Catherine Shropshire Hardman wants everyone to know there’s no shame in seeing a psychiatrist or another healthcare professional specializing in the study of the brain.
In fact, the Buckhead resident said, seeing a brain specialist may help prolong your life. That’s why Hardman recently donated $2 million to the Emory Brain Health Center in DeKalb County. She said she started getting involved with the center in 2017 because several members of her extended family and friends have “had problems with the brain,” including physical and mental issues.
“One died of Lou Gehrig’s disease,” Hardman said. “One committed suicide. Another had massive brain injuries in a motorcycle accident when he was 15 and lived to be 33. Some of my family and friends had anxiety issues and others had problems with addiction.”
The center is an internationally known facility that combines four Emory departments: neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and behavioral sciences and rehabilitative medicine, plus the sleep medicine program. It brings together more than 400 researchers and clinicians from those areas and includes 20 sub-centers and programs.
Most of Hardman’s gift will go to the Emory University Psychoanalytic Institute, which is under the center’s umbrella. It’s one of the few institutions of its kind that is integrated into a department of psychiatry and a university, said Dr. Mark Rapaport, professor and chair of Emory’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.
Of the center, he said, “We are the only truly integrated center for brain health in the world right now. So, for example, all of our education leaders have offices in the joint education space. Our trainees interact with each other.
“We collocate faculty so that they’re seeing patients in spaces that are adjacent to one other, so there’s more interaction between our faculty and caring for patients in a more seamless way and helping to bridge the gaps when it comes to patient care. Another thing we’ve done is created interdisciplinary research teams that focus on brain research going from conception of life up to the end of life.”
Hardman said she also decided to donate funds to the center because she was born at Emory University Hospital nearby. Additionally, Hardman made the gift to help Emory to help it share with the public information on mental illness and its connection to brain diseases and disorders.
“There’s not enough knowledge about different brain diseases,” she said. “Some are hereditary and some are not. Mental illness is the last thing anybody ever donates to. I wanted to make sure somebody donated something to make this go forward.”
Hardman has donated about $3.5 million to the center overall, and Rapaport said her latest gift will have a major impact on the institute, which, along with the rest of the center, is moving from the Tufts House near Emory’s campus to Executive Park, an office complex off North Druid Hills Road near Interstate 85 in Brookhaven, this fall.
“When it comes to psychiatry, generous donors are few and far between, so her gifts have been remarkably powerful,” he said. “Her gifts are enabling the development of new space for patient care and training and education for the (institute).
“Her gifts are allowing the institute to have a sustaining endowment that will offset the costs of trainings who are interested in psychoanalytic work and thought, participating in courses. Her prior gifts have just been transformative for the department and also facilitated greater collaboration across the Emory Brain Health Center.”
Hardman, who said she owes her wealth to her grandfather, Frederick Hoyt Sr., an early investor in the Coca-Cola Co., actually played at the Tufts House as a child. It was built in 1917 for Arthur Tufts, a friend of the Candler family that included Coke founder Asa Candler.
Rapaport said the new space in Executive Park will allow the institute to see 20 to 25% more patients than today and also allow it to expand its programs.
“We would anticipate several benefits: one is it will give greater access to the Atlanta community with seminars and symposia and other educational activities the institute puts on,” he said. “It’s been very difficult and we have not had adequate space to do this.
“Another thing it does is it will make it much easier for the community to be involved since it’s an easier location right off I-85, easy to get to. So I think there will be tremendous opportunities there both for further integration with the Atlanta community as well as an increase in patient care.”
Hardman, who turns 78 on June 7, said she has no children or grandchildren but does have a stepdaughter.
“When you get older, you want to think you left something positive and did some good in the world,” she said. “If I had children and grandchildren, this (gift) would be going to them, but it’s going to Emory.”
Rapaport added, “It’s rare for psychiatry to get such gifts. Mrs. Hardman is breaking down a stigma that exists (when it comes to seeing a doctor about brain health). “With her philanthropy, she is leading the way for others to be able to give to psychiatry, which is really the study of human feelings and function and how both psychotherapy and medication and somatic treatments affect brain thought and function. She’s really a trailblazer for that and we’re very grateful.”