February 2001

Gary Brice


by Vince EVANS

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He always knew where he was going and was always in a hurry to get there. Though the route may seem circuitous to some, the road Dr. Gary Brice took to a successful life and career in service to the aging cannot be challenged. Along the way this boomer’s passion for helping people and working with them was deepened and shaped by his upbringing, his education and his experiences.

As Assistant Vice President for Community Health and Wellness for the Kaleida Health System, Gary says that he helps keep Kaleida on its mission of improving the health and wellness of Western New York “by identifying community health needs and solving problems by bringing together the right partners to provide the right service, in the right place, at the right time.” He has that science down to an art. Gary has been bringing people together to improve things for as long as he can remember.

Growing up in Cheektowaga, Gary enjoyed his childhood but was always very responsible and goal oriented. His compassion for people was set ablaze by his mother who told him that, as a youth, he would often come home with different stories of what he was going to be. But the stories all had a common theme - there was always a relationship with people, of solving problems, of helping others move through life. Both his mother and his dad, an electrical tester for Westinghouse, instilled a strong work ethic in Gary, his brother Mark—a massage therapist—and his sister Cindy, a dental office manager. Those lessons learned were not lost as Gary matured and chose a course of life that was driven by values: spiritual, family, self-development. He remains on target.

While attending Hiram College in Ohio, he was influenced by a professor from nearby Case Western Reserve, Dr. Ruth Glick, to explore the field of gerontology and aging. Gary found this field fascinating and consistent with his pursuit of an enabling profession. After graduating in 1974, he attended Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Buffalo where he received his master’s degree in social work with a concentration on community organization and administration. Prior to landing his first professional job with D’Youville College’s Department of Social Work to develop a major in gerontology, Gary bought buckets, sponges and cleaning supplies and washed windows door-to-door. Never content to wait for opportunities, he created them. From these beginnings, he moved to the University of Buffalo’s Multi-disciplinary Center for the Study of Aging as assistant director and later as associate director and became the founding director of the university’s Institute for Work/Family Balance.

After 15 years with UB, Gary was hired by DeGraff Hospital to develop a center of excellence for the elderly; a spectrum of services with a focus on wellness. In 1990 he was named executive director of the McLaughlin Center and established the first division for community health, that was hospital based, in upstate New York. His quest for knowledge and self-development burned and Gary obtained another master’s degree, in information and library science in 1993 from UB,(while continuing to work for the McLaughlin Center). The success of the McLaughlin Center and its community wellness perspective earned Gary a reputation as a “can-do” professional and a promotion to Vice President, Community Research and Program Development, from DeGraff Hospital in 1995. But he wanted to know and understand more and enrolled in a distant learning institution, Century University, to focus on community organization and information science. His dissertation area, not surprisingly, centered on a geriatric continuum of care plan and Gary earned his doctorate degree in 1996.

Gary’s focus, spirit of adventure and accomplishments lead to his current position with Kaleida, where he champions the creation of quality of life initiatives that improve the health and well-being of local communities and use of resources effectively to promote wellness while reducing the overall cost of health care. He credits Kaleida CEO John Friedlander with establishing a vision and principles that dictate that the Kaleida System improve the health of the population it serves - a vision that is in lock-step with Gary’s personal belief system.

Since 1978 Gary has generated over $1,000,000 in sponsored research, projects and special events for the organizations he has worked for or assisted. He has served on over two dozen community boards and committees and remains very active with a number of them such as the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Health Association of New York State, D’Youville College and Christmas in April. Moreover, he has presented nationally in over twenty states and has authored numerous professional articles and monographs published in journals including Research on Aging, Journal of Applied Gerontology and Management World. Gary has shared his knowledge of service to the aging in other ways - as a mentor, field instructor, as well as teacher. In addition to his duties with Kaleida, Gary is an Assistant Professor at D’Youville’s Health Service Administration program and Clinical Assistant Professor with UB’s School of Social Work and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. As a result of his contributions to his field of endeavor, Dr. Brice has been recognized through a series of awards and honors. They range from Men of Achievement in Cambridge, England, the Distinguished Service Award from the Buffalo Community Services for the Aging and the Community Service Award from the University of Buffalo, to Who’s Who Among Social Service Providers and the Civic Improvement Award from the Greater Buffalo All-America City Committee.

On the personal side Gary and his wife, Janet, reside in the southtowns with son Mark, a student at Penn State, and daughter Callie, a student at Orchard Park High School. He follows his own prescriptions for wellness by working out seven days a week at Erie Community College where he runs and does flexibility exercises. While not exactly a handyman around the house (trying to replace a toilet seat resulted in several mishaps costing nearly as much as a small addition!), he prefers to grow vegetables and flowers in his garden - a happier (and much safer) activity and an extension of his attraction to helping things grow and develop.

When asked what he would like to do in the years ahead, he answered “a return to education or the media.” Gary loved doing the weekly “Wellness Wednesday” segment on WKBW-TV as a resident expert resource and co-producer in 1993. He also co-hosted a radio talk show entitled, “Get a Life!” on WBEN, that dealt with health, wellness and personal responsibility. He knows where he wants to go but, this time, he isn’t in such a hurry to get there. Will he? Stay tuned.

Vince Evans is a freelance writer.

 

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