ASU professor heading up free Alzheimer’s event to bring together patients, caregivers, family members

October 3, 2018

Connecting patients, caregivers and family members with resources and research is the goal behind an annual public conference hosted by the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium.  

This year, David Coon, associate dean and professor at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation is organizing and emceeing the event. He’s also a member of the consortium and respected researcher and expert in this field.  Stock Image of hands folded over knee Download Full Image

Coon says Alzheimer’s is now the fourth leading cause of death in the state of Arizona, and the disease does not discriminate. 

According to 2018 data released by the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s; by 2050, someone will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

There is no cure but researchers and top scientists, many of whom are part of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, are working on advances in prevention and treatment and toward finding a cure.

It’s that ongoing work and recent findings that will be shared at the upcoming conference on Wednesday, Oct. 31 in Phoenix. We spoke with Coon to find out what else attendees can expect.

Question: How is this conference different from other conferences on the topic?

Answer: What makes this unique is the fact that there are a number of scientists from this one-of-a-kind statewide consortium that are slated to speak and answer questions.These are people that are leading the fight in many ways throughout the nation in terms of treatment, care and cure as well as addressing assistance for family caregivers. Each year the speakers who share their research change, so attendees are really exposed to a wide range of topics and the newest research.

Q: Who will be speaking at this year’s conference and what will they be talking about?

A: We have a really well-rounded group this year. Dr. Bryan Woodruff from Mayo Clinic will be speaking and he’ll be focusing on the latest advances in prevention, treatment and care. Leslie Baxter from the Barrow Neurological Institute will also join the panel. Matt Huentelman from TGen will talk about MindCrowd, a first-of-its-kind brain study. Finally, I’ll be updating some of my research around proven interventions to help with stress and mood in both people impacted with the diseases as well as their family caregivers. The presentations will be capped at about 25 minutes but we’ll have plenty of time for questions afterward.

Q: Who should look into attending?

A: This conference is for people in the early stages of Alzheimer's or related dementias, their family caregivers and the providers who serve them. So that includes health care and social service providers that assist the families impacted. But really, anyone who has an interest is welcome too, there are very few people who haven’t been affected in some way by this disease.

Q: What do you hope attendees will come away with from this event?

A: What I hope they walk away with is an understanding of advances and what’s going on in their community in terms of research. Arizona really is leading the nation on that front. Additionally, I hope they recognize all the opportunities available here to have their voices heard in research. It is critically important that we have people engaged so that we can continue to advance treatment, prevention and ultimately find a cure. Finally, I want them to leave knowing that there is a lot of support and programming available for family caregivers — to help deal with all the challenges that come up in that role.

The 2018 Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium Public Conference will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, at the Black Canyon Conference Center in Phoenix.

Find more information and register to attend this free event. Seating is limited.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


ASU brings home 2 Emmys

Commercial on ASU ocean research, NASA Psyche mission film win Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards

October 3, 2018

“By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Without the ocean, we wouldn’t have life.”

It’s a powerful opening statement, delivered by Charles Rolsky in the initial sequence of the award-winning commercial “Oceans.” The minute-long segment was produced for Arizona State University and directed by Josh Soskin. At the 2018 regional Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, held Sept. 22, it won the category of “Commercial – Single Spot.” "Oceans," a minute-long commercial produced by ASU, features graduate student Charles Rolsky (seen in the photo) and Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering. It won a regional Emmy. Download Full Image

A second Emmy went to the ASU-led NASA Psyche Mission’s official videography team, True Story Films, for “Best Director – Short Form” for the mission film, “Journey to the Metal World.”

“Often times, people just think of colleges in terms of rankings, like the No. 1 in innovation. But there is so much more to our story,” said Jill Andrews, ASU’s managing director of creative services and marketing and executive producer of ASU’s commercials.

“At ASU, we are a community of innovators, each unique and with something special to give to this world. The relationship developed by Charlie and Rolf exemplifies the unique ASU experience — where you are supported and empowered to bring your ideas to light. It is where we pair international-caliber research resources with caring faculty mentors who are there beside you and helping you unlock more than what you even imagined possible. That is why Rolf and Charlie were selected for this piece.”

According to Andrews, Soskin and Grace Jackson “are the creative force that enables us to tell authentic and true stories that have a lot of heart.”

This is their second ASU Emmy, as they also produced the mini documentary “33 Buckets,” which features an ASU engineering student and social entrepreneur Mark Huerta and accompanies a nonprofit organization seeking to provide clean water to developing countries.

Andrews said, “We are working on a new film and hope to have it out in the next few months.”

Rolsky found his role as an “actor” to be quite an adventure.

“The director, Josh Soskin, had a vision for how everything should be carried out,” Rolsky said. “The scientists are really good in the lab, but we really suck at other things, such as any type of creative direction.”

Rolsky said he was thrilled with the creative team’s talent and ability to convey the message of the commercial, thus enabling viewers to realize that the barriers to achievements in science are fewer and more scalable than one might expect.

“Science has a stigma of being really nerdy and lame, but it makes it look really cool, which is what it is most of the time,” Rolsky said. “The crew earned that Emmy in every capacity of that project. It’s one of the most cohesive environments that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Rolsky is a graduate student in the School of Life Sciences. He does his research at the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering. He’s clear on his goal: “Basically, I’m trying to heal the world’s oceans. That may sound crazy, but being in a place like ASU allows you to take these big leaps.”

Rolsky’s journey at ASU began in 2006 as an undergrad. Despite not being a self-described “straight-A, perfect honor roll” student and changing his degree several times, Rolsky found his niche when he was looking for a PhD adviser and connected with Halden.

“He invests in people, which is very unique and rare in academia,” Rolsky said. “Rolf was really special because when I met with him, he didn’t really care about numbers or anything. He just wanted to know about me.”

The two scientists bonded over having similar research interests and aspirations. Working together at the Biodesign Institute, there is a focus on interdisciplinary research and collaboration, based on the viewpoint that the world’s problems cannot be solved in a vacuum. Practical solutions are rarely produced by solo efforts, as Rolsky notes in the video, and he appreciated Halden’s mindset, which was focused on discovering solutions.

“He’s always looking ahead at big-picture stuff — not only can you isolate a problem, but how do you fix it?” Rolsky said. “You might be able to isolate that something’s going wrong in a certain ecosystem, but that’s only half the battle. The other half is actually remediating it or creating a strategy, so it can get fixed or improved. I’m still learning from him, but those are some of the things that I value highly.”

“We started out by creating a method to identify very, very small plastic particles and study their degradation in different environments,” Rolsky said. “That opened the door for us to collaborate with a lot of different people around the world so we could look at fibers found floating in California waters or looking at bird poop for microfiber pollution.”

Rolsky’s research has shown him the far-reaching effects of widespread plastic pollution, including indications of plastic contamination in seabirds that live “nowhere near humans” and in killer whales.

Most recently, Halden and Rolsky raised awareness about improper disposal of contact lenses and its potential threat to the environment.

The Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards are presented by the Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which is dedicated to honoring excellence in television. It represents television professionals from all disciplines of the industry, serving as a common meeting ground for individuals dedicated to advancing the art and science of television. The Southwest Chapter region serves Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and El Centro, California.