NEWS | December 6, 2018

Family turns Alzheimer's disease toll into research fund at UC Davis


David Higbee’s mother, Dorothy, lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008. His sister, Suzzie, who is 69, also has the disease.

Higbee family
Pictured left to right: Anne and David Higbee, Annika Ragsdale, Ted Higbee at 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s

So while the relentless brain disease has taken a devastating toll on his family in recent years, Higbee has turned his grief into action. With the support of wife, Anne, children and extended family, he has raised more than $50,000 for research into potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, including $8,500 in 2018 alone.

Of that, nearly $7,000 will go into the Dorothy Higbee Family Research Fund at the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The new fund is to be used for new research, high-quality clinical diagnostics and care, innovative treatments and education for physicians, staff and families.

The family’s contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research began 10 years ago after Dorothy Higbee died, and the Higbees joined the UC Davis team for the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. The first year they raised about $1,000.

Dorothy had been a participant in the long-running UC Davis Alzheimer’s study at the center that involves comprehensive annual exams and the option of brain donation at the time of death. The Higbees were grateful for the care she received throughout.

“It has to do with the people who run the program, especially Rebekha Alfaro,” the study coordinator, said Anne Higbee. “When Dorothy was diagnosed Rebekha was a great resource; she was always willing to answer our questions. When Dorothy died, she was a great support to us.”

Because David Higbee was so impressed with the center and the thorough assessments his mother received and because he had his own concerns about getting Alzheimer’s, he also joined the longitudinal study to watch for symptoms of the disease.

David and Anne continue to rally the troops annually to join the walk and raise funds for Alzheimer’s research. In September 2018, they recruited all three sons and their partners, David’s sister Carol from San Diego, brother Keller from Salt Lake City and niece Dawn from Montana, as well as other friends, neighbors and co-workers.

A retired salesman, Higbee said he’ll set an even higher fundraising goal next year.

“You always have to beat your prior year,” and every year so far, we have.”