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WSU Health Sciences Spokane Extra Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine

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.”

Medical school accreditation a great day in WSU’s history

WSU Medical School

WSU Medical School

Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine Dean John Tomkowiak, center, celebrates with Sen. Michael Baumgartner (left) and Rep. Marcus Riccelli (right)

(This story appears in the latest edition of the WSU Spokane Magazine)

By Doug Nadvornick

In the short history of Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, there have been several momentous events.

The most important and the one that prompted high fives and whoops and hollers heard all the way across the state was the October 19 decision by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, or LCME – the allopathic medical school accrediting agency in the U.S. and Canada – to grant preliminary accreditation to the college so that it may accept medical students.

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Health Sciences Update episodes focus on medical school, pharmacy college and nursing research

WSU Spokane

The latest batch of Health Sciences Update episodes are now available and can soon be seen on Comcast channel 17 in Spokane at 8:00 a.m., noon and 8:00 p.m.

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Former Indian Health Service director brings lifelong mission to Spokane

Yvette Roubideaux

Yvette Roubideaux

(This story appears in the latest edition of the WSU Spokane Magazine)

By Terren Roloff

As an American Indian teenager in Rapid City, South Dakota, Yvette Roubideaux (pictured above, second from left) experienced long waits when she went to the doctor at the local Indian Health Service clinic.

She heard from relatives who were frustrated at not knowing which physician they would see, and who were not happy with their care. 

It got her to thinking that maybe she could be one of the solutions to the problems in Indian health.

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Great expectations

Highway Sign

Highway Sign

(This story appears in the latest edition of the WSU Spokane Magazine)

By Doug Nadvornick

When Elson Floyd envisioned a Washington State University medical school, he had big dreams.

He spoke about training more doctors in Washington to alleviate the state’s physician shortage and about using WSU’s stature as the state’s land-grant university to extend the new school’s influence into every county.

Nearly a year after his passing as the new school that now bears Floyd’s name is in the process of being created, the expectations are high. Prospective students are contacting the school to find out when they can apply. Several of Washington’s health care providers have signed agreements to teach WSU medical students in clinical rotations. And Founding Dean John Tomkowiak, M.D., is leading the effort to give the state’s newest publicly-funded medical school its own unique identity.

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