Marcus Institute for Brain Health Heals Veterans

  • Medicine & Health
  • 2017

Training accidents, sports injuries, and battlefield blasts put military servicemembers at risk for concussions and brain injuries. Most of these heal with standard medical treatment and time, but some are persistent and disruptive. Getting treatment for these can be difficult and frustrating.

When Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus found that out, he went to work. He was on a 2007 visit to Shepherd Hospital, a top destination for neurological care, when he met a young brain-injured servicemember who had recently regained his ability to walk after military doctors wrote him off as paralyzed for life. In talking to the young man and then learning about the relatively high prevalence of concussions and brain injuries in the military today, he decided to launch a private clinic to provide attention to difficult cases. With his $2 million grant to Shepherd Hospital, the SHARE Program was born, offering specialized care that is time-consuming and expensive, but doesn’t cost a dime for those injured in service.

After registering successes, Marcus offered to work closely and collaboratively with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, but was quickly frustrated by the bureaucracy and territorial posturing of the government agencies. So he pushed the SHARE program forward on its own, intensively treating around 40 patients per year. But Marcus knew the potential and the need were far greater.

In 2014, he hired a young Army officer to help him expand his philanthropy for veterans, and particularly to launch a wider effort in concussion treatment. They recruited a leading expert who had founded the Fisher-family-funded National Intrepid Center of Excellence and considered what private-sector care for brain-injured veterans might look like. They zeroed in on diagnosing underlying causes of different symptoms, recruiting doctors from a wide range of specialties, developing detailed treatment plans that involve family members, and ensuring that veterans transition home with ongoing care.

With this plan and a $38 million grant from Bernie Marcus, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus became the first site for the Marcus Institute for Brain Health. Marcus will next develop other sites around the country to build a network of care. By early 2017, he had already committed over $70 million to veterans’ causes, making him one of the most generous donors to this population.