This story appears in the Winter 2016 issue of the Life.Giving.Breakthroughs. donor newsletter.
As the attorney and close confidant of the late Sidney R. Baer Jr., George Handran witnessed firsthand the hardships of Baer’s schizophrenia for more than 20 years.
“Mental illness is a big suffering,” Handran says. “I think about it in a different way because I had the opportunity to know this man—he changed my life.”
Despite Baer’s struggles, his brilliance and business savvy brought him great financial success, says Handran. In 1999, a few years before his death, Baer established the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation to fuel mental health programs and research to benefit others like him.
“We’re trying to relieve people of the difficulties and loneliness Sidney experienced and to ensure they get appropriate care,” says Handran, a co-trustee of the foundation.
In 2012, the Baer Foundation made its first three-year grant to the Behavioral Neurology/Neuropsychiatry Fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, followed by another recent commitment of $375,000 to support fellows and junior faculty in this area.
Handran says the foundation was drawn to BWH’s unique, nationally renowned approach to behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry training, which integrates clinical care, research, education, and cross-disciplinary learning. While these fields are closely intertwined, they are rarely combined under one training program.
“This fellowship program is essential,” he says. “It gives young doctors an understanding of how two important fields relate to each other so they can provide better care for patients with complex psychiatric illnesses.”
The new gift will continue the two-year fellowship program to welcome new trainees annually, and provide ongoing support to fellows who become BWH faculty. These junior faculty members will continue to learn from their BWH mentors and receive vital funding to help them conduct clinical research.
“Thanks to the foundation’s continued generosity, our trainees will receive critical educational and financial support at a particularly vulnerable time in their careers, as they journey from fellow to faculty,” says David Silbersweig, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and co-director of BWH’s Institute for the Neurosciences. “Their work will ultimately help patients with debilitating brain diseases and mental illness at BWH and beyond.”