisano said. "Individuals and families need to receive quality care right here at home, and now they can."
4/30/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail [email protected].