Dr. Kate Zhong’s corner office at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health has great views of the World Market Center and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Plus, it gets notice from international stars, including visitor Bill Clinton, who had a speaking engagement at the WMC. “People cannot ignore it,” says the Frank Gehry-designed center’s senior director of clinical research and development. “People drive by, walk by, they’re always looking over and wondering, What kind of building is that?”
Part of Dr. Zhong’s mission, which is picking up steam in advance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November, is to make certain the work accomplished beneath the twisted metal roof gets just as much attention. Arriving last July with her husband, noted Alzheimer’s researcher and author Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, Dr. Zhong found herself not only in the middle of Las Vegas’s most fertile architectural landscape but also in a position to help unify the global network of Alzheimer’s research and caregiver education.
A geriatric psychiatrist by training with a master’s degree in pharmacology, Dr. Zhong is in charge of the entire research program at the Ruvo Center. That entails supervising research at current clinic sites in Weston, Florida, and Cleveland from Las Vegas, with much more expansion planned. “That’s one of the reasons that attracted us to come to Vegas, because we saw the potential to really build the leading center in the country,” she says. “Now I am working very closely with Latin America as well as Asia. We want to build us as a leading center globally. We want to build a global Alzheimer’s network.”
Very much a citizen of the world after studying medicine in her native China and earning a graduate degree from the University of Toronto, Dr. Zhong is comfortably slipping into a role as Alzheimer’s ambassador. Growth isn’t limited to latitudes, either: The Ruvo Center is expanding into other brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The infrastructure for research, treatment, education, and caregiver support can now benefit other neurological disorders both here and abroad.
How different the Ruvo Center would have turned out without the powerhouse couple is hard to fathom, but the benefits generated from the synergy of their combined efforts can’t be denied. “Jeff always says that he makes sure that we are doing the right thing, and I make sure that we do things right,” Dr. Zhong says. “He is the director, the visionary with the overall strategy. I’m on the operational side. I want to make sure everything is done right—from our perspective.”