Inside Texas Tech: A Major Gift for Alzheimer's Research

Sep 14, 2018

Byron and Hi Newby know that their $110,000 gift to Alzheimer’s research at Texas Tech’s Health Sciences Center won’t directly bring a cure for the anguishing and debilitating disease.

In establishing the Darlene Newby and Dr. Katie Hendley Honorarium Fund for Alzheimer’s Research the men are creating another link in a chain they hope will hasten a cure and help others avoid the suffering the disease causes patients, families and caregivers.

Bryon Newby says he and his brother chose to give their financial support locally, in part because Byron knew Tedd Mitchell, the health sciences center’s president, well. He hopes their gift can be a reminder to others – even if their lives haven’t been touched by Alzheimer’s.
 

“We want to encourage other people, if they want to give, to give and make it count now. And that’s why we didn’t put the restrictions on it, other than specifying the programs we wanted it to go to,” he says.

Older brother Hi says the disease is two-pronged, and neither is easy to witness.

“I watched it take a very competent, beautiful, understanding woman—my mother—and the first time around, it stripped her of her mind,” Hi says. “Then once it’s done everything it wants to do to the mind, it really works on the rest of the body and so it’s really kind of a double-shot.”

The brothers’ donation last fall will help the health sciences center’s Brain Bank, Dr. Gail Cornwall’s research on amyloid structures that come with Alzheimer’s and their possible reversal, and the work by Dr. John Culberson on the role of caregivers through educating students, family members and the community.
 

Darlene Newby (seated) along with her sons – kneeling is Hi Newby Jr.; behind him is Byron Newby. To Bryon’s right is Hi Newby III, Darlene’s grandson. To his right is Regina Newby, the wife of Hi Newby Jr.

Byron says the program at the health sciences center is collaborative.

“The program they’re trying to start, is sort of a real innovative program,” he says. “It’s a multi disciplinary program. They’re bringing together different areas of med school, nursing, physical therapy, all these different things. That’s something we’re going to have to see more and more as there are more people who have this.”

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Researchers in many places are seeking an Alzheimer’s cure. Byron says he understand every experiment doesn’t always prove helpful toward a cure.

“The thing that we told them upfront, we know that some of the answers that you’re going to come up with in research, some of the answers are going to be no, some of the experiments are not going to work out, but that’s fine,” he says. “Every answer, even if it’s a no, leads in the right direction. And we just kind of told them, we want our gift to be one more link in the chain to finding a cure. We know this gift isn’t going to find a cure, we know they’re not going to find a cure tomorrow. But if enough people work together, across the country and across the world, do their research and coordinate with each other, there definitely will be a cure and maybe prevention at some point in the future.”

In 2011, after their father died, Byron and Hi expected their mother to return to her capable self. She used to be on top of everything. Instead, the former charge nurse and nursing supervisor at Methodist Hospital in Houston, slowly slipped into someone she would never have wanted to become.

Darlene Newby’s sons noticed her memory failing. They felt helpless, not knowing what to expect or ideas about how best to help her.

“And then the diagnosis came and knocked us off our feet, it really did.”

The Newbys say they will continue to give as they are able. Their current donation will support novel research that will help investigators understand how amyloids form in healthy tissue, and, in turn, possibly provide insight into what happens that leads to Alzheimer’s or other neurological diseases.

Additionally, the Newbys chose to support the Garrison Brain Bank, which was established in 2007, and the university’s efforts in geriatric education. Hi says he wants to help others in the same situation he and his brother found themselves.

“If there’s any way to ease somebody’s pain, or give them understanding about what they’re going through, or they’re loved ones are going through, hopefully in the long-run, let’s make the change, the cure is what we’d love to see. But we know we’ve got a lot of hurdles to clear first,” he says.