$1.5M gift to help UF explore addiction


Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:20 p.m.

A $1.5 million gift from Donald and Irene Dizney of Windermere will help University of Florida scientists study the addictive behavior that poses one of today's major health challenges, whether through smoking, overeating, drugs or alcohol.

Facts

AT A GLANCE

· Scientists within the division of addiction medicine at the McKnight Brain Institute have a national and international reputation for cutting-edge research and have developed new theories and tested new treatments for addiction.

The gift to establish the Donald R. Dizney Chair in Addiction Medicine is being announced today

wednesday

at UF's annual addiction and psychiatry advisory board meeting in Hobe Sound.

Dr. Mark S. Gold, distinguished professor and chief of the division of addiction medicine in the College of Medicine and UF's McKnight Brain Institute, will hold the endowed chair.

"The Dizneys' gift is one of the largest academic chair endowments ever received at UF," said UF President Bernie Machen. "The impact of this gift on research of addictive diseases will be felt on the national level."

The gift is eligible for $1.2 million in matching funds from the state of Florida's Major Gifts Trust Fund.

Gold said that although almost everyone knows someone who suffers from an addiction of some sort, whether it involves drugs, alcohol or even food, there are few research endowments in the field.

"This gift is fantastically generous," Gold said. "It means that research, treatment and prevention of the nation's top five causes of death will accelerate here at UF and remain an integral part of UF's College of Medicine."

Scientists, like Gold, within the division of addiction medicine at the McKnight Brain Institute have a national and international reputation for cutting-edge research and have developed new theories and tested new treatments for addiction.

Among them are studies of tobacco and how it changes the brain, including the effects of second-hand smoke. Other projects are on negative effects of drugs, from self-administration and the effect on the brain and other major organs to the tragic consequences of their use. Other studies are on how for some people food can become a drug of abuse.

"Our goal with this support will be to recruit young researchers and help them get started in the field of addiction medicine by investing in new technologies and novel approaches to drug abuse," Gold said.

Donald Dizney serves as board chairman of Orlando-based United Medical Corp., which owns and operates a chain of acute-care and psychiatric hospitals in the Southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico. He also owns Double Diamond Farm near Ocala and is active in the horse-racing industry.

In making the gift on behalf of himself and his wife, Dizney said, "It is critically important to transform our medical centers from disease centers to health and prevention centers. We hope to help to change this approach by understanding the progression of addictive disease in the brain so we can identify and treat the cause rather than wait until we need to treat the debilitating and often fatal consequences."

Diane Chun can be reached at 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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