By Jennifer Yuan
Tad and Dianne Taube of Taube Philanthropies have made two gifts totaling $14.5 million to the School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford to address addiction and concussions — two of the most significant issues affecting the health and well-being of children and adolescents.
A gift of $9.5 million will launch the Tad and Dianne Taube Youth Addiction Initiative, a program that aims to comprehensively address the treatment and prevention of addiction during adolescence and conduct research into its causes.
Another gift of $5 million will create the Taube Stanford Concussion Collaborative, leveraging Stanford and Packard Children’s medical expertise in collaboration with TeachAids, a Stanford-founded educational technology nonprofit, to advance education, care and research to protect children from concussions.
“As parents, Dianne and I see that young people today are facing a new world of challenges,” said Tad Taube, chairman of Taube Philanthropies. “We want to educate families and raise awareness about the risks and signs of addiction and concussion in children and adolescents. It can make an all-important difference in their lives.”
“When it comes to health, we must think as big as we can,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “Going after the hardest problems is not only the right thing to do, it is the prudent thing to do. I am immensely grateful to Tad and Dianne Taube for their dedication to Stanford Medicine and their bold commitment to the health and well-being of children and adolescents everywhere.”
More than 90 percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before the age of 18, and Stanford researchers say more needs to be done to advance prevention and intervention efforts during these formative years.
The Tad and Dianne Taube Youth Addiction Initiative will be led by the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which has identified advancing the understanding of addiction’s causes and addiction prevention and treatment as a priority of the department. Stanford researchers believe the initiative will be the first in the nation to fully address addiction during earliest exposure in adolescence. It is part of a major endeavor at the School of Medicine and Packard Children’s to address mental health among young people ages 12 to 25.
Addiction, along with other mental health challenges, is a neglected and stigmatized issue both in adults and young people. Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable time, with hormonal surges and changes in brain development occurring just as young people are facing greater expectations and responsibilities at home and in school, and drug use frequently overlaps with other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although addiction can take many forms, ranging from drugs to social media, there is evidence to suggest that the underlying neurocircuitry of addiction may be the same.
The Taubes’ gift will establish an endowed directorship to organize, launch and lead the youth addiction initiative; an endowed postdoctoral fellowship to train an early career researcher or clinician in child and adolescent mental health with a focus on youth addiction; and endowed faculty scholar awards for three faculty members who will, respectively, focus on clinical care, research and community engagement.
In the United States, the incidence of concussions in children is rising; there are now up to 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions annually. This epidemic, combined with a “tough it out” culture, has led children, parents and coaches to trivialize these head injuries and to allow the athlete to continue playing, which prolongs recovery time and increases the risk of a follow-on concussion.
Mouthguards used in David Camarillo's lab for
Toni Bird/Lucile Packard Foundation for
The Taubes’ gift to launch the Taube Stanford Concussion Collaborative will enable Gerald Grant, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery;David Camarillo, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering; and Piya Sorcar, PhD, a lecturer in the Graduate School of Education, to advance concussion education, care and research to protect children from the cumulative effects of concussions.
“Tad and I share the concerns of fellow parents about the safety of young athletes in our community and beyond,” said Dianne Taube. “Our hope through this gift is to ensure the safety of our youth and provide current, useful information to educate parents, coaches and players.”
Grant and Camarillo have already made strides in more precisely measuring, diagnosing and treating concussions in young athletes, including Stanford University football and women’s lacrosse players. TeachAids, founded by Sorcar, is developing the first comprehensive, research-based educational software that will address misconceptions about concussions, support brain health and safety, and increase the reporting of concussions. By leveraging Stanford technology, TeachAids will deliver an interactive learning experience free of charge, first to Bay Area high schools and eventually up to 10,000 schools nationwide.
Stanford also plans to monitor athletes who use the TeachAids educational platform through a variety of methods, including “smart” mouthguards developed by Camarillo’s lab that measure head motion during impact and that eventually may help predict the likelihood of concussion. The data gathered will be analyzed to develop algorithms that will help clinicians predict an individual athlete’s risk for concussion and lead to personalized approaches to preventing and treating concussion.