Atlantic Fellows at GBHI Celebrate a Year Like No Other

“It's been a unique year. A year like no other.”

Brian Lawlor, deputy director of the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), opened an inspired joint ceremony celebrating the graduation of the fourth cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health on August 7, 2020.

Hailing from twenty countries spanning Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia—and from various disciplines including the arts and humanities, medicine, cognitive science, public health, education and advocacy—the latest cohort of Atlantic Fellows at GBHI spent the last year training in brain health, leadership, and dementia prevention. 

“The year of 2020 at GBHI taught me much more than I was expecting to learn,” said Fernando Aguzzoli-Peres, Atlantic Fellow and journalist and writer from Brazil. “It opened my eyes. It taught me the importance of balancing art and science.”

The fellows started their 12-month fellowship in residence at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Trinity College Dublin (Trinity). However, the COVID-19 pandemic required them to complete the second half of their fellowship year primarily online, under quarantine, spread across the world, a challenge GBHI was well-suited to meet given a foundation of virtual connection built into its learning experience across the two sites.

Keynote speaker Kristin Bibbins-Domingo, Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF, shared a personal reflection with the graduates to guide their journeys.

“Two things have given me sustenance,” said Bibbins-Domingo. “For me, it’s my networks of people (and) going out and doing work.”

The fellows have built lasting relationships tied to a shared mission, as demonstrated through an outpouring of reflections focused on appreciation and celebration. The ceremony included performances by Atlantic Fellows Cheyenne Mize, Karin Diamond, Jennie Gubner, the “Swinging’ Synapses” band, and personal reflections from many of the graduates, faculty and staff.

Through their work, Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health 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. Upon graduating, they continue to have access to career-duration mentoring, funding opportunities, global gatherings, and more. 

In his closing remarks, Victor Valcour, executive director of GBHI, reflected on the importance of values to guide decision making and offered his appreciation for the opportunity to address the global challenge of dementia.

“We’re changing the world, and we’re having fun while we’re doing it, said Valcour. “This is not the end, this is the beginning of the journey.”