George G. Glenner and the Alzheimer’s Family Care Centers of San Diego

I first heard of George G. Glenner in the Spring of 2004, two years after my mother had received a diagnosis for dementia with all of the markers of Alzheimer’s disease. Even then, all I knew of the man was that, years earlier, he had set up, with his wife Joy Glenner, a Family Care Center for the care and education of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones. Caregiving for those with Alzheimer’s disease is a 24 hour a day job, unenviable and largely unappreciated by the recipients of the care. George Glenner’s Alzheimer Family Care Center provided a much needed respite for my family and the education we needed to care for her well. It wasn’t until later that I learned about the man himself.

George Glenner received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1954 and from 1964 to 1980 worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland as the chief of molecular pathology. It was here at NIH that he would start work on the elusive Alzheimer’s amyloid. In 1980 he moved to San Diego and began his work at the University of California San Diego; within two years he would be appointed as research pathologist and within two years of that Glenner would be world famous.

In 1984 Glenner and his team identified the molecular structure of the beta-amyloid. It was this discovery that would pave the road for much of the current developments in the highly competitive (and potentially highly lucrative) field of Alzheimer’s research. It was also this discovery that catapulted Glenner to the forefront of the very real race for the ‘cure’. Known by some as a ‘maverick’, and others as a ‘hero’, it was something entirely unrelated to research that would eventually spread Glenner’s name into the homes of caregivers throughout San Diego.

George Glenner’s fellow researchers knew him as a maverick for two reasons. The first reason is that, contrary to much of the research at the time, he followed hunches that seemed to be only loosely related to the end result. Second, Dr. Glenner would start doing something in San Diego that none of his fellows were doing, or probably even considered. In 1982 he would, in addition to his duties in the lab at UCSD, start ‘caring for the living’. Dr. George Glenner and his wife Joy started the first Alzheimer Family Care Center in Hillcrest, in an unobtrusive cottage on 4th and Pennsylvania. Hardly the place to start a revolution in the care and treatment of this horrible disease, but there it began.

Check out the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Care Centers here.

As of right now I am working on an article for either the San Diego Magazine or some other local magazine or newspaper about the Glenner Center and the struggle to maintain the passion and profitability of its early years. ┬áThe basis for the George Glenner portions of the article are above; to flesh out the article I will be taking the highlights of Dr. Glenner’s career in interposing them into my own story, and how the Glenner Center helped me to progress from fear to faith in my own duties as caregiver and son.



~ by dobriensd on September 5, 2010.

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