Texas doctor with a strong family history of Alzheimer’s becomes advocate for research

NARRATOR: Dr. Dewayne Nash envisioned his retirement years as something down the road–a time when he would travel with his wife and spend time in his garden. Dr. DEWAYNE NASH, Research Study Volunteer: “I come out here, it’s my moment of Zen. if you will. I come out here and, like it took me 2 or 3 hours to plant this bed of onions, and I just sit here and I think about everything.” NARRATOR: But after 25 years as a family physician, his retirement came sooner than expected.
DR. NASH: “Everyday I think about, about the Alzheimer’s. [strumming music plays] I have the memories of my mother and my father and my brother and my aunt and my grandmother.” NARRATOR: Because of his family’s medical history, Dr. Nash decided to be proactive about the disease that has no cure. KRISTIN MARTIN-COOK, CLINICAL RESEARCH COORDINATOR: “Hey, good to see you again.” NARRATOR: He volunteered for a groundbreaking study at UT Southwestern’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. DR. NASH: “I wanted to get involved. I wanted to be monitored so that if I had a problem then I was going to quit practicing medicine. I’ve always said that. I wanted to feel like I could be involved in some way.” DOCTOR: “Follow my finger with your eyes.” NARRATOR: Dr. Nash’s plan was to be a healthy or control subject. But when he went in for testing, he knew that his life was about to change dramatically. DR. NASH: “I came up and had the test done and I knew when I was in that room back there that I had a problem. I didn’t care what they told me. I knew I had a problem.” NARRATOR: The diagnosis was mild cognitive impairment. Dr. Nash had always told himself that he would retire at the first sign of memory problems. He told his staff and patients goodbye, but his job as an advocate for Alzheimer’s research had just begun. KRISTIN: “He really represents what the face of memory disorders, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease is becoming. It’s no longer the person who can’t function in anything and goes into a doctor and you can readily tell that they have a significant dementia.” NARRATOR: Testing showed that Dr. Nash had very subtle impairment making him an ideal candidate for current Alzheimer’s studies. The goal of today’s research is to identify the earliest changes in the brain through imaging, biomarkers such as blood or cerebral spinal fluid, and cognitive testing. DR. NASH: “To participate in a study, you feel like you’re helping other people and providing a source of information that can be used in the future for people to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, a way to treat it, a way to prevent it.” BARB DAVIS, CLINICAL RESEARCH COORDINATOR: “You know it’s no small thing when someone has been coming to our clinic for years to help with research and they say something like, you know, ‘This is like our second family here at the clinic,’ and it’s because they know they can call a coordinator at any time.” KRISTIN: “It’s the only way that we’re going to get better answers and better treatments for the future, for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, for every disease that you can think of.” NARRATOR: Until those answers come, Dr. Nash is keeping busy— he blogs about his gardening… DR. NASH (reading from his blog): “My close relative younger than me has had Alzheimer’s disease for now five years…(fades out)”
NARRATOR: And his journey with Alzheimer’s. He wants to do everything he can to educate and reach out to those who are also living with the prospect of the disease. Dr. Nash and his wife JoAnn have refocused their lives on what’s most important to them. JO ANN NASH: “We just take every day, don’t sweat the small stuff, we just feel very fortunate, you know, we have a great life.” DR. NASH: “One day I won’t be able to plant this or plan it or enjoy it anymore. I think about it everyday that I’m out here. I know that one day that’s going to happen, but my wife and I have learned to enjoy the moment.”

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