December 4, 2023

Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation Give $5 Million to Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing to Expand Reach and Impact

Developmental Disability Nurse treating a patient.

A $5 million gift from B. Thomas Golisano and the Golisano Foundation will support the continued growth and expansion of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing at the St. John Fisher University Wegmans School of Nursing. The gift, $4 million from Golisano and $1 million from the Foundation, will bolster its efforts to positively impact more than 1 million health encounters for patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) over the next 10 years.

“I am grateful to Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation for their trust and belief in the unique work of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing which is transforming the quality of health care for individuals with IDD on a regional, national, and global scale,” said Dr. Gerard J. Rooney, president of Fisher. “We are honored to partner with Tom and the Foundation and to join them in their continuing commitment to advancing this work on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

This new gift builds on a $5.8 million investment from Golisano and the Golisano Foundation in 2018 to fund the creation of the Institute, which is celebrating its five-year anniversary milestone. The University has also concurrently committed to investing in its future and working to broaden its impact by funding an additional $5 million.

Erica Dayton - Executive Director of the Golisano Foundation“Fisher has clearly demonstrated its commitment to improving health care for people with developmental disabilities by preparing the next generation of nurses and thought leaders with field–specific skills and knowledge. Tom and the Foundation appreciate the thoughtful approach and use of expertise to develop specialized content, activate leaders, and deploy educational materials across health systems effectively over the next five years of this award,” said Erica Dayton, executive director of the Golisano Foundation.

Nurses are the largest segment of the health care workforce and those most frequently caring for patients with IDD, yet historically, there has been little educational content and clinical experiences that specifically address the needs of this unique patient population. Additionally, research conducted by government, academic, and other entities have documented that there are significant health disparities between individuals with IDD and the general population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the barriers facing individuals with IDD is providers’ lack of knowledge and understanding of their unique needs and challenges.

Under the guidance of Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner, founding executive director and current senior advisor, the Institute has been laser focused on improving health equity for people with IDD by setting the standard for competent and ethical IDD nursing practice. Over the course of the last five years, the Institute has established its leadership team, rolled out its signature Golisano Fellowship program, and developed IDD-inclusive curricula and educational resources for each stage of the nursing professional’s career. It also earned accreditation for nursing continuing professional development from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
“Through the generosity of Tom Golisano and the Foundation, we were given the opportunity to improve the health care experience of patients with IDD through the vehicle of nursing,” said Cooney Miner. “We have been tireless in our efforts and fueled by our passion and expertise to generate nationwide awareness and demand for content almost no one else educating the mainstream nursing workforce was delivering competence in caring for patients with IDD.”

The Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing has partnered with several Rochester-based agencies and health systems to develop, test, and refine educational resources, curricula, and materials, including local families and self-advocates in the conversations to ensure patient and caregiver voices are present in the work.

Jillian Sauer, a registered nurse at Erie County Medical Center, participated as a learner in the Institute’s continuing education program for hospital nurses. The experience further sparked her passion for working with patients with IDD, and she applied for and was accepted into the Institute’s 2023-2024 Fellowship cohort. She is also in pursuit of graduate education focused on the mental health needs of individuals with IDD.

“Knowledge is power. Understanding the underlying needs of individuals that may not be able to accurately communicate them allows staff to provide more supportive care. I created a sensory room to meet the needs of individuals with IDD to support optimal patient outcomes while they transition out of an acute care setting back into the community,” said Sauer. “I will continue to do all that I can to advocate for those who cannot. My goal with continuing education is to go from finding the resource, to being the resource.”

Dr. Holly Brown, newly named executive director of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing, said that over the next five years, she hopes to engage more nurses like Sauer to serve as influencers in their health care settings. The Institute is planning for the nationwide activation of nursing education partnerships and an expanded Golisano Fellowship network to deploy its content and extend its reach. Brown said this work is coming to fruition at a critical time. The National Institutes of Health recently designated people with disabilities as a health disparity population which will expand access to funding and resources for scientific inquiry and support for this historically underserved population.

“The Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing exemplifies preparedness meeting opportunity. In both design and practice, the Institute is already addressing gaps in the current education of nurses treating this population, and as our outcomes attest—momentum is building, and our impact is broadening,” said Brown. “With the support of Tom Golisano, the Golisano Foundation, and the University, we can leverage this momentum and rise to our vision to be the premier provider of IDD-inclusive nursing and interprofessional health care education.”
For more information about the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing, visit

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