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Dr. Ala with Joshua Sawlaw, medical student

November 18, 2008

SIU Med School Involved in National Research of Alzheimer’s Disease

National clinical studies as well as medical services are available to Illinois residents from the Center for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders (CADRD) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.

“It’s an exciting time for us here at SIU medical school because more is being learned about the disease and ways to treat it,” says Dr. Tom Ala.  Currently three clinical trials at SIU are testing drug therapies that may help with Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Ala, who is associate professor of neurology and interim director of SIU’s center, is principal investigator for all three trials.

A trial is underway for bapineuzumab for use in helping control the progression of the disease.  SIU is one of three centers in the U.S. for a study of Raloxifene for use in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  A third trial is for the study of Valporate to determine whether the drug delays the emergence of agitation or psychosis in patients.

SIU’s Alzheimer Center in Springfield is made up of a team of medical specialists including neurologists and neuropsychologists.  In addition to conducting research, the center offers comprehensive services to treat patients and counsel families.  Service was provided to more than 2,000 patients in the network last year.  Started in 1987, SIU’s center serves 93 Illinois counties.

As the baby-boomer generation ages, Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that primarily affects seniors, is expected to increase accordingly.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a condition that affects an individual’s brain and causes it to dysfunction or not work properly.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million people in the U.S. are living with this devastating disease.

“The symptoms for Alzheimer’s begin with short-term memory loss and slowly progresses to where individuals lose their ability to communicate, know where they are, take care of themselves, and do complicated things like cooking, driving and handling their finances,” explains Ala.

As the disease progresses, individuals may also experience changes in personality and behavior, such as anxiety, suspiciousness or agitation, as well as delusions or hallucinations, Ala says.  In the late stages of the disease, individuals need help with dressing, personal hygiene, eating and other basic functions.

 “A comprehensive evaluation is essential because no single test or examination can yield a definite diagnosis.  The clinical assessment of a patient done during an office visit allows physicians to rule out treatable forms of dementia and determine the best treatment strategy for the individual patient,” says Ala.  SIU’s staff uses a variety of diagnostic techniques to define each patient’s memory problem and prescribe the best treatment.

The Center for Alzheimer Disease at SIU School of Medicine has 26 active provider sites as part of its Springfield-based center.  The network is made up of physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and nursing home staff members in downstate Illinois, who are trained to identify Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders.

SIU’s Alzheimer Center team of physicians, neuropsychologists, a gerontology specialist and nurses work with the network sites to treat patients in the local communities so they can avoid traveling to Springfield for evaluation.

Alzheimer’s disease drains patients’ families both physically and emotionally.  They become overburdened, struggling to care for their elderly loved ones, who often can no longer remember their children’s faces.

Research has shown that exercise of both the mind and body is helpful in keeping the mind working.  Ala recommends that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease keep up their physical and social activities as well as reading, working on the computer, and playing board games and crossword puzzles.

The SIU Alzheimer Center uses a toll-free telephone number to answer questions, 1-800-DIAL-SIU (1-800-342-5748).  The Center’s Web site is


All network sites for SIU’s Center for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders provide assessment for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, treatment, case management, family assistance and education.  Services are provided by appointment.  Local physicians and health professionals regularly consult with SIU faculty in Springfield.  The provider sites, the host agencies, coordinators and phone numbers are listed below.

Alton – Alton Memorial Hospital, Melanie Wylie, C.N.S., (618) 463-7895
Bloomington – BroMenn Healthcare, Tami Livingston, R.T.(R), (309) 268-3761
Breese – St. Joseph’s Hospital, Gerrie Haukap, L.S.W., (618) 526-5330
Carbondale – Southern Illinois Family Practice Center, Yolanda Gunzel, L.C.S.W., (618) 536-6621, ext. 262
Centralia – St. Mary’s Good Samaritan, Inc., Keith Suedmeyer, M.S.W., M.P.H., (618) 436-8691
Champaign – Circle of Friends Adult Day Center, Carol Acord, M.S.W., Kathryn Rhoads, M.S.W., (217) 359-7937
Danforth – Prairieview Lutheran Home, Beverly Shoemaker, R.N., (815) 269-2970
Dixon – Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, Michael K. Hemmen, L.C.S.W., (815) 288-5531
Effingham – Heartland Human Services, Linda Warner Ed.M., (217) 347-7179
Freeport – FHN, Sarajane Wise, R.N., (815) 599-7437
Galesburg – Cottage Neuroscience, Gloria Koch, R.N., (309) 342-7002
Greenville – Greenville Regional Hospital, Lisa Ketchem, R.N., (618) 664-1230, ext. 3555
Hillsboro – Montgomery County Health Department, Becky Durbin, R.N., (217) 532-2001
Jacksonville – Passavant Hospital, Orlinda Workman, M.S.W., (217) 245-9541 ext. 3035
Jerseyville – Jersey Community Hospital, Joyce Camden, R.N., (618) 498-9532
Macomb – McDonough District Hospital, Kelly Shiraki, C.H.E.S., (309) 836-1584
Moline – Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, Alzheimer’s Coordinator, (309) 779-2031
Mt. Morris – Pinecrest Community, Michelle Herring, L.P.N., (815) 734-4103, ext. 262
Olney – Southeastern Illinois Counseling Centers, Inc., Juanita J. Suro, L.C.P.C., (618) 395-4309, ext. 237
Peoria – OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Marilyn Oertley, L.C.S.W., (309) 683-5334; Institute for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Jackie Bowers, (309) 495-4530
Pontiac – Evenglow Inn, Lynn Todd, (815) 842-9040
Quincy – Blessing Hospital, Eric Schultz, R.N., L.C.S.W., (217) 224-4453 ext. 6899
Rockford – OSF Illinois Neuroscience Institute, Deb Lovik-Kuhlemeier, R.N., T.N.S. (815) 387-1726
Urbana – University of Illinois College of Nursing, Sandy Burgener, Ph.D., (217) 333-3083
Vienna – Family Counseling Center, Jane Crawford, L.C.S.W., Angela Day, L.C.S.W., (618) 658-2611


thern Illinois University School of Medicine Office of Public Affairs News Releases P.O. Box 19621, Springfield IL 62794-9621, 217-545-2155