Archive | July, 2016

Final Purple Passion Report from #AAIC16

28 Jul

Well, all good things must come to an end. I’m pointing my purple sneakers south and heading back to Virginia.

A few final musings before I go:

The Alzheimer’s Association International Research Grant Program makes a difference! I have always quoted to people “The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research”…but now I have seen some of the recipients, and they are doing great things! Not all of the scientists here have received Alzheimer’s Association funding, but I heard several of them gratefully acknowledge the assistance.

Technology appears to be playing an increasing role in Alzheimer’s…not just the detection and diagnosis, as you might imagine, but even in care and support. I told you about the session I attended the other day (Monday? Who knows any more??) about technology. In addition to the use of computers to increase the engagement of individuals with Alzheimer’s, I heard how telemedicine is being used to make routine follow-up testing and caregiver check-ins more convenient for people in rural/remote areas. And in the Exhibit Hall there are several companies touting various technological offerings…my favorite being the soft, furry baby seal-like “creatures” that respond to being petted and make soft sounds and move their heads; they are used as comfort objects for people in later stages. This morning as I was getting dressed I saw on the local news one of the robots that was developed to detect changes in voice and language patterns to possibly identify signs of early cognitive changes. I know that not all technology being developed will make a difference for people with Alzheimer’s and their families, but it is another piece of the large puzzle.

– I met a gentleman here who has been diagnosed with dementia. He is here with his wife. She was talking to some of us at the Alzheimer’s Association booth, and she told us that he says joining TrialMatch® was the best thing that has happened since he was diagnosed, because he is now enrolled in a trial. He was depressed after his diagnosis, but now he feels like he is doing something to make a difference. That’s powerful.

I joined TrialMatch®a few months ago, and I have so far participated in one trial which uses testing results from healthy volunteers and those with a diagnosis of MCI, hoping to identify markers that can be used for earlier diagnosis. I encourage all Alzheimer’s Association staff to at least investigate the website and read about trials and what is involved. You are under no obligation to participate in any trials, but it is an easy way to find out whether there are trials for which you qualify. Go to

End of commercial!

It has been my genuine delight to be your “eyes and ears” at the 2016 AAIC. I hope if you have not attended AAIC before you will consider it. London in 2017! The experience has given me a much better appreciation for the science aspect of the Association.

Most of all, the experience has given me renewed hope and optimism for scientific discoveries that are going to continue to improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and, ultimately, find the cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. Believe me when I say there are many brilliant people at work across the globe working toward these goals, and the Alzheimer’s Association is playing a leading role in making it happen!

Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association for the privilege of being the Staff Liaison for this year’s conference. Thanks to all of the National staff who made me feel like “one of the team.”

Just a few more photos from my album…

With Purple Passion and Great Hope,

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference®2016 (AAIC®) is the world’s largest forum for the dementia research community. Researchers, clinicians, care providers and students from over 70 countries gather at AAIC to network and discuss the latest dementia study results, theories and discoveries.

AAIC 2016 will be held in Toronto, Canada at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and will feature more than 90 sessions, 1,700 posters and 475 presentations.

Find out more…

Why I Walk Wednesday with Sarah Smith

27 Jul
Why I Walk Wednesday_Smith

This picture taken at 2007 team fundraiser and is of my then 8 year old son, Jacob Smith

Why I Walk
For me, 2016 marks ten years of volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and specifically, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  I have witnessed lots of changes in those ten years.  When I first volunteered as a team captain, my grandmother had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for close to ten years.  I got involved with the Walk as a way to fight the disease that was stealing my beloved grandmother. Alzheimer’s ultimately took my grandmother from us completely and sadly, two more family members have also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

However, these same ten years have also brought many joys and successes. For example, I have witnessed my children learning the importance of volunteering and helping others in need.  I have felt the love and support of family and friends as we rally together against dementia, and I have seen the relief in the faces of caregivers when they learn they are not alone.

For me, the increased awareness of Alzheimer’s disease is one of the highlights of these past ten years.  Nationwide, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event has expanded by leaps and bounds and I could not be more proud!  Last but not least, in my ten years as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, funding for research into the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias has grown exponentially.

I Walk to End Alzheimer’s because I am hopeful for what the next ten years will bring!

Sarah Smith
Volunteer Chair, 2016 Western Tidewater Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Join Sarah at the Walk To End Alzheimer’s

Purple Passion Report #3 from AAIC

27 Jul
Another beautiful day in Toronto, CA…at least, between the hotel and the Convention Center it appears to be!
The “wear comfortable shoes” advice was certainly not a casual suggestion. The Metro Toronto Convention Center is two very large buildings, and the many sessions are spread out across both buildings and multiple floors. I have told several people that I’m pretty sure the walking that is required is part of the Healthy Brain initiative!
Speaking of exercise, one of the presentations at Monday’s Plenary Session provided results of multiple studies focusing on the impact of aerobic exercise on individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Preliminary results suggest that an intensive exercise program, especially when combined with training and ongoing coaching, may slow cognitive decline in those with an MCI diagnosis. Hmmm…combined with the evidence of the positive influence of exercise on brain health in general, my take-away is that I need to enroll in that Zumba class when I get home!
Lest you think your faithful reporter has been simply soaking up knowledge and writing these reports, let me assure you that this is a working gig. No complaints…I’ve loved every minute of it! I’ve had the opportunity to meet staff from the National office while greeting attendees at various special events, assisting at Registration, and helping at the Association booth in the Exhibit Hall. [I use the terms “assisting” and “helping” because that’s what my schedule says! The staff does the real work, and they are very pleasant and friendly.]
Meeting people has been a true highlight. Among them:
– a woman from the UK who shared with me that in dementia studies in the UK, individuals with a dementia routinely play key roles in the investigations, including many times as “co-researchers.”
– a group of VIP guests who are attending AAIC as part of the “Global Immersion” experience. This group includes major donors and past and present members of the National Board of Directors. These individuals are interested in every aspect of the conference and are highly dedicated to the mission of the Association.
There are many opportunities to learn at AAIC. There are Symposia, Plenary sessions, Focused Topic sessions, Featured Research Sessions, and Oral Sessions. And don’t forget the Poster Sessions, where researchers present their work beside their displayed posters in the Exhibit Hall. What a cornucopia of knowledge!
One of the unique opportunities I have had was attending a Press Conference (bright and early at 7:00 a.m.)! Each morning at AAIC members of the press community are invited to hear about a different topic related to Alzheimer’s research. This morning’s topic was the potential use of biomarkers in the nose and eyes as early predictors of cognitive impairment. Apparently, reduced ability to identify smells can be a sign of possible cognitive decline! Evidence was also presented of a strong association between thinning nerve layers in the retina of the eye and poor cognition. The implications of this research are that eventually there may be lower-cost and non-invasive tests available as alternatives to PET scans and lumbar punctures in diagnosing early dementia. You can see some of the press conference and read the press release at:

The first speaker of the Plenary Session was Dr. Tsuneya Ikezu, professor of pharmacology and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, speaking on “Exosomes and Microglia in Tau Propagation.” The title was easy to understand compared to the lecture! I did my best to follow, but it was highly technical and beyond my General Science level of understanding. This is indicative of the amazing scientific minds here at AAIC! It is inspiring to realize how many brilliant scientists are here, all with interest in Alzheimer’s disease. It makes me truly hopeful about the future of research in our field. So much is going on in universities and laboratories around the world…who knows which discovery will lead to the next big breakthrough? And it makes me so proud that the Alzheimer’s Association brings these great thinkers together once a year for this conference.

That’s all for today. I leave for home tomorrow. I will send you one more message before I go.

With Purple Passion and Hope,


The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference®2016 (AAIC®) is the world’s largest forum for the dementia research community. Researchers, clinicians, care providers and students from over 70 countries gather at AAIC to network and discuss the latest dementia study results, theories and discoveries.

AAIC 2016 will be held in Toronto, Canada at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and will feature more than 90 sessions, 1,700 posters and 475 presentations.

Find out more…

Purple Passion Report #2 from AAIC

26 Jul
Wow – am I learning a lot!
Depending on your role in the Association, you may already know these things. But I am finding out not just about AAIC specifically, but about our wonderful organization.
For example, did you know:
  • that we have a Conference Services department (small but mighty) that plans and manages logistics for such amazing events as AAIC (as well as Leadership Summit and the Advocacy Forum)? Let me tell you, this is a fantastic, energetic, HARD WORKING group of people! I’ve had the pleasure of working with these folks this week, and they are so positive, so friendly, and so efficient…I am in awe! Think of the events you plan…then multiply that!
  • that the Alzheimer’s Association awarded $25 million for direct support of research last year? Dr. Carillo announced that staggering fact at the opening Plenary Session this morning!
Let me share some sensory impressions of the past 24 hours:
– the music of dozens of languages and dialects being spoken at once in hallways, on escalators, in the Exhibit Hall. The sounds of old friends reuniting, new alliances being formed, and serious discussions being held. Scientific terminology flying all around me!
CN Tower
– the glorious purple glow of the CN Tower (an iconic landmark of Toronto) last evening. See picture.
– the uplifting sight of men and women, from students to seasoned attendees, of many ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, skin shades, and areas of expertise, walking and talking, sitting in pairs or small groups, huddled together, sharing ideas, debating, collaborating, questioning, expounding, listening.
My first task of the day was to assist with checking in attendees at the “Early Career Mentoring Breakfast.” Most of the more than 100 participants were early career scientists including students, post-doctoral fellows, and early stage investigators; the rest were established scientific leaders who were there to share the wisdom borne of their experience. Harry Johns, in greeting the group, commented that he believes one of the most important aspects of AAIC is the support of these future research leaders, because they represent the cadre who will be making the next wave of advances and discoveries. For me, it was also heartening to see how many of the young scientists were women!
This afternoon I attended one of the Oral Sessions- a panel of six researchers who presented findings from studies related to “Improving Care Electronically and Through the Community,” highlighting the role of technology in dementia care. One of the speakers was from a facility in our chapter area, and she was reporting on a study conducted in conjunction with our local medical school, so it was of special interest to me!
More later!
Your “Cub Reporter” Sherry

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2016 (AAIC®) is the world’s largest forum for the dementia research community. Researchers, clinicians, care providers and students from over 70 countries gather at AAIC to network and discuss the latest dementia study results, theories and discoveries.

AAIC 2016 will be held in Toronto, Canada at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and will feature more than 90 sessions, 1,700 posters and 475 presentations.

Find out more…

Purple Passion Report #1 from Toronto

25 Jul

Dear Alzheimer’s colleagues:
I’m here- in beautiful downtown Toronto- on the first full day of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
I wonder how many of you were like me… I knew AAIC existed, but it didn’t seem to have much to do with my day-to-day work at the Association. I mean, it’s international (not only in location but in scope), and it’s about science…something I respect very much but certainly can’t claim as an area of expertise. Well, I’m here to tell you, it is an experience that will enlarge your view of the Association’s standing in the global community, and pump up your Purple Pride! 5000 people in one place, with common goals and interests: to share knowledge and advance research focused on the cause, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Alzheimer’s and related disorders…brought together by our Association!

First, Toronto has done an amazing job of making AAIC feel welcome. See the sign below? It was at the airport, and was just the first one I encountered. Can’t wait to show you in my next report what they are doing to honor us tonight…stay tuned!

YESTERDAY I attended preconference sessions called Professional Interest Areas (PIA). A PIA is an assembly of ISTAART* members with common subspecialties or interests. The first one I attended, Reserve, Resilience, and Protective Factors, had such an interesting format: 90 minutes worth of 3-minute presentations- speed dating for scientists! As probably the only non-scientist or clinician in the room, I know a lot of the technical terms and jargon went over my head, but I did understand that the studies reinforced our current knowledge about maintaining brain health…that education, physical activity, and reduction in stress appear to be good for our brains!

Plenary opening

THIS MORNING the conference started with a light, music, and acrobatic extravaganza! Cirque du Soleil (Toronto style) meets purple conference! (See below) Alzheimer’s Association President and CEO Harry Johns welcomed us, and Dr. Maria Carillo, the Association’s Chief Science Officer, also greeted the assembled attendees and announced the awards. Several distinguished researchers won awards, but the one that touched me the most was the couple, Jerre and Mary Joy Stead, who were given the Jerome H. Stone Philanthropy Award for Alzheimer’s research. These two individuals are incredible supporters of Alzheimer’s research. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Stead shared some of their philosophy, and he asked the researchers in the room to remember that “Impossible is only an opinion.” I liked that!

More to come, colleagues…but right now I’ve got to go help get thousands of people to board shuttle buses to a reception!

With excitement and passion for our cause,
Sherry (Your Staff Liaison)

*International Society for the Advancement of Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment- a professional society for individuals interested in Alzheimer’s and dementia science

On her first day at AAIC Sherry becomes a “tweet” on the big screen.


Why I Walk Wednesday with Tiffany Elston

20 Jul

Why I Walk Wednesday_Elston

We walk in honor of my mom (Nana) who was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s three years ago at the age of 49. 

We walk in support of my dad (Papa) and other caregivers out there that give so much of their time to care for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

We walk in memory of all those who have lost their battle with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, including my Grandma Tink.

And we walk to show our commitment to the cause and help in raising funds for the much needed research, in hopes that one day there is a cure.

Alzheimer’s knows no bounds and everyone is at risk! The Walk helps you realize you are not alone and together we can make a difference.

Please join with me and register for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s!

Why I Walk Wednesday with John Broadwater

13 Jul

Why I Walk Wednesday_Broadwater

I walk in honor of my wife, Sharon, who was stricken with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. Her mother and a mother’s brother died from this rare form of dementia that robs active, productive people of their memory and abilities as young as their forties— or even earlier. A very bright woman, Sharon was a biology professor at William and Mary when this terrible disease struck her. She was 62 when diagnosed, but by then she had already taken early retirement because she felt she was no longer able to perform at her previous level. She can no longer care for herself and is living at Clare Bridge, a secure dementia unit at Brookdale Senior Living, Williamsburg. I visit her every day and even though I no longer see a spark of recognition in her face, I believe she’s still in there, somewhere. My heart aches because she no longer recognizes her daughters or grandsons, and is missing out on sharing their lives. My heart aches because I miss her so much.

By participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I’m hoping to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer research, care and support. I walk to help reclaim the future for millions. I walk because I have come to know and care for many brave, devoted families who are dealing with a loved one’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I walk because Alzheimer’s is a cruel, fatal disease for which there is neither a cure nor even an effective treatment, and funds for research are woefully scarce.

Please join with me and Walk to End Alzheimer’s!