WATCH: Victoria couple donates $2.5 million for dementia project

Island Health, UVic, UBC involved in ambitious project combining research with patient care

An innovative new five-year project will integrate research and care for dementia patients on Vancouver Island, thanks to a $2.5 million donation from Neil and Susan Manning.

The Cognitive Health Initiative is a joint venture between the University of Victoria, Island Health and the University of British Columbia and aims to address the needs of an aging population on the Island.

The initiative is a personal one for the Victoria couple; Susan was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. The tremendous support the Mannings received from Island Health was one of the things that led them to donate to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation, who will in turn fund efforts to bring more focus to this area of health care.

“This illness changes the life of the individual impacted and also that of their family,” Neil said. “We need to enjoy every day that we have with each other and when we are able, take something challenging and turn it into an opportunity to do something good.”

Island Health geriatrician Dr. Marilyn Malone and her colleagues are calling the initiative “leading-edge” given that the patients’ own data will inform their own care.

“Our advantage is that we have UBC, the Island Medical Program and UVic research on our side. That is unique and that’s going to push us to the forefront,” she said.

The development of state-of-the-art digital tools – the real-time Dementia Guidance System database – aims to enable an earlier diagnosis, as well as a deeper understanding of the causes of dementia, in order to implement treatments that could prevent the disease altogether. The medical team agrees the initiative is ambitious, but the collection of this information on a large scale is going to facilitate work in the field in the rest of B.C. and Canada.

Dr. Bruce Wright, the regional associate dean of Vancouver Island UBC Faculty of Medicine, said the research being contemplated is evidence-based, and this turns it into a science, ensuring as accurate and early a diagnosis as possible.

“There’s not a blood test for this kind of thing,” Wright said of dementia, adding the disease is progressive. “It’s a devastating diagnosis to give, and so you have to have it right.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com