By Mini Ruda
Earlier this year, Tad and Dianne Taube of Taube Philanthropies donated $14.5 million to research initiatives on addiction and concussion in youth at the Stanford School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
$9.5 million of the donation will launch the Tad and Dianne Taube Youth Addiction Initiative, led by Laura Roberts, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Medicine.
The other $5 million will initiate the Taube Stanford Concussion Collaborative to address concussion and addiction at its earliest onset in children.
“The gift from Tad and Dianne Taube is extraordinary for its generosity and its potential to address the well-being of young people on our campus, in the Bay Area and across the country because it establishes a new program with innovation across research, clinical, education and community efforts,” Roberts said.
According to Taube, the cumulative donation is the first of its kind to be entirely dedicated to research on youth mental health issues.
“This gift is unique because it focuses on teens and young adults, an under-explored and under-represented group in the medical literature,” said associate professor of psychiatry Anna Lembke.
Bay Area businessman and philanthropist Tad Taube B.A. ’54, M.A. ’57 is the chairman of Taube Philanthropies and board president emeritus of the Koret Foundation, an organization that supports education, health, Jewish life and heritage preservation initiatives. Taube said he seeks to use philanthropy as a tool to increase equality of opportunity and improve human welfare.
The Concussion Collaborative
Spearheaded by associate professor of neurosurgery Gerald Grant, assistant professor of bioengineering David Camarillo and Graduate School of Education lecturer Piya Sorcar, the concussion initiative’s overarching goal is prevention. According to the researchers, the team has made significant progress in addressing this objective over the past decade.
Grant and Camarillo developed “smart” mouth guards for athletes that serve as a measuring device to disseminate the physical forces at play that are likely to cause concussions. Often, athletes receive blows to the head, but the resulting concussions are difficult to detect and diagnose.
“If the device can tell you something about concussions, it could serve as a screening tool,” said Camarillo.
Before Grant and Camarillo’s project, research on concussions used accelerometers on helmets or skin patches to track activity. They discovered that the mouth guard is the most precise device to measure rotational head movement due to its limited movement at the moment of impact.
“We have worked to fine-tune the device for precise measurements,” explained Camarillo. “Now we are at a point where we want more data.”
Taube’s donation will accelerate Grant and Camarillo’s concussion research by allowing them to gather more data. Currently, Grant and Camarillo have equipped Stanford’s football team, women’s lacrosse team and men’s boxing team with their smart mouth guards. Taube’s donation will allow them to expand their study to high school football players, the researchers said.
According to Grant and Camarillo, student engagement is a key aspect of the study. If young people don’t report their concussions, the data used in their lab becomes flawed; reliable results require student participation, they said.
“The pediatric component of this initiative is unique,” Camarillo said. “No one has done [research on] this scale with kids.”
The second component of the concussion initiative is TeachAids, an online education program led by Sorcar. This software aims to educate students on misconceptions about concussions, promote dialogue about head injuries and encourage early reporting of symptoms, she explained.
The Youth Addiction Initiative
Although over 20 million U.S. citizens struggle with substance abuse, only one in 10 receive treatment. Since addiction typically originates in adolescence, early intervention is critical, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
“For adolescents with substance use issues, 70 to 80 percent of the time there is a co-occurring mental health issue,” said Steven Adelsheim, clinical professor of psychiatry. “We now have a tremendous opportunity to develop innovative interventions to support young people who are self-medicating for their mental health challenges.”
With Taube’s support, Roberts’ team will focus on understanding and preventing addiction among adolescents as well as increasing accessibility of treatment. The gift will also permit a unique collaboration across inpatient and outpatient treatment settings and family-based interventions. The scope of research is not limited to substance addictions but also includes behavioral addictions to social media, video games or the internet.
The donation will also focus on improving access to mental health support for Stanford students, including organizing better peer support and establishing recovery houses on campus.
“The gift will bring new attention, new knowledge and new resources for the students of Stanford,” Dr. Roberts said.
Past youth initiatives
Taube reflected on his initial charitable efforts at Stanford. “I think that most people have a philanthropic perspective,” he said. “There may be some particular project that you get interested in, a university or a certain cause. There is always some entry point. My entry point was fortunately Stanford.”
Taube’s philanthropic contributions to Stanford include founding the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, the Taube Hillel House and the Taube Family Tennis Stadium, as well as donating to the construction of Stanford Stadium.
His donation to concussion research at Stanford builds on several past philanthropic efforts to improve the lives of underprivileged youth. Advocating for marginalized children is a priority for Taube, a father of six.
“I have spent the latter part of my life dedicating my philanthropic efforts to underserved youth,” said Taube. “There are so many challenges facing children today; there are huge pockets of poverty and kids without access to education or proper medical treatment.”
The Taube Family Foundation established several initiatives in partnership with professional sports leagues in the Bay Area to improve the lives of underprivileged youth. The foundation works with the San Francisco 49ers to sponsor the ‘Touchdowns for Kids’ program, the Golden State Warriors to fund the ‘Hoops 4 Kids’ program and the San Jose Sharks to support the ‘Goals for Kids’ program. Over the last eight years, the various organizations that he supports have provided assistance to over one million underserved young people, according to Taube.
“An underlying goal of my philanthropy is to bring people together,” said Taube.
Contact Mini Ruda at mruda ‘at’ stanford.edu.