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WSU Health Sciences Spokane Extra

WSU researchers to close gaps in Alzheimer’s disease research

Image shows a model of a brain and neuron

Researchers at Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane will spend the next three years conducting research aimed at improving brain health in older adults, thanks to nearly $500,000 in grants funded by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The three grants awarded to WSU will support three research projects that will close gaps in Alzheimer’s disease research while addressing inequities in Alzheimer’s disease risk and treatment in U.S. Native populations.

Estimates say that as many as one in three Native American elders will develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and the number of American Indian/Alaska Native people aged 65 and older living with dementia is expected to quadruple by 2060. Meanwhile, lack of representation in research studies and barriers to Alzheimer’s and dementia care are hampering efforts to reduce or eliminate Alzheimer’s-related disparities in this population.

Portrait photo of Anna Zamora KapoorAs part of her research on health disparities and race and ethnicity, Anna Zamora-Kapoor will conduct a study on the link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—a disorder that causes the airway to collapse during sleep and disrupts normal breathing—and cognitive performance in American Indians. An assistant professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and a researcher in the WSU Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH), Zamora-Kapoor has received a $150,000 Alzheimer’s Association award for the project.

One in three men and one in six women over the age of 50 suffer from OSA, and recent research has suggested that OSA increases the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Obesity is the strongest risk factor for OSA, and while American Indians have the highest obesity rates in the country, they are underrepresented in OSA research studies,” Zamora-Kapoor said.

To address this gap, she will conduct an analysis of data from three previously conducted, federally funded studies on cerebrovascular disease in American Indians, sleep-disordered breathing, and health-related risk behaviors.

Portrait image of Lexie JacksonAnother $174,034 in funding goes to IREACH scientist and College of Medicine postdoctoral research associate Lexie Jackson, whose project focuses on tailoring an online intervention to caregivers of Native Hawaiian adults living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. To that end, Jackson and her team will adapt the intervention—known as Tele-Savvy—to include Native Hawaiian cultural values. They will evaluate the effectiveness of the adapted intervention in a pilot test of 50 caregivers of Native Hawaiian adults living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias in the Pacific Northwest.

The final Alzheimer’s Association grant funds a study into how type 1 diabetes might heighten the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Portrait image of Luciana Mascarenhas Fonseca“There is some evidence suggesting that older adults with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” said Luciana Mascarenhas Fonseca, the study’s principal investigator and a postdoctoral research associate in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “However, we don’t yet know what factors or underlying neurobiology might contribute to that elevated risk, which is what this study seeks to identify,”

The $173,906 Alzheimer’s Association grant allows her to add cognition assessment, risk factor analysis, and blood sample collection to an ongoing study of middle-aged and older adults with type 1 diabetes led by College of Medicine associate professor Naomi Chaytor. Mascarenhas Fonseca will analyze the collected study data to examine the relationships between cognitive variability, Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in blood plasma, and vascular risk factors related to type 1 diabetes.

“These projects will help advance research that will address the disproportionate burden of Alzheimer’s and dementia on diverse and underserved populations, promote the use of lifestyle interventions to aid prevention, and increase our understanding of risk factors and biomarkers,” said Joel Loiacono, the Alzheimer’s Association’s regional director for eastern Washington and north Idaho. “As a WSU alumnus, I am especially proud of the Alzheimer’s Association’s support of WSU as we work together to end Alzheimer’s and all dementia.”

Indigenous-developed simulation space planned for WSU Spokane with Bank of America grant

Washington State University Spokane’s Native American Health Sciences (NAHS) program will build what is believed to be the nation’s first indigenous-developed and instructed clinical simulation space at the Center for Native American Health on campus.

NAHS will construct 1,045 square feet of clinical space to include a patient exam simulation room, a hospital patient exam simulation room, a teaching and mediation room, and storage for the clinical simulation spaces and accompanying healing modalities.

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Spokane Public Library’s Bloomberg Terminal temporarily moved to sp3nw offices in U-District’s Ignite Building

Bloomberg Terminal Group
The Spokane Public Library and sp3nw, WSU Health Sciences Spokane’s early-stage life science business incubator, are pleased to announce that sp3nw will host the Spokane Public Library’s Bloomberg Terminal in the Ignite Building at 120 N. Pine St. until the reopening of the Spokane Public Library’s Central Library (reopening date anticipated to occur in spring, 2022).

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IREACH scientist Ka’imi Sinclair to be honored with WSU Faculty Excellence Award

Ka'imi Sinclair

Ka'imi SinclairKa’imi Sinclair, PhD, associate professor in the Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) and WSU’s College of Nursing, has been announced as the 2020 – 21 recipient of the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Outreach and Engagement. The award celebrates WSU faculty who demonstrate their commitment to public service excellence through exceptional accomplishments that engage the broader public in transformative research and education.

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Center for Native American Health celebrates its soft opening


At the tail end of 2020, our robust Native American Health Sciences program released its newsletter, Changing the Face of Health Care. Among the many wonderful stories was one on the then-under construction Center for Native American Health.

Now, as you can see in the video above, the Center is celebrating its soft opening. COVID-19 has prevented us from celebrating in person and hosting gatherings, but those will return in due time – and we can’t wait!

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Pharmacy’s Angie Stewart to lead interprofessional coalition in Yakima

Angie StewartWSU Health Sciences Spokane is pleased to announce that College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science’s Angie Stewart was selected as incoming executive director for the Yakima Valley Interprofessional Practice and Education Collaborative (YVIPEC).

Currently an associate dean for WSU’s Doctor of Pharmacy program in Yakima and an associate professor in Pharmacotherapy, Stewart has been an integral part of the YVIPEC since its inception, serving on various committees and leadership positions. Her experience will help build on progress made over the past few years and lead to greater impacts as the Collaborative begins its next strategic plan.

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Glimmers of Hope During Native American Heritage Month


Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, WSU Native American Health Sciences still able to deliver programs remotely, impacting the lives, minds, and hearts of many

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time for WSU Native American Health Sciences (NAHS) to share progress, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, specific to its continued quest to increase the number of Natives and indigenous peoples practicing in health care.

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WSU Spokane Information Technology team keeps the engine running as campus personnel go remote

IT team

Photo taken pre-COVID

Things were mostly normal at WSU Health Sciences Spokane (WSU Spokane) the week of March 19. Spring Break was right around the corner and plans were in place for various end-of-academic-year events, including commencement.

But then, as we all know, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) unleashed itself on the globe and things changed dramatically.

Students pivoted to remote learning once they “returned” from Spring Break, and most on-campus personnel transitioned to working remotely.

For the Information Technology (IT) department, this was a quick, major shift. Fast forward seven months and students are still attending remote classes and most employees are still working from home.

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Ten WSU Spokane highlights since 2010

10 year graphic
A decade ago, Washington State University Spokane was a budding campus with a bright future. WSU’s Board of Regents solidified this on Sept. 3, 2010 by officially designating WSU Spokane as the university’s health sciences campus.

The designation was an obvious one—the College of Nursing was already a mainstay on campus, and WSU’s affiliation, in partnership with the University of Washington, with the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) Regional Medical Education Program, was two years old. The campus’ Sleep and Performance Research Center was conducting world-changing research, and the departments of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology and Speech and Hearing Sciences were already sending graduates into the workplace.

The Regents’ vote put in action a focused mission that is paying major dividends today. A lot has happened in the last 10 years, with WSU Health Sciences Spokane on a healthy path for the future. Let’s look at 10 major accomplishments of the past 10 years. Just like our post on 10 research highlights, this is not a ranking, but rather an overview of 10 notable achievements.

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