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Spirit of Giving

November 2005

MacDonald family with Dr. Cigarroa
(L-R) President Cigarroa celebrates with Dr. Daniel Hale, Acacia MacDonald, Dr. Jannine Cody, Suchada MacDonald and Brian MacDonald.
Twelve years ago, Brian and Suchada MacDonald of the Seattle-area received news that would change their lives forever – their baby girl had been diagnosed with an abnormality of chromosome 18 which causes mental retardation and affects physical development. But they didn’t lose hope. A search led them to Health Science Center researchers. Now, thanks to the support of Brian and Suchada MacDonald, and other members of the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society, children affected by this genetic condition can look forward to leading productive and happy lives.

To date, the financial support donated by the MacDonalds and other members of the society has exceeded $3 million; some of the MacDonalds’ contributions were generously matched by their former employer, Microsoft Corp. These gifts have propelled more than a decade of breakthrough discoveries led by Health Science Center researchers Jannine Cody, Ph.D., and Daniel Hale, M.D.

Dr. Cody is an associate professor in the department of pediatrics and formed the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society. Dr. Hale is professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Chromosome 18 Center.

After being diagnosed, children are assessed at the Health Science Center and treated with a growth hormone while their progress is tracked by the Health Science Center team and their local physician. The growth hormone can significantly increase nonverbal IQs and height, and sparks improvement in brain myelin, the substance that facilitates efficient transfer of information between nerve cells.

The MacDonalds’ daughter, Acacia, began treatments when she was a year old. "Within months, we started seeing huge improvements," Suchada said. Acacia is now a vivacious teenager who enjoys reading classics and has scored at the 80th percentile on a national standardized assessment test.

"We are excited to see the Health Science Center become the go-to center for chromosome 18 research," Brian said. "Being a part of that is exciting."

From the Seattle-area to San Antonio, the partnership between these generous donors and the skilled Health Science Center researchers are ensuring a future filled with hope for many families across the nation.

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Updated 7/30/14