Pat Summitt Takes Increased Role in Fight Against Alzheimer's

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was back in the news twice recently in relation to her diagnosis with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In my mind, both of these announcements were very good things.


    First of all, Summitt and her son, Tyler, announced during halftime of Saturday’s game between the Lady Vols and top-rated Baylor University that they have formed The Pat Summitt Foundation. According to its website, the foundation “believes no family should have to hear a diagnosis like Pat’s early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. The Fund will make grants to nonprofits which provide:

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    1.    Education and awareness of Alzheimer’s, its onset and treatment,
    2.    Support services to patients, their families and caregivers,
    3.    Research to treat, prevent, cure, and ultimately eradicate this disease.”


    “Tyler and I have decided to join this battle, not just for us, but also for the millions of families affected by this disease. I have always told our players, our greatest opportunities are disguised as our greatest obstacles. It is time to treat this obstacle as an opportunity and a stepping stone to a cure," Summitt said in a videotaped statement shown at halftime, according to ESPN.


    On the foundation’s website, Summitt wrote, “Tyler and I have decided to join this battle, not just for us, but also for the millions of families affected by this disease. As I have always told our players, our greatest opportunities are disguised as our greatest obstacles. It is time to treat this obstacle as an opportunity – and a stepping stone to a cure."


    Her son, Tyler, also had a message on the foundation’s website: “I aspire to be a coach just like my mother, and more importantly, I aspire to be an activist like her too. I am committed to helping her make her vision a reality – to build a grant-making foundation which can assist in finding a cure and making a difference in the lives of people dealing with this disease, including caregivers: the over 14.9 million spouses, sons, brothers, sisters whom I now join.”


    The Mayo Clinic also has written a letter in support of the foundation. Dr. Ronald C. Peterson, a professor of neurology and the director of Mayo Clinic’s Study of Aging , wrote, “We at Mayo Clinic applaud your courage and foresight in establishing the Pat Summitt Foundation. This bold action comes at a time when there is a critical need for additional support for research in Alzheimer’s disease. With federal funding to fight the disease at an all-time low, your foundation and others like it are essential. As the baby boomers reach the age of risk for developing the disease, Alzheimer’s is fast becoming an urgent, national crisis. More funding is absolutely necessary to battle this disease.”


    Now for the second piece of recent good news – AARP, The Magazine named Summitt as one of 12 Inspire Awards Honorees. This award is given to pay tribute to people who inspire action. Other 2011 recipients include Jan Goodall, the late Steve Jobs, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, and Toby Keith.


  • So why are these two announcements good news? I believe these announcements show that  Summitt is not giving in; in fact, she’s quickly become an important leader in the fight against this disease that all of us should watch. Her stance is evident in one of her statements describing the focus of the foundation – “Advocacy for patients who, despite the stigma of the diagnosis, possess far more abilities than disabilities, yet who too often are told to quit living.” Based on the AARP recognition and her decision to create the foundation, it’s evident that despite her diagnosis, Pat Summitt has no inclination to quit living. I hope she serves as a role model for everyone involved in trying to stop this disease.

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Published On: November 28, 2011