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U’s Norman Foster Honored for Pioneering Work in Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Norman Foster, M.D., who established the University of Utah’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research, will be honored for his research and clinical innovations when he receives the ALEXA Award from the Utah Alzheimer’s Association on Saturday, March 6.

March 5, 2010 — Norman Foster was drawn to Alzheimer’s disease by its intellectual challenge, its increasing importance as a medical problem, and perhaps most by the life-changing affect Alzheimer’s disease has on patients and families. “It is personally rewarding to make a difference by providing optimal care and support for patients with dementia and their families,” Foster says.

This Saturday, March 6, Foster, who established the University of Utah’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging, and Research, will be honored for his pioneering research and clinical innovations when he receives the ALEXA Award from the Utah Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The award is given to an individual who exemplifies a lifetime of achievement in understanding and treating Alzheimer’s disease. “Working with Dr Norman Foster has been a pleasure for me personally as well as for the Alzheimer’s Association as a whole. He is a consummate professional who carries many responsibilities but has always made time to collaborate closely with the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter, and we are all better for it,” says Jack Jenks, Executive Director of the Utah Chapter.

Dr. Foster joined the University of Utah in 2005 as professor in the Department of Neurology, Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research (CACIR), and Senior Investigator for the Brain Institute. He is also a member of the Utah Commission on Aging, and part of the steering committee for the University of Utah Center on Aging.

Dr. Foster completed his undergraduate training at MacMurray College in Illinois, graduating summa cum laude with a dual major in biology and chemistry. He received his M.D. from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he subsequently completed his internship. After completing his residency in neurology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Dr. Foster relocated to Bethesda, Maryland for a three-year fellowship in experimental therapeutics with the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the NIH.

Before returning to Utah, Dr. Foster spent more than 20 years in the faculty of the Department of Neurology at the University of Michigan. While there, he developed the first clinical program for the diagnosis and treatment of dementing disorders in the state of Michigan. This formed the nucleus of the Clinical Core of the NIH-funded Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), which Dr. Foster helped direct for the first 16 years of its funding from 1989 to 2005.

“The University of Utah Department of Neurology is lucky to have a researcher and clinician of Dr. Foster’s stature. His concern for patients with dementia and his drive to better understand this disease is inspiring to all who work with him,” says Stefan-M. Pulst, chair of the Department of Neurology. “We are thrilled that his work is being recognized with the ALEXA award.”

As the U.S. population ages, dementia care has become one of the nation’s most pressing health care needs. In addition, the strain on families and caregivers is considerable. “As a society we need to make a commitment to improve the quality of care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients and their families deserve it,” says Foster. Under his direction, the Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging, and Research has implemented the Proactive Dementia Care Model, which educates caregivers and families about dementia and the choices that lay ahead when a family member or loved one is diagnosed. This model provides better support for caregivers and family members, patients’ primary care physicians, and frees up CACIR staff to see and diagnose more patients.

“There is enormous reason for hope,” says Foster. “Research has taught us a great deal: We have ways to identify Alzheimer’s disease before dementia develops and can accurately track the course of the disease. We know basic things that can decrease and individual’s risk of dementia and we have some proven drug treatments.”

“While we still need more effective drugs,” Foster continues, “we now better understand what patients and families need to successfully manage this disease. Much more needs to be done, but the way to finding a cure is now in sight. With enough patients and families participating in research, enough investigators conducting the studies and sufficient funding, we will find a way.”