“Batman” Adds Didi Hirsch to His Estate Plan
Curley Bonds established an estate plan that includes Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Services for the same reason he dresses up as Batman or the Bubble King for the Alive & Running 5K each fall: He wants to make an impact in the fight against mental illness.
Dr. Bonds already does that as the Medical Director of Didi Hirsch, but he says it’s not enough.
“This gift tells people who I am and what I care about,” Dr. Bonds says. “And it can have a ripple effect and carry on well beyond this life. I’m not making millions of dollars, but my gift, regardless of the size, is meaningful.”
Dr. Bonds is leaving a percentage of his estate as an unrestricted gift. He already participates in the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards, which this spring honored female martial arts star Ronda Rousey, and the September 5K fundraiser for suicide prevention in which Bonds has dressed up the past several years—and inspired others to do the same. Last year he was Batman and he dressed his dog as a pioneer. The year before he came as the Bubble King.
“Suicide can be a dark and depressing thing, but really we want to celebrate life, so the costumes are something to jazz it up,” he said. “Last year there were whole teams in costumes.”
Dr. Bonds came to Didi Hirsch after a distinguished career as a professor, research scholar, and administrator. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Emory University in Atlanta in 1987. He attended medical school at Indiana University and then went to UCLA for training as a psychiatrist. After his residency he stayed on at UCLA for a decade, specializing in working with people who had serious medical problems in addition to psychiatric disorders. He later was a supervising psychiatrist for jail inmates and a teacher and administrator for the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, which provides the last two years of medical school. He also maintains a small private practice.
“Drew historically has been a university that serves African Americans,” Bonds said. “That fits in with my own ethnic background and my passion to serve people of color.”
Bonds joined Didi Hirsch as medical director four years ago, overseeing a staff of about 20 physicians and nurses. “The former medical director of Didi Hirsch was moving to New Zealand and told me about this great opportunity,” Bonds said. “Didi Hirsch is responsible and financially sound and has been around for more than 70 years. An organization like that is hard to come by.”
Within a year he decided to establish an estate plan to include Didi Hirsch and Emory University, although he is only in his 40s.
“I have had the unfortunate experience of losing a few colleagues at a younger age, some younger than me,” Bonds said. “When they have made no plans, then the rest of us have to decide how to honor them. I don’t want other people deciding that for me. I guess you could say I’m an organized control freak. I have the burial plot, and I have the songs picked out for my funeral.”
He also said that he wanted to serve as an example to the Didi Hirsch staff and the medical community by becoming a legacy donor and giving visibility to physician philanthropy. “Doctors have the luxury of resources; we are higher-paid than other medical workers,” Bonds said. “Psychiatry needs to do more to support the basics.”
Bonds said that mental illness is under-resourced; because of the stigma, people tend to avoid giving. The government doesn’t and can’t support all of the needs, he said.
“There are gaps in treatment, and this allows people to get quality treatment regardless of their ability to pay,” Bonds said. “I know that actions speak louder than words, and I’m committed to being here at Didi Hirsch and helping it grow.
“Didi Hirsch is an organization that certainly will be around after I am gone. So this is good stewardship and a message to my colleagues and family: This is something I care deeply about.”
One of the reasons he cares deeply is that a close family member has dealt with a psychiatric disorder.
“While I was growing up I saw my family member struggle with mental illness—and also get very good treatment,” Bonds said. “That influenced my decision to go into medicine. You can treat people and they do get better. My family member has a child and a graduate degree and proves that everybody can contribute to society in some way.”
He has also seen that kind of success at Didi Hirsch and with patients in his Saturday practice, some of whom he has known for more than a decade.
“With psychiatry you have the luxury of sitting down face to face with someone for an hour and talking about their goals and intimate thoughts and fantasies; you truly develop relationships,” Dr. Bonds said. “I have worked with some people for 15 years, and it is wonderful to see their growth—and to grow along with them.”
Dr. Bonds specifically highlighted one Didi Hirsch program that works with people released from prison who have mental illness. The agency has a four-year grant to analyze how best to help those clients.
“Nothing gives me as much gratification as to see people in stress or distress who through solid diagnostics and treatment get better,” he said. “In many ways the brain is the final frontier. To support research and treatment for brain diseases moves us forward as humans, and it is unique to find an organization like Didi Hirsch that truly has its mission above everything else.”