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Soaring on winds of change

Houston couple’s commitment elevates efforts in brain and behavioral health

Jair Soares leading efforts to advance behavioral health
Soaring on winds of change

Since the turn of the century, humankind’s unmatched pace of technological advancement has positioned us in an ever-rising updraft—from the emergence of smart devices that place the world at our fingertips to the refinement of artificial intelligence that will help accomplish the most complex tasks. Innovations like these could unlock opportunities to improve quality of life across the board, including in a field that is still a frontier in modern medicine: brain and behavioral health.

Our collective understanding of science and technology may be increasing at extraordinary rates, but so too is the incidence of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. Now, early evidence suggests the stress and social isolation caused by COVID-19 may complicate and exacerbate the effects of these behavioral health issues and leave a lasting impact on the mental well-being of our communities.

Longtime UTHealth Development Board Member Drew Kanaly and his wife, Elizabeth, recognize the crossroads at which we stand and our unprecedented potential to rewrite this narrative for behavioral health. 

“As advancements in science and technology soar higher and higher, Drew and I believe mental health has a place at the forefront of our ever-changing world,” says Elizabeth. “We hope our philanthropy can be a part of this positive change by serving as a key to help unlock the mysteries of mood disorders.”

Since 1995, the couple’s generosity has touched nearly every part of the university, including scholarships for students, flexible support to pursue promising initiatives and new opportunities through the President’s Excellence Fund, and funding for research on movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. But as they watched friends grapple with mental health issues, they felt a calling to help improve our understanding of mood disorders—a calling that aligns with the Many Faces. One Mission. campaign’s commitment to advance brain and behavioral health.

“We know and love too many wonderful people who cannot find a way to overcome depression or bipolar disorder,” says Drew. “How and why these mood disorders occur is a mystery that still needs to be solved so we can help everyone lead complete, fulfilling lives.”

In June 2021, the couple made a pledge to endow a research fund at UTHealth Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders, which resides in the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Their contribution will support behavioral health experts who are studying the causes of these illnesses and developing innovative treatments, ranging from therapies that stimulate certain regions of the brain to new medications that help overcome even the most severe mood disorders.

“The time to make behavioral health a priority is now,” says Drew. “We know that the Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders has the capability and talent to capitalize on the latest scientific advances to push the entire field forward. We hope our gift helps provide the resources and energy to drive this mission and help find answers for those who are suffering.” 

The Kanalys join a growing list of philanthropic partners to Many Faces. One Mission. who are helping to advance brain and behavioral health, including the John S. Dunn Foundation, which made a landmark $25 million commitment to bolster UTHealth’s efforts to improve mental health in Houston and beyond.

“Just as we are drafting behind the tremendous gift of the John S. Dunn Foundation, I hope others will build off of our momentum and join our vision to help UTHealth find answers to these devastating conditions,” says Drew. “We need more supporters and advocates to come together to help develop better treatments and make behavioral health care more accessible to people across Houston.”

As winds of change blow, the generosity of donors like the Kanalys and the John S. Dunn Foundation continues to help UTHealth soar in its mission to become the region’s leading center for brain and behavioral health.

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