Long Island AlzHeimer’s Foundation presents to hofstra medical students

Hofstra Medical Students

The Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation (LIAF) was recently invited to participate in a session for second-year medical students at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine at Hofstra University. The session, part of a weekly series in the students' current neurology/psychiatry rotation, presented information related to Alzheimer's disease, from a family member's perspective and from a LIAF staff member. Dr. Allan Vann, who cared for his wife, Clare, after her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease 10 years ago, offered a personal look at the toll the disease has on families and the importance of support groups. LIAF Social Worker Melissa Katz spoke of LIAF's mission to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer's disease, and related forms of dementia, and their families. She outlined the programs and services LIAF has available at each stage of the disease.

Second-year medical student Brian Emmert, whose father, Brian Emmert, Sr., serves on LIAF's Board of Trustees, initially discussed the possibility of a presentation by LIAF with Lauren Block, MD, Liaison, MD MPH Program for Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. Brian has first-hand knowledge of the effect an Alzheimer's diagnosis has on families, from volunteering at LIAF over several summers and from his grandfather, who had Alzheimer's disease. He believes future doctors gain valuable insight by learning about a disease from a personal perspective; by becoming more aware that a physician does not just treat the patient, but the entire family. "They (the students) got ideas of what works and what doesn't. How to talk with families. It's so important to learn about the experiences of the caregivers, to treat the family and the patient. It's just as important as learning about the clinical side. Allan Vann was an amazing speaker. He gave us a view into the caregiver's life, as well as the patient's."

Dr. Block praised the information, as well, saying, "It was a good introduction to the students on the different stages of Alzheimer's and the effects on the patients and their caregivers. It offered a unique perspective. The feedback from the students was great."

Dr. Vann's wife passed away last April. He and LIAF were connected through much of his and his wife's journey with Alzheimer's. A staunch advocate for caregivers, Dr. Vann participated on a caregivers' panel with LIAF about five years ago. His presentation at Hofstra was his first time speaking before medical students, and, as he had on the LIAF panel, spoke about his caregiver role and the importance of being in a support group. Dr. Vann emphasized the need for future doctors to advocate for change in this respect.

Melissa Katz, who is the Director of Early Stage Programs/In-Home Respite at LIAF, spoke about the various stages of the disease's progression and gave the medical students an overview of LIAF. "I talked about all of our different programs that we have available throughout each stage, the caregiver support groups we have for the spouses and adult children of individuals with Alzheimer's, the Brain Fitness sessions we have and about our in-home respite." She also stressed that LIAF's social workers provide continuous support and are always available by phone. "One thing I focused on was, that even though there are over 50,000 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties living with Alzheimer's, naturally many families feel like they're the only ones going through it, or still experience the stigma attached to the disease. At LIAF, we work to relieve this feeling."

Ms. Katz thanked Dr. Vann for sharing tips on how to approach individuals with Alzheimer's and his emphasis on the need for care for the caregivers. She says, "He told the students how important it is for caregivers to have a safe place to discuss their feelings on how difficult the journey is. He told them it helps to realize that everyone in the support group is walking in the same shoes and can share advice with each other confidentially."

Caption: Dr. Allan Vann and LIAF Social Worker Melissa Katz (3rd and 4th from left) presented information on Alzheimer's disease at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine to second-year medical students, including Brian Emmert, 2nd from left. They were welcomed by Hofstra Professor Maya Frankfurt, PhD, Human Condition course director, (far left) and Northwell's Dr. Lauren Block, Humanities in Medical Ethics program coordinator.

 

For more information about the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, please contact Nancy Leghart, Director of External Affairs at nleghart@liaf.org or (516)767-6856 ext. 28. To schedule an intake, please contact Melissa Katz, Director of Early Stage/In-Home Respite at mkatz@liaf.org or call (516) 767-6856 ext. 14.

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For 29 years, LIAF has been providing supportive community-based services to Alzheimer’s families on Long Island. LIAF offers critically needed social adult day programs for individuals facing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers. LIAF takes considerable pride in its pioneering role in the development of cutting edge services that foster the independence, dignity, well-being and safety of individuals with Alzheimer’s. For information call (516) 767-6856 or visit www.liaf.org