But he never forgot his beginnings. Wanting to share his success, Brandt worked as a clinical associate professor of dermatology at UM and kept close ties to the medical school community until his suicide in 2015.
In the wake of his death — which will be five years ago this Saturday — his colleagues created the Dr. Brandt Foundation to normalize conversations about mental health, depression, and suicide. Now, as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) puts a stranglehold on South Florida, the foundation is continuing to honor Brandt's bond with his alma mater by donating masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to the University of Miami Health System.
"Dr. Brandt had a close connection with the University of Miami, so I called them and said, 'Guys, what can we do to help you? Because I know you're on the front lines.'" says Stephane Colleu, CEO of the foundation.
When the university requested personal protective equipment (PPE), the foundation kicked into gear to begin raising funds. Through April 15, the Dr. Brandt Foundation will donate $1 toward the purchase of PPE for every Instagram post that includes the hashtag #SayILoveYou.
"Hopefully, we can also share an uplifting message to healthcare providers," Colleu says.
Heading into April, the foundation had planned a campaign targeted at the LGBTQ community that would be centered on Miami Beach Pride. But as the spread of the new coronavirus forced Pride to be canceled, the team decided to pivot.View this post on Instagram
#SAYILOVEYOU to those at the front line of this pandemic!? ? These are challenging times that everyone is facing, and here at Dr. Brandt we want to use our platform to say thank you and I Love You to those who need and deserve to hear it. We all know people who are putting their lives at risk or have found themselves in tough times so we are challenging you to SPREAD THE LOVE. ? ? Starting today, post a heart and heartfelt thank you, I Love You or an uplifting message to a loved one on IG using #SayILoveYou. Make sure to tag @drbrandt, and @drbrandtfoundation. Then nominate 5 other people to do the same! ? ? For every share, Dr. Brandt Skincare will donate $1 to the Dr. Brandt Foundation to provide the University of Miami Health System personal protective equipment including masks, face shields and gloves to protect physicians who are on the front lines caring for those in need.? ? #drbrandtfoundation @drbrandt
"I told the team: 'Nothing that we planned is going to happen as expected, but right now mental health is more important for everyone worldwide than ever,'" Colleu recounts.
To that end, the foundation has been working side-by-side with the Dr. Brandt Skincare team to host daily Instagram Live sessions that offer guided meditation, fitness routines, and cooking lessons. Colleu and his colleagues hope to generate further awareness about depression and suicide in the coming months to support vulnerable populations during a time of isolation and tremendous anxiety.
Colleu says that if Brandt were still alive, he can imagine the doctor taking round-the-clock calls to soothe patients' anxieties and offer a sympathetic ear. And he believes Brandt would find a way to devote his visionary thinking to the crisis to help as many people as possible.
"The guy was a real genius, so creative. I wish I would know exactly [what he would do] because probably I would do something more fantastic than what we are doing," Colleu says. "He was very charitable with his time and his resources. Nothing meant more to him than his patients — the empathy that he had was extraordinary. This is why he was so successful and why people fell in love with him."