James and Alison Derrick.

James and Alison Derrick

James and Alison Derrick Musculoskeletal Resource Fund

By S. A. Unger

Western New York businessman James W. Derrick and his wife, Alison, have established the James and Alison Derrick Musculoskeletal Resource Fund in the Department of Neurosurgery in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Their generous gift supports research aimed at improving treatments for disorders and injury to the bones and muscles, a leading cause of disability in the U.S.

James is chairman of the board for Derrick Corporation, a Buffalo-based family company that focuses on innovative mechanical separation needs for industries worldwide. Growing up, James was an active and avid athlete. At 6’7”, he played basketball in high school and college and in the 1970s, participated in long-distance running events. “Over time, I beat up my back pretty good,” he says.

About ten years ago, James began experiencing pain in his lower back. “It got to a point where I literally couldn’t walk our two black labs more than a couple of hundred feet,” he says.

James went to see Elad Levy, MD, MBA, professor of radiology and neurosurgery and the L. Nelson Hopkins, MD Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, who treated him for lumbar stenosis.

“I really appreciate everything Dr. Levy did for me,” says James. “He’s incredibly conservative. He said ‘I’m going to get you through this surgery and life without any hardware,’ and to date he has!”

In 2021, James began experiencing back pain again and returned to see Levy, along with Jeffrey Mullin, MD, MBA, assistant professor of neurosurgery in the Jacobs School. After the physicians reviewed MRI images of James’s back, they told him that the surgery that had been performed a decade earlier was holding up well and that no further surgery was required.

“It turns out, the major culprit for the nagging pain I was having is my right hip,” James explains.

During this second consultation, Levy and Mullin told James about research being conducted at UB in collaboration with colleagues at the Jacobs Institute that is aimed at improving outcomes for individuals affected by neurovascular and musculoskeletal disorders. They invited James on several lab tours. On the most recent tour, he observed UB medical student Jenny Mao participating in a research project led by Mullin that seeks to create a 3D model of the spine that moves and reacts in the same way as living tissue.

“One of the things that intrigued me during these tours is how really dedicated this group is and how well they work together,” James notes. “I was also most impressed with the staff and student, Jenny Mao, and the experience she is getting.

“My wife and I are both excited to participate in this program, and to help fund further research.”