In this profile, Sharon McBay shares her personal motivation for supporting the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and her hope for this technology.
My life has been full of unexpected twists and turns, yet God has blessed me with so many wonderful gifts, including loving family, friends, and supportive communities. My first family includes Wilbur McBay, my late husband of 38 years; Matt, my best friend and dear son; Shauna, my precious daughter; my five grandchildren; and Georgie, my rescue dog.
My second family is my business family from 1969 to the present. Wilbur and I developed Ski Chalet from a small mom-and-pop store to multiple businesses and locations with 300 employees. In 2005, I established a commercial real estate management company.
For over 50 years since graduation, the College of William & Mary has been my third supportive family through my involvement in many activities.
I became involved with the Parkinson’s Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA) soon after my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I established the current Wilbur McBay exercise class for Parkinsonians in the 1990s and financially support it today.
What is your connection to the Foundation? How did you first hear about the Foundation?
My good friends Barbara and Rick Frisbie invited me to a focused ultrasound seminar in 2015 to hear Dr. Neal Kassell speak. Soon thereafter, I traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, and toured the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and Center of Excellence at the University of Virginia. I was hooked. In fact, as I sat in the lab, with the helmet on my head, I vividly remember thinking this life-saving treatment could have saved Wilbur’s life instead of deep brain stimulation and the resulting infection that ended his life.
Why do you care about focused ultrasound?
I care about focused ultrasound because the technology can and does save lives internationally, and more importantly, gives hope. This noninvasive technology can alleviate and often eliminate suffering in not just people with Parkinson’s disease, but many other serious diseases, like cancer, depression, addiction, and Alzheimer’s. The potential is here now in actual practice, trials, and research at key sites worldwide, which need our support.
Dr. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Dr. Kassell and his staff make us feel hopeful. Focused ultrasound brought the spark back to my dear friend Barbara Frisbie, who has an inoperable brain tumor. This noninvasive therapy that she and Rick supported and promoted over the years now has entered her own reality to give her comfort and support in her personal fight. In a recent conversation with Barbara, she said the Foundation team has been her lifeline.
What impact do you hope to achieve through your philanthropy?
Over these last seven years, I have seen the Foundation use donations like mine to fund research, build awareness, and make meaningful progress to accelerate the development and adoption of this groundbreaking therapeutic technology. It has been particularly encouraging to see the US FDA approve focused ultrasound for both tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s dyskinesia.
What do you tell others about the Foundation?
The more folks hear about this noninvasive technology and the more it becomes widely available, patients will be able to choose to avoid open surgery with its possible complications such as those my husband experienced causing his death 10 days after surgery. Focused ultrasound is a life-saving choice, and its time has finally arrived with Medicare providing coverage in some states for certain procedures.
What would you tell someone who is considering making a gift to the Foundation?
Dr. Neal Kassell is the brilliant neurosurgeon who has steadfastly championed this therapeutic procedure over many years of research and development thanks to the support from people like you and me who are hopeful to eliminate the tragedy of life-altering diseases. I believe in the work of Dr. Kassell and the goals of his amazing team. With the promise, potential, and results of focused ultrasound thus far, I encourage all to step up to the plate big time and put your money in the best investment you can make – for yourself and your family.