by Julie Cleveland
Dr. Walter Kukull is professor in the Department of Epidemiology and director of the National Alzheimer Coordinating Center (NACC). He has been on the faculty at the University of Washington since 1985, after he completed his Ph.D. in epidemiology at the UW in 1983.
"Epidemiology is study of the distribution and determinants of disease in populations," states Kukull. "What we try to do is see who gets disease, when, and where, and see if we can find out what is associated with causing it." Currently, Kukull's days are split between teaching and research. His research activities include being the NACC director and maintaining an active role in other research projects. He has been active with the NIA -funded UW Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) and UW Alzheimer's Disease Patient Registry (ADPR) since the mid-1980's.
The NACC began in 1999, and is the data coordinating center for all of the NIA-funded Alzheimer's Centers, of which the UW is one; there are 29 others. The NACC's main purpose is to collect research data from all the centers and to make sure that it is accurate and complete. This Minimum Data Set includes information on all of the subjects that the centers have enrolled since the first ones started (1984). Currently there are about 59,000 participants in that database. In addition NACC funds collaborative research projects between Centers and also provides statistical and database management consulting for the Centers. Kukull gets much satisfaction doing his activities for the NACC. In his words "I enjoy communicating with all of the directors and other colleagues at the Centers, and getting a big perspective on what's going on nationally, and being able to be a part of that."
During fall and winter quarters Kukull teaches classes in introductory epidemiology and neuroepidemiology, respectively. Neuroepidemiology focuses on the distribution and causes of neurological diseases (diseases that are caused by changes in the brain). Kukull remarks, "I really enjoy teaching. Even though I teach the same class every year, I learn something new every time I teach it."