A transformative gift advances Parkinson’s research and care
By Stacey Bomser
Photography by Sonya Revell
hen Stephen Bittel, founder and chair of the real estate investment firm Terranova Corp., learned in 2014 that Mindy McIlroy, the president of his company and a close friend, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he immediately stepped into action, doing everything he could to support her and fund efforts to advance developments in Parkinson’s care by supporting Parkinson’s Foundation Centers of Excellence across the United and globally.
Originally, we were very focused on people getting diagnosed, getting them to the right doctors, and getting the proper care,” Bittel said. But, he explained, one day he had an epiphany: “I realized we had this all wrong. If we wanted to make a difference, we needed to focus on finding a cure, not just care.”
To that end, Bittel has made a $1 million gift to the Miller School’s Division of Movement Disorders in the Department of Neurology. The majority of this gift will create the Movement Disorders Clinical and Research Support Fund, which has been earmarked to support a bioengineer and a patient navigator position. The remainder will create the Stephen H. Bittel Fellowship in Movement Disorders, to be awarded each year to a physician who is pursuing subspecialty training in movement disorders.
“I am abundantly grateful to Mr. Bittel for making such an impact on us,” said Ihtsham Haq, M.D., chief of the Division of Movement Disorders. “This is a gift that will change the lives of people who have Parkinson’s disease. It promises to cascade onward for decades.”
That is exactly Bittel’s intention. “We are pushing forward on both fronts so that when we sit here 10 years from now, we can say that Parkinson’s was a terrible disease, we have learned what caused it, we have a solution to what causes it, and people don’t need to live with it anymore.”