By Niall Kavanagh
“Commencement is not the end, but the beginning of a deeper and enduring connection.”
Brian Lawlor, deputy director of the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), shared these words to close an inspiring joint ceremony celebrating the graduation of the third cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health at UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on August 8.
The graduating fellows—who have spent the last twelve months based at UCSF or TCD, GBHI’s founding sites, training in brain health, leadership, and dementia prevention—now join a lifelong community of seven Atlantic Fellows programs working to advance fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies.
“There’s an incredible movement for social justice happening around the world, said Victor Valcour, executive director of GBHI, in his opening address. “And we are a part of it.”
At the simulcast event, Veronica Campbell, Bursar & Director of Strategic Innovation at TCD, served as commencement speaker. She reflected on the practice of collaboration, which is foundational to GBHI’s multidisciplinary program, and the importance of changing the narrative of dementia.
“To effect change for elder care, you're much stronger if you can harness the support and the expertise of others,” said Campbell. “By working collaboratively, so much more can be achieved than any institution or any individual working on their own.”
Through their work, fellows emphasize local and global inequities in brain health with the goal of reducing the scale and impact of dementia in local communities around the world. Two graduating fellows shared reflections of their training year.
“What is most important of this experience is what we have had together,” said Maira Okada de Oliveira, a neuropsychologist from Brazil. “At the end of the day, it’s all about people.” She credited her closing line to the founder of Atlantic Philanthropies, Chuck Feeney.
Kirti Ranchod, a neurologist from South Africa, explored the challenging next steps to address the worldwide epidemic of dementia. “We thrive on challenges, we are problem solvers,” said Ranchod. “If you want to fly, you have to give up the things weighing you down.”
Atlantic Senior Fellows from GBHI, that is, graduates of the program, now total 78, spanning nearly 30 countries worldwide. They continue to have access to career-duration mentoring, funding opportunities, global gatherings, and more.
In his closing remarks, Lawlor shared appreciation for the opportunity to address the global challenge of dementia collaboratively, even in the face of differences.
“I think the beauty of GBHI and Atlantic is people are connecting where there is no common ground,” said Lawlor. “It's about connecting across differences. And when you bridge differences and connect, you can really change culture. That’s really what we're about: changing the culture around dementia.