WXXI AM News

Tom Golisano donates $5.8 million to SJFC for developmental disabilities nursing program

Oct 30, 2018

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

A new institute at St. John Fisher College will focus on nursing that supports individuals with developmental disabilities.

Paychex founder and philanthropist Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation donated $5.8 million to the school to create the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing. Tom Golisano donated $5 million and the foundation donated $800,000.

It is the first of its kind in the country, and will focus on training health care providers to support this population.

Research by the Special Olympics shows that there are significant health disparities between individuals with disabilities and the general population.

Ann Costello is executive director of the Golisano Foundation.

"Both our organizations believed it was unacceptable that millions of our most vulnerable citizens suffered from pain and debilitating conditions that could be treated if they had access to proper care, but too often they fall through the cracks of complex health systems."

Each year the Special Olympics offers free screenings during their event, a program called Healthy Athletes.

But that’s only once a year, she says.

“Tom, when he first found out about Healthy Athletes -- as impressed as he was by the screenings, he said, 'Why do Special Olympic athletes and people with intellectual disabilities have to get their health care under tent? I don’t, and neither do most of the people in this room.' "

The institute will help train nurses to provide nuanced health care to people with disabilities year-round more effectively.

Costello said nurses play a critical role in providing primary care, and training them to support this population will help catch health issues before they get worse.

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

Video of the event from WXXI's Martin Kaufman: