A new medical center for patients with Down syndrome will be the first of its kind in the United States. The Jerome Lejeune Medical Center, named for the French geneticist-pediatrician who discovered the cause of Down syndrome, opened on March 21, 2021, World Down Syndrome Day, in Denver, Colorado. It will initially serve children with Down syndrome, eventually expanding to include adults as well.
Lejeune dedicated his life to providing care and advocating for the protection of people who are medically vulnerable, especially those with Down syndrome. Though he died in 1994, his devotion to people with Down syndrome continues on today through the Jerome Lejeune Foundation and the Jerome Lejeune Institute medical center in Paris.
“The unique aspect of the medical center in France is that it is fully holistic and research-based care,” explained Keith Mason, executive director of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA, whose two-year-old daughter Maria has Down syndrome.
Lejeune was a devout Catholic known for providing compassionate care. The new center in Denver is a partnership with Bella Health & Wellness, a holistic non-profit medical practice, and the two will share a facility with the common goal of respecting human dignity and caring for people holistically, according to Denver Catholic.
“This year we’ve been convicted of the need to care for the most vulnerable among us,” said CEO and co-founder of Bella, Dede Chism. “We are excited to share about a new friendship that Bella has formed… What moved me so much is how the Jerome Lejeune Foundation was looking for a place that shared their DNA — that shared their unique experience, and love and dignity of life for all, but especially the precious Down syndrome population. Beginning in 2021, Bella will begin assisting the foundation in their care for families impacted by Down syndrome here in the United States… It’s exciting stuff and [a] definite fulfillment of our mission.”
The approach to caring for people with Down syndrome, said Mason, is to follow Jesus’ own words: “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”
“It’s Christ-centered, fully Catholic health care and that’s what’s needed for our people with Down syndrome,” said Chism. “Caring for the individual means caring for the family — and really looking to that body, mind, soul care. That’s what we do.”
The long-term goals of the new center include growing services to include lifelong, multidisciplinary care to patients, who will continue to see their primary care doctors but will have the U.S. Lejeune clinic for more specialized care using 40 years of research and experience from the French medical center. People with Down syndrome have a higher prevalence of certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s, yet fewer incidences of conditions such as breast cancer. As reported by Denver Catholic, research into why this is will not only benefit those with Down syndrome but the larger population of the world as well.
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