FORT WORTH, TEXAS, February 8, 2023 – In celebration of Black History Month, the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) is engaging in multiple events throughout DFW to expand the Health & Aging Brain Study, previously known as the Black Alzheimer’s (ALZ) Brain Study, launched in 2021 to address why Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts Black families. In continuing the study, HSC seeks to increase awareness for women and families, of not only the disproportional impact of Alzheimer’s on the Black community but also of the research surrounding it.
In Fort Worth, on February 18, 2023, from 10 AM to 4 PM, HSC is hosting the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit (BMWCx) in celebration of Black History Month. The interactive summit will take place at the HSC’s Medical Education and Training Building (1000 Montgomery Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107). The event is free and open to elementary, middle and high school students (grades 3-12), parents, students from two- and four-year colleges and universities and pre-health advisors.
On the same day in Fort Worth, at 7:30 PM, HSC’s Health & Aging Brain Study will be a featured partner at the
Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum (121 E Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76164). The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo celebrates and honors Black cowboys and cowgirls and their contributions to building the west. With two performances, one at 1:30 PM CST and the other at 7:30 PM CST, tickets can be purchased at pbr.com or cowtowncoliseum.com.
Additionally, viral TikTok sensations The BoykinZ will be present at both events to bring additional awareness to HSC’s leading health disparity research study. The emerging African American country music group will record social media content for Instagram and TikTok while at the Black Men in White Coats event and give a “half-time” performance during the 7:30 PM performance of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. The group is made of four sisters, one of whom is a STEM student and two of whom are currently in college.
In addition to The BoykinZ social media recordings on HSC’s campus, elementary and middle school students attending the Black Men in White Coats event will participate in a mini medical school and other activities in HSC’s osteology and anatomy labs. High school and undergraduate students will learn more about careers in health care and take part in clinical activities such as suturing and intubation in the university’s state-of-the-art simulation lab.
This is the first year that HSC will host Black Men in White Coats and the need for this event in Fort Worth has never been more urgent. A 2020 New England Journal of Science study found that the number of Black men applying to medical school has dropped over the past four decades. While Black male medical students accounted for 3.1% of the national medical student body in 1978, they accounted for just 2.9% by 2019; without the contribution of historically Black medical schools, this number would drop even lower to just 2.4%. Studies also show that access to care and health outcomes improve when physicians more closely represent the patients they care for, partly because of increased trust.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disease that slowly destroys memory skills, thinking skills and
eventually the ability to carry out daily activities. A myriad of health disparities surround research into
Alzheimer’s disease: Today, an estimated 2.2 million African Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, 1 in 2 Black households is impacted by Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among people 65 and older, African Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, followed by Hispanics and non-Latino whites. While there are many theories about why African Americans are at a greater biological risk of Alzheimer’s disease, medical researchers do not yet know exactly why. HSC’s presence at multiple Black History Month celebrations is an opportunity for HSC and guests alike to engage in meaningful, impactful conversations. It is also an opportunity for guests attending the event and across DFW to become familiar with the ground-breaking Alzheimer’s research study being conducted on campus.
HSC’s Healthy & Aging Brain Study – Health Disparities, leverages state-of-the-art imaging and robotics to analyze brain protein markers. Led by the preeminent researchers, the study does not require injections nor the administration of prescription drugs. Participants undergo free comprehensive interviews, functional exams, blood draw, a brain MRI and a PET scan, and earn compensation for their time. The research study is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. This study targets 30–49- year olds and aims to help identify through research why Alzheimer’s and related dementia severely impacts the Black & Brown community 2-3 times more than their white counterparts. There are more than 2,000 Black and Hispanic participants ages 50+ who have completed the study. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) pathology in the brain can develop 10-20 years before the disease presents, therefore opening the study to those aged 30-49 is critical; it is important to identify the earliest signs and symptoms to better understand the risk factors over a lifespan.
“Every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent,” said Dr. Sid O’Bryant, professor at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and Executive Director of the HSC Institute for Translational Research. “With this number set to rise, there has never been a more urgent time to gain a better understanding of this disease, especially its impact on Black families.”
“Black History Month presents a special opportunity for us to engage with and educate the community which is most adversely affected by Alzheimer’s,” said Pat Bailey, President of PBailey Enterprises, the agency of record for the Health and Aging Brain Study – Health Disparities. “While the entire month is a celebration of the accomplishments made in Black history, Black Americans still have great strides to make in the arena of health and wellness for future generations. The continued study is an opportunity for research not just for one family or any individual, but for the community as a whole to thrive in all areas.”
The study also aims to bridge the gap and bring attention to a lack of awareness on scientific contributions in Black history, including Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, an often overlooked neurologist who made incredible
contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease during his lifetime. “We want to carve out a specific space for Black science history,” continued Bailey. “We want that to be on the forefront of the mind while we’re also discussing the work that needs to be done to address the remaining disparities.”
Many Black Americans remain skeptical about medical research, much of which is rooted in history. Through targeted, culturally-sensitive outreach, HSC’s team of doctors, scientists and educators are working to build continued confidence in the groundbreaking study.
Research has shown that factors such as stress, poverty and socioeconomic disadvantages are associated with cognitive problems in midlife and dementia later in life. African Americans also suffer from a high burden of medical risk factors for Alzheimer’s such as high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
For information, helpful resources and to join the Healthy & Aging Brain study, visit blackalzbrainstudy.com or call 817-735-2963.
About UNTHSC ITR
The UNTHSC ITR is dedicated to understanding and eliminating health disparities in Alzheimer’s disease among underserved communities. The Health & Aging Brain Study – Health Disparities (HABS-HD) is the most comprehensive study of Alzheimer’s among diverse communities ever conducted. The team studies the biology of disease within the context of social, environmental and behavioral factors because “who you are,” “where you are from,” and “your environment” are important to how you age.
About Healthy & Aging Brain Study
The Healthy & Aging Brain Study, previously known as the Black ALZ Brain Study, seeks to recruit 1,000 North Texas-based residents, ages 30-49; long-term, the goal is to develop new treatments that can prevent the deadly disease. The first-of-its kind research is co-led by Dr. Sid O’Bryant and Dr. Leigh Johnson. O’Bryant is the Executive Director of the Institute for Translational Research, which is dedicated to precision medicine in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Down syndrome, Lewy Body disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury, among others. Johnson is the Associate Director of the Institute for Translational Research and an associate professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Neuroscience and Family Medicine.
The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is located in the heart of the Fort Worth Cultural District. HSC trains the health care providers and public health providers of the future, while expanding the frontiers of scientific discovery. In HSC’s five schools, students learn to work in teams and to develop an innovative mindset that prepares them for a rapidly changing health landscape. HSC Health, the clinical enterprise of the Health Science Center, provides patient-centered care to people across Tarrant County.