Over the past year, we have celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Hydrocephalus Association through interviews with members of our community. They have shared their reflections on our past and their hopes for our future. One group of people we have highlighted is our Board of Directors. We hope you have enjoyed getting to know the individuals that voluntarily give their time and leadership to assuring the integrity and future of the association. This week we sit down with David Browdy, a board member since 2009, the chair of the Research Committee, and the father of a son with hydrocephalus. David currently lives with his family in Salt Lake City where he is the Associate Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center.
HA: How did you find HA and in what capacity did you first get involved?
DAVID: When our infant son (who is now in college) had his shunt implanted at age 10 weeks, the hospital gave us the HA brochure “About Hydrocephalus” along with our discharge instructions. Over the years, we ordered HA publications, attended conferences, and volunteered with our local support group/WALK. I think I first began to feel strongly connected to HA after attending the 2002 HA conference in Chicago. It was after the 2008 conference in Park City that I was asked to join the Board of Directors (BOD).
HA: Has HA made an impact on your life?
DAVID: Absolutely! As parents of a child diagnosed with hydrocephalus, we were scared, alone, and didn’t know anything about it. HA helped us learn, gave us information we could trust, and gave us opportunities to make connections to other parents, patients, and medical professionals. HA helped us become knowledgeable advocates for our child (and ourselves) and helped us to pass along our experiences to others. We knew we were definitely not alone.
Professionally, it has been a great experience to help HA, the organization, grow and to work with some truly outstanding board members.
On a personal level, I have met many wonderful people through my involvement in HA support groups, WALKs, conferences, and the Board of Directors, and I have made lasting friendships.
HA: How long have you served on the HA Board of Directors?
DAVID: I’ve been a board member since 2009, chair of the Research Committee since 2010, and I joined the Executive Committee as Vice Chair this year.
HA: Why did you accept the Board nomination? What do you hope to accomplish or what contribution do you want to make to the BOD?
DAVID: My nomination came on the heels of the 2008 conference, where one of the main topics of discussion was establishing a research mission for HA. I had a good deal of relevant experience with that, having been a senior dean at a leading research medical school. I shared some of my ideas about what an HA research mission might look like. I was surprised to be asked to join the board, and I am honored and pleased to serve.
When I joined – and even today – I wanted to accomplish two main things. First, I want others to be able to benefit as we did from what HA provided to us. I can do that by advancing the research mission that is so promising to all of us and by nurturing the education and support mission that was so valuable to my wife and I as parents.
Second, I recognized that HA as an organization needed to grow and evolve, and I wanted to use my skills and experience to help with that.
HA: Of all the work HA does for the hydrocephalus community, which do you find to be the most important or impactful?
DAVID: That is a difficult question to answer. In the long run, the research environment that we support will lead to advances in treatments to improve peoples’ lives. But we also have a real impact on a day-to-day basis by providing information and support to people who think they have nowhere to turn – until they find HA.
HA: What else would you like to see HA do?
DAVID: We really need to build awareness of the condition in the general public. I think most people would be surprised to learn that other medical conditions that they have heard of – and donate to support research for – are much rarer than hydrocephalus.
There is so much work to be done to eliminate the challenges of hydrocephalus. It seems almost unfair that only the families and friends of those who have the condition are the ones who should support our efforts. If we can spread the word, I know that others will help and that we can expand our research into cures, better treatments, and better knowledge about living with hydrocephalus.
HA: Where would you like to see HA 5 years from now?
DAVID: One of the hardest things about being a board member is hearing so many really good ideas that people have for new programs but knowing that we cannot implement all of them. We are still a relatively small not-for-profit and we have to make choices about how to best apply the resources we have. In five years, I would love for us to be able to say “Yes!” to many more things than we can today. Then as a board member, I will continue to push us to find even more that we would like to do.
HA: What message do you have for individuals living with hydrocephalus? As a father of a child with hydrocephalus, what message do you have for other parents?
DAVID: This is probably not the road you would have chosen to travel, but you are not alone on your journey. Others can help, and eventually you can help others. While you do have to live with hydrocephalus (and that is often not at all easy), you do not need to be defined by it.
HA: What is your favorite memory from an HA event you’ve attended (support group, WALK, conference, other)?
DAVID: I’ve been to so many conferences, walks, and support group meetings that it is difficult to pick just one, so I’ll pick three short ones.
My son was in the recovery room after his first revision, and he asked to call a friend he made at an HA conference, since she would understand what he was going through. That showed me the power of connections that HA could make, and how it would make a difference in his life.
At the 2011 HA conference in Cleveland, I introduced the first five scientists who received inaugural HA Mentored Young Investigator awards. It was so fulfilling to hear from a future generation of researchers and to see in the flesh that the HA research mission went from an idea to a reality.
And those of us volunteers and attendees at the 2008 Chicago WALK during the record downpours and flooding will never forget it!