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Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Junior Seau Foundation Supports Brain Injury Studies and Education

Matching funds bring total support to $1 million for UC San Diego traumatic brain injury research and outreach efforts

Thanks to support from the Junior Seau Foundation, a room full of high school students from The Preuss School UCSD recently gathered at UC San Diego to learn about the science of the brain and traumatic brain injury prevention from neurobiology professor Gentry Patrick. The inaugural Junior Seau Lectureship program held on Dec. 14 kicked off a special announcement of the Junior Seau Foundation’s $250,000 gift to support brain injury research and education at UC San Diego.

The donation was made in memory of Junior Seau, the NFL Football Hall of Famer and longtime San Diego Charger who passed away in 2012, and was subsequently diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated blows to the head. The funds established the Junior Seau Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), as well as the Junior Seau Lectureship Series to inform the community and K-12 students about the causes and risks associated with traumatic brain injury.

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High school students from The Preuss School UCSD attended the inaugural Junior Seau Lectureship program

Tripling the impact of the foundation’s gift, the donation is being matched as part of the Chancellor’s Endowed Chair and Faculty Fellowship Challenge, as well as by the Division of Biological Sciences and the Kavli Foundation—bringing total funding to $1 million for this important area of education and research.

The lecture and the formal announcement ceremony were attended by Seau’s children, Sydney, Tyler and Hunter, as well as their mother and Junior Seau’s former wife, Gina. Several members of the Junior Seau Foundation’s Executive Committee also were in attendance. Sydney Seau shared her thoughts about the need to build awareness of traumatic brain injury and its effects. “I just hope that people understand that traumatic brain injury is not just a football issue—it is a public safety issue,” she said. “It affects all ages and it is something that we need to keep talking about.”

As part of the event, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla recognized Junior Seau’s family and the Seau Foundation board members for their dedication to supporting UC San Diego research to better understand the effects of traumatic brain injury, as well as to educate K-12 students on how to best protect themselves from sustaining such injuries.

“We join with the Junior Seau Foundation in our shared commitment to learn more about the human brain so we can find better ways to treat and prevent disease caused by traumatic brain injury,” said Khosla. “To the Junior Seau Foundation and the Seau family members here today, I extend our heartfelt thank you for championing this research at UC San Diego and the education of our community. I can think of no better way to honor someone’s legacy.”

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Junior Seau

Born in Oceanside, Calif., Junior Seau played for nearly two decades in the National Football League, the first 13 years with the San Diego Chargers, and then with the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. He continues to be remembered as a community leader dedicated to supporting and empowering youth.

“We are pleased to provide this support to UC San Diego,” said Jay Kawano, president of the Junior Seau Foundation. “Junior would have been passionate about building our understanding of the disease that he battled, as well as educating young people about CTE and TBI, and how they can be prevented.”

The Junior Seau Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Traumatic Brain Injury will be used to attract or retain a rising academic star whose basic sciences research is related to TBI, with the goal of building our understanding of brain injury. Ultimately, research will be targeted to finding better ways to prevent and cure related diseases.

Faculty fellowships at UC San Diego provide a perpetual source of funds to support scholarly work, and they can play an important role in attracting and retaining academic leaders. The holder of the Junior Seau Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Traumatic Brain Injury will also be a faculty member within UC San Diego’s acclaimed Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind.

“UC San Diego is a leader in brain research, and we believe that recruiting young stars to our already impressive team of scientists will spark new and exciting discoveries that will make a difference for countless people,” said Bill McGinnis, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences. “Building our fundamental understanding of the brain with basic science research is critical to the translation of discoveries into cures.”