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    We Back Pat Q&A: Dr. Ronald Petersen, Mayo Clinic

    By: Sean Cartell
    SEC Digital Network

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference in cooperation with its 12-member institutions has organized the “We Back Pat” Week, a week-long initiative focused on bringing awareness and recognition to the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and its fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

    The SEC Digital Network caught up with Summitt’s physician, Dr. Ronald C. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to discuss Summitt’s fight with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type and the disease in general.

    SEC Digital Network: How impressive is what Pat Summitt is doing, fighting the dementia/Alzheimer’s in the public eye and how much will that help with the awareness and stigma surrounding the disease?

    Dr. Petersen: “The willingness of Pat Summitt to announce her diagnosis and be a face of the disease has a huge effect on the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease by the general public.  A major challenge of the field of Alzheimer’s disease pertains to education of the general public about the early presentations of the disease, and Pat Summitt has taken on this challenge.”
     
    SEC Digital Network: What are your thoughts on the Pat Summitt Foundation and what impact do you think it will make?

    Dr. Petersen:
    “It is very impressive how Pat Summitt and her “TEAM” have risen to the call of doing something about the disease in a relatively short time period.  The Foundation Fund has been organized and is already having an impact on the field.”

    SEC Digital Network: What are the important things that Pat Summitt has been doing to combat the disease to help her continue her career as a basketball coach?

    Dr. Petersen:
    “As Pat Summitt herself has stated, she is fighting the progression of the disease by staying physically and intellectually involved in coaching.  She is not letting the disease put her on the bench.”

    SEC Digital Network: Explain a little bit about the disease, how it manifests itself and how it will progress with Pat Summitt?
     
    Dr. Petersen:
    “While there are certain commonalities about the disease itself, how it plays out in any individual is a complex combination of factors.  There is good evidence to suggest that by staying active, one can influence the rate of progression of the underlying disease process.”

    SEC Digital Network: How advanced is Alzheimer’s research and how much further to we have to go before we can find better treatments/cures of the disease?

    Dr. Petersen:
    “The field of Alzheimer’s disease research is making tremendous progress, yet there remain several huge hurdles.  The Federal funding for research is declining at a critical time when there are an increasing number of individuals at risk for the disease.  We need to address this issue immediately, and The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund is an excellent tool to increase awareness and support research in the field.”