Generous Gift Funds Nation’s First Institute to Teach Nurses to Care for People with Developmental Disabilities

Golisano Institute, Fisher College, an athlete, and Special Olympics representatives pose for a group photo.

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano, founder of the Golisano Foundation, is a long-time supporter of Special Olympics and its mission to creating inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities.

Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation, with a generous gift of $5.8 million, have created the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. The Institute will be fully integrated into Fisher’s Wegmans School of Nursing and is designed to transform the health care and support of individuals with developmental disabilities. It will be the first institute of its kind in the country, and will have local, national, and international impact.

“I am pleased to provide financial support for this extraordinary initiative, which will have a long-lasting, positive impact on health care for those with developmental disabilities,” said Tom Golisano. “Nurses play a critical role as primary care providers in health centers, and medical and dental practices. By preparing the next generation of nurses and thought leaders and by creating a network of health care professionals who care for people with developmental disabilities, St. John Fisher has demonstrated a commitment to making a significant impact on improving access to both quality and inclusive health care for people who are underserved.”

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, works every day to make inclusive health a reality. This critical work opens up access to follow-up care for athletes around the world. The support from the Golisano Foundation makes individuals, communities, and health systems more inclusive. One critical way to ensure inclusive health is by training health care professionals about the importance of treating patients with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Data from Special Olympics show significant health disparities between individuals with intellectual disabilities and the general population. Special Olympics athletes face health issues at a higher rate than the rest of the general population. 37 percent of athletes have untreated tooth decay, 25 percent have potential hearing loss, and 31 percent are obese. Some of those issues go untreated or undiagnosed due to the limited availability of health care services, based on lack of training of health care professionals to treat people with intellectual disabilities and a reluctance of health care professionals to work with this population.

“The lack of inclusive curriculum for health care professionals has been identified as a critical barrier for people with intellectual disability receiving quality health care,” said Mary Davis, CEO of Special Olympics International. “The design and adoption of improved inclusive nursing curriculum by the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing will prepare St. John Fisher College nursing graduates to better meet the health needs of this underserved population, inspire others, and provide critically needed curriculum for adoption by other nursing schools.”

This institute and the curriculum it provides will be a model to replicate throughout the United States and the world.

More information about the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing.