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Vanderbilt voices featured in Alzheimer’s webcast

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:46 AM


by Paul Govern

On Nov. 18, more than 300 people watched an online panel discussion sponsored by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), hosted by journalist and author Maria Shriver, the organization’s founder, and NBC news anchor Richard Lui. Shriver’s father, Sargent Shriver, died with Alzheimer’s, and Lui’s father lives with the disease.

The five-member panel included Angela Jefferson, PhD, professor of Neurology and founding director of the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center (VMAC), and Pam Cowley, manager of community outreach and engagement at the center.

The event was titled “The Power of Research: The WAM Summit on Why Inclusivity Matters.” Much of the discussion focused on the need to involve more women and minorities of different ages as participants in research on Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Jefferson noted that precursors of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the focus of the Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal cohort study. She emphasized that Alzheimer’s typically has a long pre-symptomatic phase.

“To understand precursors and drivers of the disease, we really need to study people who are younger — in their 40s, 50s, 60s. We study them in a longitudinal fashion before the disease develops and well before symptoms emerge,” Jefferson said.

Cowley, who lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, spoke about efforts at VMAC to engage all segments of society in Alzheimer’s research.

“Certainly, we have a lot of work to do to recruit underrepresented groups into studies,” she said. “I think a lot of it is just like a lack of knowledge about what’s entailed in participating in the study — people think it’s way scarier than it actually is.”

Also among the panelists was actor and author Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who lives in Nashville and whose mother succumbed to a rare form of dementia. Williams-Paisley announced on the webcast that she was joining the Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project as a study participant.

For more on WAM and its mission of educating people about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention, visit the organization’s website.

For more information on participating in Alzheimer’s research, visit the Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project.

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