Educating Local High School Students about Alzheimer’s Disease Research

In March, a group of high school students from Plymouth-Canton High School approached the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center in hopes of learning more about Alzheimer’s disease. These students — Akshata Kharkar, Ashu Acharya, Puja Modi, and Pranav Vysyaraju — were participating in a state-wide medical innovation competition hosted by the Health Occupations Students of America after-school program. Charged with developing a cure for a current disease, the group unanimously selected Alzheimer’s disease, because they thought it would be “the toughest.”

Armed with their in-depth research, the students met with neurologist and Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center Director, Hank Paulson, MD, PhD. Each team member focused on a unique angle of the disease, including economic, biologic, and genetic components. Dr. Paulson shared the biologic foundations of Alzheimer’s disease, key research developments, and priorities for future research, leaving the group hopeful that we might find an intervention “within the next five years.” Impressed with the students, Paulson stated, “They were very engaged and asked lots of difficult questions. It’s clear that their minds were clicking, and that made it fun for me. I think they left appreciating how much we still have to learn about the causes of dementia, and I hope a few of them take up that challenge in their careers!”

The students placed sixth in their category at the State Leadership Conference in April. Congratulations to Akshata, Ashu, Puja, and Pranav on a job well done! We hope these students, and others, will one day join us in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.