In talking with Robert Douglas, it is clear he cares deeply about two things: the University of Missouri and helping provide mental health resources for everyone.
The Douglas family decided to put these passions into action recently with a $1.1 million gift to the University of Missouri School of Medicine to fund an endowed chair in the Department of Psychiatry.
“This generous and transformational gift offers the unique opportunity to advance the University’s teaching and research missions while also enhancing our leadership position in psychiatric care and mental health,” said John Lauriello, MD, chair of the school’s Department of Psychiatry.
Lauriello has been named the first Robert J. Douglas, MD, and Betty Douglas Distinguished Faculty Scholar in Psychiatry. The family announced their gift to the university in the company of classmates celebrating a 50-year reunion during the 58th Annual Physicians Alumni Weekend.
“Missouri gave me the tools I needed to be successful and so I felt the need to give back to them,” said Douglas, who lives in Cascade, Idaho. “I’m also really proud to give to Mizzou because that’s my home.”
Originally from Springfield, Missouri, Douglas is a member of the MU School of Medicine’s Class of 1965. Initially, after finishing his undergraduate coursework at Missouri State University, he considered going to dental school, but he ultimately decided to attend medical school because of the benefits and cost savings a state university afforded him. He credits the Singing Doctors of Springfield Loan Fund for providing him with support that helped him finish the first two years of medical school. His wife, Betty, also provided support working as a nurse during his time in medical school.
“I came from a situation with meager resources,” Douglas said. “I want other people to have the same opportunity at Mizzou that I did. My hope is that my stimulus will enable or inspire others to give to scholarships to help students deal with a debt today that is astronomical.”
“Missouri gave me the tools I needed to be successful and so I felt the need to give back.” Robert Douglas, MD
A radiologist involved in many charitable organizations through the years, Douglas previously established the Robert Douglas Lectureship in Radiology and made a gift in support of diabetes research at MU, with the hope that such research will lead to a cure for diabetes for their granddaughter and other children with diabetes. In the area of psychiatry, Douglas saw an opportunity to make an impact on the needs of a vulnerable population.
In conversation, he recalled a few staggering statistics such as more than 20 percent of United States prison and jail inmates report mental health issues and an annual suicide rate for members of the military that is estimated to be 50 percent higher than that of civilians.
“I realized in my own life experience and the experience of other family members that psychiatry programs in the U.S. were really underfunded,” Douglas said. “There are not enough doctors and facilities available to take care of the needs of the mental health population.”
In the end, Douglas said he is just happy to have the opportunity to give. “God has been very good to us financially so I’m able to give back with a happy heart because I feel it’s the right thing to do,” Douglas said.