Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation establishes spinal cord injury research endowment
June 2, 2010 College News - The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation donated $1 million to The Medical College of Wisconsin to support spinal cord injury research and establish The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation Laboratories.
Spinal cord injury affects more than 12,000 Americans annually, and health care for those individuals exceeds $6 billion. Bryon Riesch was a 19-year-old Marquette University student in 1998 when a spinal cord injury paralyzed him from the chest down. He received treatment and continues to rehabilitate at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Spinal Cord Injury Center. With friends and colleagues, he established a foundation in his name in 2000 to support research to improve treatments for paralysis and spinal cord injury.
“My one dream, just like so many other people who suffer from the effects of paralysis, is to walk again,” Riesch said. “Raising money for research is the one way I can help make that happen. When we started the foundation, I had no idea that we would be able to commit $1 million toward research at the very same institution that helped take care of me after my accident. I do believe that one day I, along with so many others suffering from paralysis, will walk again, and I hope that our efforts as a foundation can help make that happen.”
To date, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 million for research, scholarships and community grants. The organization has provided support to multiple, nationally recognized research facilities including the Medical College, where spinal cord injury investigators have earned foundation grants for the past eight years.
“Throughout the Great Lakes region, no other academic medical center is as well positioned as the Medical College to make improvements in care and lead the search for new therapies for patients with spinal cord injuries,” said T. Michael Bolger, JD, President and CEO. “As we acknowledge the start of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month June 1, we are filled with gratitude for the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation for helping advance science related to these devastating injuries.”
“This support from the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation is positioning the spinal cord injury laboratories as an international hub for new methods in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal cord injuries,” said Dennis J. Maiman, MD, PhD, Professor and Chairman of Neurosurgery at the Medical College and Director of Clinical Neurosciences at Froedtert Hospital. “The research team will engage in such activities as modeling spinal injuries and their treatment, developing newer stem cell transplant and repair techniques, and refining imaging technologies. We will also have the resources to recruit new faculty talent.”
Medical College spinal cord injury investigators have varied areas of expertise and research focus including biomechanical studies of the spine, cellular transplantation and magnetic stimulation for restoring nerve function in spinal cord injury, and the development of imaging technology to assess recovery and prognosis.
“Past seed grants from the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation have successfully translated into national grants within a short period of time yielding new findings that we hope will lead to meaningful changes in how spinal cord injury patients are treated,” said Shekar Kurpad, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical College and Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Froedtert Hospital. “The continued availability of discretionary dollars through this new gift will expand the spinal cord injury research and treatment programs at the Medical College in exciting and productive new directions.”
The establishment of The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation Endowment complements recent investments by the College and the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in research infrastructure surrounding spinal cord injury.
A $3.7 million neurosurgery research facility was dedicated in April 2009 on the grounds of the VA. It allows researchers to better evaluate the effects of various vehicle crash scenarios and forces on the head and neck – critical areas for spinal cord injury. Ground was also broken in November 2009 on a $26.9 million, federally funded spinal cord injury center for patient care at the VA that when completed will become a state-of-the-art facility for clinical research.