by Rebecca Logsdon, Ph.D.
Dr. Mary DesRosier, a family practice physician from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana, recently visited the ADRC to learn more about working with individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Dr. DesRosier, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, grew up in Browning, then graduated from the University of Washington, went on to medical school in South Dakota, and returned to practice medicine on her reservation. She noted that working with patients with dementia is especially challenging in the rural area where she practices, where older adults often live in isolated settings and dementia is not well understood or accepted. Since she grew up on the reservation, "Dr. Mary" knows most of her patients and their families well, and is able to provide education and assistance that might not be accepted from an "outsider." While she was here, she attended the neuropathology case conference, to get a better understanding of the physiological changes in the brain that occur in AD. She also observed the Harborview Geriatric Clinic, the UW Geriatric and Family Services Clinic, and Ida Culver Broadview Retirement Center, and took back some useful evaluation tools as well as clinical knowledge to help her in her practice. In return UW faculty benefited from her knowledge and experience in working with Native American elders in a rural setting.
This visit was part of an ongoing exchange program that began over a year ago, when Mary Vielle, a nurse for the Blackfeet Tribe, contacted Dr. Linda Teri about obtaining educational materials to use in their elder care program. Last June, Dr. Rebecca Logsdon visited the reservation in Browning, and conducted two workshops, one for medical staff at the Indian Health Service Hospital, and one for community home health care providers and concerned family members and friends. Educational outreach and information dissemination is an important mission of the ADRC; it provides a bridge between research and practice that benefits individual with AD and their caregivers everywhere.