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Donor Story

Renowned Doctor Invests in Brain Disease Research

Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, retired chief of Neurology, is using a deferred gift annuity to create new options for patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

Renowned Doctor Invests in Brain Disease Research

In 1991, Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, became the first female chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, leading the department of Neurology for 21 years and caring for patients coping with the devastating effects of Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. She saw how these and other neurodegenerative conditions affected patients’ mobility, memory and emotions, eventually taking their independence.

“I decided to become a fundraiser as one of my main goals since resigning as chief…I am fundraising, not for myself, but for neurologists at Mass General.”

Dr. Young’s patients and their families inspired her to take on the challenge of better understanding the human nervous system, which she calls the “great frontier.”

A neurologist, researcher and trailblazer, Dr. Young, with her first, late husband, John B. Penney, Jr., MD, provided the most widely cited model of the basal ganglia function — a brain region where neurons responsible for dexterity, balance and coordination common in neurodegenerative diseases reside. Their model served as the springboard for testing new options that help patients with brain disease.

The Power of Philanthropy

From her parents, Dr. Young learned the value of helping others through philanthropy. They were interested in science and created a $1 million gift annuity at the University of Chicago to establish a science course for non-scientists.

And as chief, she saw the great impact that philanthropy could make. In her department, gifts helped young scientists explore exciting studies that they, otherwise, would not have been able to pursue.

In 2011, after her mother’s death, Dr. Young found herself in a position to help others. She used part of her inheritance to establish a $1 million deferred charitable gift annuity to ultimately establish the Anne B. Young, MD, PhD Endowed Chair in Neurodegenerative Disease. Dr. Young was the first chief to make such a contribution to Mass General. Then, in 2017, Dr. Young furthered her generosity by partially terminating her gift annuity and transferring half of her income payments back to Mass General. This allowed Dr. Young to see the impact of the chair during her lifetime.

Teresa Gomez-Isla, MD, PhD, became the inaugural incumbent of the chair, which was made possible through leadership gifts from the Biogen Foundation and the Cleary Family Foundation in addition to Dr. Young’s contribution.

A Lifetime of Support for Mass General

For about a decade, Dr. Young has served as an ambassador of the Phillips Society, a group that recognizes and celebrates friends of Mass General who create a lasting legacy of giving by including the hospital in their estate plans or establishing a life income gift.

“There is still some work to be done, but in the next decade, we will see new therapies.”

As an ambassador, Dr. Young promotes planned giving as a way to support the hospital and improve health for future generations. “I decided to become a fundraiser as one of my main goals since resigning as chief,” she says. “I find the job fun and rewarding because I am fundraising, not for myself, but for neurologists at Mass General.”

It was not until Dr. Young was considering her donation that she realized the full extent of how annuities can make such gifts possible. She is able to invest in Mass General and also receive tax benefits.

Throughout her career, Dr. Young has brought researchers together. In 2001, she established the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND) to foster collaborations among scientists. She spearheaded efforts to discover new drug treatments at MIND and successfully identified targets to treat Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Investing in New Options for Patients

When she wrote her donation check, Dr. Young recalls experiencing a wave of emotion. “There is still some work to be done, but in the next decade, we will see new therapies,” Dr. Young says.

To learn more about how a deferred gift annuity may benefit you and Mass General, please contact us at 617-643-2220 or

What is a Deferred Gift Annuity?

With a deferred gift annuity, donors can elect to receive payments at a future date, rather than immediately. This is often a great option for donors who want to take the charitable tax deduction associated with the gift in the year of the gift, even though they don’t anticipate needing additional income for one or more years. For more details, please visit Mass General’s online gift calculator.

Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, with her husband, Stetson Ames (left) and Mass General President, Peter L. Slavin, MD (right).

Jennifer Nejman Bohonak
August 13, 2021