While some were having holiday lunches and others were shopping for perfect gifts, the members of the Baylor Health Care System Foundation board gathered at the Baylor Charles S. Sammons Cancer Center on Tuesday, December 9, for a recap of the past, a look at the future and to learn about a disease that is growing in numbers.
The tables in the room were so filled with folks like Alan Engstrom, Marti Carlin, Jill Smith, Annette Simmons, Barry Andrews, Lisa Sharon, Laree Hulshoff, Karen Key, Pierce Allman, Dee Simmons, Leonard Riggs Jr., Trisha Wilson, Nancy Dedman, Sara Losinger, Joe Staley, Alicia Landry, Lue Taff, Norm Lofgren, Richard Bernstein, Terry Conner and Richard Eiseman, that some folks had to be seated in single chairs at the back of the room. According to Board Chair Margo Goodwin, the attendance was 30% more than years past and she suspected it was due to the topic — Baylor’s Memory Center’s involvement with Alzheimer’s.
But before the discussion took place, Margo reported on some of the past fundraising events for the Foundation including the walloping $2.4M raised at the recent Celebrating Women co-chaired by Lisa Longino and Daffan Nettle. Margo announced that Nancy Carter would be chairing the 2015 luncheon and she was probably already “dreaming and scheming for next year’s lunch.”
She also pointed out that Lue Taff of The Senior Source was at the luncheon, due to Baylor’s relationship with The Senior Source and the day’s topic.
Following the invocation by Glenn Callison, Foundation President Robin Robinson welcomed the guests and revealed that Baylor Health Care System and Baylor Scott & White Health CEO Joel Allison had been selected as CEO of the Years by his peers.
He then introduced a new event that would be taking place on Wednesday, March 4 — “Cancer Blows.” To explain the background of the event, Robin invited to the podium Dallas Symphony Orchestra Principle Trumpet player Ryan Anthony, who told of his life-threatening experience with multiple myeloma and working with Baylor in his treatments.
In concluding his remarks, Ryan asked Event Co-Chair D’Andra Simmons to join him at the podium. She told the guests that when she was first approached about chairing with her husband Jeremy the Baylor Health Care System Foundation and Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation fundraiser, she said she was just so busy. But upon meeting Ryan and his wife Niki and learning of their experience, they signed up with a vengeance.
Looking throughout the room, D’Andra made no bones about the fact that she would be placing calls to the people present to support “Cancer Blows” — “You know I’m persistent, so please don’t hang up on my call.” It’s very personal with D’Andra for the additional fact that she is the only one in her family who has not had cancer.
As a perk, Ryan entertained the guests with a mini-concert. His fingers moved so quickly and effortlessly on the valves making the trumpet almost seem to become an exquisite singing voice. For one tune, Ryan picked up a coffee cup and used it as a mute. Accompanying Ryan was his longtime collaborator, pianist Gary Beard, who never faltered even when Ryan had to replace a valve. Now, that’s teamwork.
After the selection, Robin introduced the subject of the day — Alzheimer’s and Baylor’s Memory Center.
First he told a brief history of the donor-driven Memory Center. Thanks to a conversation with AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, whose stepfather suffered from the disease, seed money was provided to establish the center that’s located at Park Lane and Central Expressway. The purpose of the center was to “help patients by evaluating their memory and determining if they have a memory disorder” and to assist them and their families throughout the developments.
The Center is currently handling 2,000 families a year with the need growing as people are living longer and longer.
Robin then introduced Dr. Claudia Padilla, who is completing her work in California and will soon take on the position of Medical Director of Research.
Claudia admitted that there is presently no cure for Alzheimer’s and efforts are focused on slowing its progress. She added that detecting it earlier helps in the chance of curbing it.
With the help of slides, she provided a brief explanation of what the scientific community knew about Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases.
Joining Claudia and Robin for a brief panel discussion were the Center’s neuropsychologist Dr. Eric Smernoff and medical director Dr. Cindy Marshall.
Eric explained the steps that a patient went through in his/her diagnosis including:
- A 1-2 hour interview is held gathering background information on the patient
- A 2-3 hour testing of thinking ability, problem solving, language, etc. is held. In some cases of more difficult cases, the testing may last 6-7 hours.
- A hypothesis is created on the patient’s situation
- An hour meeting is held with the patient and his/her family.
- The findings are provided for the patient and referring physician
- Recommendations can be provided on how to proceed.
- A representative of the Alzheimer’s Association is made available for additional assistance.
If treatment is needed, the patient can seek help from Cindy and Claudia in dealing with symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s that might require drug therapy and/or holistic practices.
Taking questions from the audience, they answered that
- Referrals to the Center can be self-referrals or from primary-care physicians, etc.
- Being brain (i.e. doing crossword puzzles, staying socially active, etc.) and heart (i.e., working out) healthy are recommended.
- Creating a baseline study at an early age would be extremely healthy for everyone for use when any possible signs may develop.
- Medicare allows for self-referrals.
- The current wait time for an appointment for a test is about two months. According to Eric, they are seeing three times the number of patients “as we did when we opened. But the wait time hasn’t decreased” despite the addition of two more physicians because of the growing demands.
- The funding for cancer and HIV research and treatments still outweigh present funding for Alzheimer’s.
- Parkinson’s patients tent to develop a form of dementia.
- The neuropsychological testing can help determine what type of dementia may be developing.
But it wasn’t all serious talk with these Baylor fundraisers. From the back of the room, one guest told the group that a woman friend recently told how her husband said that if she ever developed Alzheimer’s, nobody would notice.
Laughter filled the room, but it was tempered with the fact that the disease is no laughing matter and Baylor’s plans call for it to become the leading force in treating it. So, it may take a couple of months to get your loved one or yourself tested, but it won’t take but a couple of minutes to help fund the effort.