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Brian health study in Lakewood Ranch hires program director

Bradenton resident will serve a role as an important liaison to the Gulf Coast community.

Kim Miele
Kim Miele
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Holding down a pair of impressive jobs, Kim Miele had no reason to seek another position.

Then she discovered The Brain Health Initiative was looking for a program director in Lakewood Ranch.

"This study is so imperative," said Miele, a former Central Park resident who moved to western Bradenton a little over a year ago. "I have read about how the Framingham Heart Study (which begin in 1948) transformed our lives. As it is now, we look at the brain when it has a disease. We have to learn how we can prevent that disease.

"This study is going to be life changing, and to be part of something like that is being part of something that is changing mankind. If I can make a little difference, and it can help my kids and grandkids, what a gift."

With that in mind, Miele applied for the position, and was hired.

She is finishing her final week as the executive director for the Gulf Coast CEO Forum. She will continue as the Harvard administrative director for department of continuing education at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a position she had held since 1997.

For now, her job as program director for The Brain Health Initiative will be part-time hours but it should develop into a full-time position as the study matures.

Although Miele said her early job will be "all-hands-on-deck" duties, the position was created so The Brain Health Initiative had a liaison to the Gulf Coast community.

"I'll be the person on the ground who knows the community as we build our infrastructure," Miele said. "They feel it is so important for The Brain Health Initiative to collaborate with the community and they want to understand the community."

When she said "they," Miele was referring to Stephanie Peabody, the founder and executive director of the Brain Health Initiative, and epidemiologist Erin Dunn, the director of research and a principal investigator for the study.

Besides being from the Boston area, Peabody and Dunn needed someone in Lakewood Ranch to take the lead to collaborate on events, to help grow the initiative and to oversee projects. They also needed someone to explain some very complex topics.

"I'm so beyond excited," Miele said. "We know scientifically what we do, but how do we communicate that to the community more efficiently? This has never been done before, so it's so hard to explain."

Phase II of The Brain Health Initiative begins Sept. 1 and is scheduled to run through next April. Miele said the study definitely will have its brick and mortar presence in Lakewood Ranch but she stressed the study will take in the entire Gulf Coast. She said Schroeder-Manatee Ranch has provided the study a space at the former information center on Rangeland Parkway until it can build a more permanent structure.

Miele was asked why now for the brain study?

"We have the technology to look now," she said. "We have come so far in what we can learn. People know their bodies are outliving their cognitive abilities. Our brains are not keeping up. We need to start studying the brain from the womb. The brain develops most in the last trimester of birth to 2 years old. What are the protective factors? What can we be doing to help these babies. This is going to help our children, and our children's children."

She said eventually the study's organizers would love to see restaurants and grocery stores feature brain healthy selections.

"This will be here far after you and I are gone," she said.

Miele said she will miss her job with the Gulf Coast CEO Forum.

"When Matt Walsh (CEO of the Observer Media Group) approached me seven years ago about this new startup, I saw the potential," she said. "It was a challenge, and a lot of fun. I felt they needed a fresh perspective."