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Why We Can’t Wait: Alzheimer Disease Impact on the African American Community

On August 6, 2019 the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG) hosted the “Why We Can’t Wait: Alzheimer Disease Impact on the African American Community” luncheon at the Betty T. Ferguson Complex in Miami Gardens, FL. Speakers included Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields, founder of The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Dr. Goldie Byrd, Professor and Director of the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest School of Medicine, Dr. Margaret Pericak-Vance, Professor and Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Mr. Keith Gibson, Director of Program Services for the Alzheimer’s Association Southeast Florida Chapter. Mr. Larry Deon Adams, Director of Research Support at the HIHG acted as Master of Ceremonies.

As part of the broader efforts of the HIHG and their partners, events like “Why We Can’t Wait” aim at reaching and educating the community about Alzheimer disease. The goal is to increase African American responsiveness, research participation and family awareness about the disease. In collaboration with Legitimate Matters, this year’s event was included in the filming of a full-length documentary “Alzheimer’s Disease, A Legitimate African American Crisis.” The documentary purposes to raise awareness and educate their audience about Alzheimer disease and the devastating impact it has on African American communities across the United States.

Featured speaker, Dr. Fields gave background on the African American experience in South Florida, and her efforts in recording and preserving the oral and photographic history of the community. The keynote addresses by Drs. Pericak-Vance and Byrd illustrated the impact of health disparities in genomic medicine. More specifically, they discussed their efforts in identifying genetic factors that increase the risk for Alzheimer disease within the Black population in order to detect new targets for drug development. Mr. Gibson’s presentation delineated to the attendees some startling facts on Alzheimer’s disease: currently 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million. Nearly two-thirds of those with Alzheimer Disease are women. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to have Alzheimer disease. Gibson also discussed the support network the Alzheimer’s Association has in place for those living with the disease, caregivers, health care professionals and families.

With the support of several South Florida based community organizations and leaders including the The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida; Alzheimer’s Association Southeast Florida Chapter; Miami Dade – North Mt. Hermon A.M.E. Church, Opa-Locka Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church and Northwest Miami Charles Hadley Park chapters of the AARP; Seaboard Missionary Baptist Association; Antioch Missionary Baptist Church; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Pastor Marc Royster of Harvest for Christ Church & Ministries; Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Betty T. Ferguson; Miami Gardens Mayor, Mr. Oliver Gilbert and the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, this year’s event was an overwhelming success.