MUSC dedicates memory disorders clinic

September 28, 2021
a man cuts a red ribbon taped to a wall in front of a large photograph of a Lowcountry creek
Henry Fair cuts the ribbon to the new memory disorders clinic as his wife, Mollie, looks on. Their son, photographer J. Henry Fair, donated the piece on the wall. Photos by Sarah Pack

When Henry and Mollie Fair first met Jim and Beebe White at a mountain resort in North Carolina, it seemed like the two couples would become good friends. But a comment from Beebe haunted Henry.

“She turned to me and said, ‘I really want to apologize to you if I ask you the same question more than once or tell you the same things because I was just diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s,” Henry Fair recounted on Sept. 23 at the ribbon cutting for the Henry and Mollie Fair Memory Disorders Clinic at MUSC Health.

“You know, I went home that night, and I couldn’t go to sleep,” Fair continued. “Because I had met someone that I thought, ‘This is someone I’d really like to get to know.’ And then I realized I’d never really get to know her.”

Fair wanted to do something tangible – something beyond writing a check to a national organization. He talked to Tom Anderson, former CEO of the MUSC Foundation, and Anderson connected him to Jonathan Edwards, M.D., chairman of the MUSC College of Medicine Department of Neurology.

a tall older gentleman listens as another man talks 
Jim White, center, listens as Henry Fair, right, speaks during the dedication of the center.

The result is the memory disorders clinic encompassing the sixth floor of Rutledge Tower on the Charleston peninsula. The clinic has been operating for several months, but this month presented the first opportunity for people to come together to celebrate its opening.

“Many of us have things we’re very passionate about and would someday like to make a difference about. But there are some people who actually take the steps to make a real impact,” Edwards told the assembled group.

“The vision is that this is going to be the home base for the growing memory disorders program here at MUSC, and that we’re going to be helping people all over the state of South Carolina,” he said.

two nicely dressed women chat while wearing surgical masks 
Anita Zucker, left, chats with Mollie Fair after the dedication.

The clinic is a warm and pleasant contrast to a stereotypical sterile doctor’s office. Calm, comfortable and welcoming, the clinic offers more than attractive aesthetics to patients. Behind-the-scenes touches, like soundproof rooms that allow for memory exams without distraction; dedicated space for neuropsychologists; and a dedicated family meeting room that allows for intimate discussions of diagnoses, including the capability to host remote family members connecting virtually, are all up and running as part of the clinic plan for offering care.

Further, Edwards said, there are plans spearheaded by Steven Carroll, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Collaborative Integrated Center of Clinical Excellence, to develop a full-fledged Alzheimer’s disease research center.

South Carolina businesswoman and philanthropist Anita Zucker, who chairs the Neurosciences Advisory Board, said this type of care is hugely important as more people are diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m thrilled that MUSC has taken this on and that the Fairs were willing to put this beautiful space together,” she said.

Looking around the room at the attendees, a vibrant group of mostly older people chatting and socializing, she noted that it’s sad to consider how many of their friends and contemporaries suffer with dementia.

“It’s just a blessing to have this,” she said.

The Charleston peninsula is visible beyond an etched glass wall with the name of the Henry and Mollie Fair Memory Disorders clinic 
Visitors to the clinic have a view of the Charleston peninsula from the sixth floor of Rutledge Tower.

Neurologist Nicholas Milano, M.D., said there is more ahead for the clinic, including the addition of a driving simulator.

“A lot of times someone will come in, and you’re not really sure if it’s safe for them to drive,” he said. “Not everyone with a memory problem has to stop driving, although someone with Alzheimer's will eventually have to stop driving. But you have to decide when is that moment, and it’s hard to do with just a pen and paper test.”

Jim White was on hand for the dedication of the space inspired by his wife. The couple lived in Florida, where he was a physician, and regularly returned to the mountains of his native North Carolina during summers, which was where they met the Fairs. Beebe now lives in a memory care facility in Florida. He said the MUSC clinic will do a lot of good for the community.

“Every community needs something like this,” he said. “Alzheimer’s is very prevalent. I just wish Beebe was well enough to come up here and see it.”

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About the Author

Leslie Cantu
MUSC Catalyst News

Keywords: Features, Research