by Susan M. McCurry
Dr. Soo Borson is Professor in the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She is also Director of the University of Washington Memory Disorders Clinic, and head of the ADRC Satellite Core, which focuses on aging and dementia in minority populations. Dr. Borson received her medical degree in 1969 from Stanford University, and completed her residency and geropsychiatry fellowship at the University of Washington.
Dr. Borson’s early career developed at the Seattle Veteran’s Administration Medical Center (VAMC) geropsychiatry unit, where she was particularly interested in the relationship between chronic medical illness, depression, and functional disability. Recognizing that in older adults, chronic illness and depression were often accompanied by cognitive decline, she began what has become a life-long effort to educate herself about the brain: what causes progressive brain disease, how do you recognize and evaluate it, and what we can do to make a difference. Says Borson, “I feel very certain that whatever I do needs to have a payoff for patients. As much as I love scientific inquiry, what really matters is trying to improve patients’ lives.”
Dr. Borson’s current work includes a combination of clinical, research, and teaching activities. She greatly enjoys helping primary care physicians and general psychiatrists as well as medical trainees become interested in taking care of older persons. As described in the research article featured in this issue of Dimensions, Dr. Borson was the creator of the Mini-Cog, a brief cognitive screening instrument that was developed for use in primary care and designed to be more culture-free than previous, more lengthy, cognitive assessment tools.
“I am really proud that the Mini-Cog has been used in clinical trials and epidemiological studies both in the United States and Europe as a simple way to identify cognitive impairment in diverse populations,” says Borson. Dr. Borson has also piloted the use of Cooperative Dementia Care Clinics (CDCC) at the University of Washington, which is a model of care in which persons with dementia and their family members meet in small groups that provide a combination of social support and education, as well as a group forum to discuss ongoing routine medical care issues. More recently, Dr. Borson has become interested in evaluating how screening for cognitive impairment in primary care settings can lead to better referral and medical management of persons at risk for developing dementia. She says, “I continue to take tremendous pleasure from solving complicated clinical riddles.”
When Soo is not at work she enjoys yoga, cooking, reading books, and getting together with friends. She has two sons and three beautiful granddaughters (including twins!) who are a great source of joy and satisfaction.