Category: Alumni Stories, Giving News, Health & Environment

Title:Leading by example

a doctor in a white coat and a woman in a yellow blazer stand in front of a sign for the Center for Neurogenerative Disorders
Mary Roney (B’76) with Dr. Fernando Pagan, director of the Movement Disorders Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, one of only 31 U.S. “Centers for Excellence,” as designed by the Parkinson’s Foundation.

As a student and an alumna, Mary Roney (B’76) has found Georgetown to be a perfect fit in more than one way. When she transferred to the McDonough School of Business (MSB), she was seeking a smallish school with a well-respected undergraduate business program located in a not-too-isolated, but not-too-urban environment. And when she was considering her future legacy, she found the perfect match in the Fund a Fellow for Parkinson’s Program at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC).

For Mary, the inherent value of a Jesuit education and the reputation of the business program made Georgetown a perfect fit and formed the foundation for a successful career in banking. The Jesuit core values influenced every part of her Georgetown experience, especially a desire for excellence and the expectation of doing one’s best work while also remembering the importance of ethics, thoughtfulness, and cura personalis (care of the whole person). Mary’s time on the Hilltop helped set her standards and approach to the world, especially important at a time when leadership roles in her industry were rarely held by women.

“Georgetown encourages students to explore their talents while seeking to experience new and different things; it helps people become what they want to be or are destined to be,” says Mary, who served on the MSB Board of Advisors to show gratitude for her experience at the university. She is impressed by the school’s international focus and how much it has grown since she was a student, a time when the now-renowned graduate business programs did not yet exist.

Mary’s other focus came more recently. After her diagnosis nine years ago, she has become a passionate advocate for improving patient education and treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). “When you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it is a very overwhelming experience and difficult to find resources to educate yourself on the disease and its treatment. The disease presents itself differently in every person and progresses differently in every patient, so having a trained specialist is important. It is alarming that there are entire states with no movement disorder specialists,” says Mary, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She eventually found a specialist 70 miles away in Denver. “I am grateful to have found medical support and feel strongly that all PD patients have access to a movement disorder specialist.”

Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurodegenerative disease in the world, affecting more than 8.5 million people. Only about 10% of current patients in the United States see a specialist, putting most at risk for complications. Under the leadership of Dr. Fernando Pagan, GUMC’s Fund a Fellow for Parkinson’s Program provides funding to train early-career neurologists as movement disorders specialists. After a two-year fellowship focused on movement and memory disorders and conducting clinical trials, they are able to better diagnose patients and provide access to the latest treatments available. The result is better access to care and improved quality of life for patients nationwide.

Mary had been waiting to complete her estate planning because she wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do, but upon learning that Georgetown is a leader in training movement disorder specialists, she immediately knew she had found a perfect fit that combined her gratitude for her education and a cause for which she is incredibly passionate. Mary has chosen to include a bequest to the Fund a Fellow for Parkinson’s Disease Program at Georgetown as part of her estate plan.

Mary has always tried to lead by example. “It is important to me to leave a legacy and try to be an example for others on how to deal with Parkinson’s. I firmly believe you need to give back and support the causes that are important to you, and that you, as an individual, are responsible for what you leave in this world. I want to make a positive contribution. I am thrilled  Georgetown is a leader in training specialists to support Parkinson’s patients and cannot say enough about the amazing work Dr. Pagan is doing.”

To learn more about the Fund a Fellow for Parkinson’s Disease Program at Georgetown, visit fund-a-fellow.