Coppin State Nursing students and staff in a group posing for a picture.

Carl V. Hill, rear fourth from the left, with students and faculty in the Coppin State University School of Nursing.

By Beverly Richards
Special to the AFRO

Carl V. Hill, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Alzheimer’s Association met with Coppin State University nursing students as they embarked on a two-week internship with the Association to educate residents about available Alzheimer’s disease and dementia support services.

“There are over 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. Women make up two thirds of the cases. And, African Americans are twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementia than Whites. This is critical. So, we need practitioners and scholars like to devote their careers to understanding why these disparities exist,” said Dr. Hill.

The internship kicked off with an all-day seminar to expose the students to the breadth and depth of the services the Alzheimer’s Association provides. “We’ve never done this before,” said David McShea, executive director of the Association’s Greater Baltimore Area. “Diversity and inclusion is (sic) one of our pillars, and it’s very important to find partners who can reach all the different communities across our state,” he added.

The Association has a long-term relationship with Coppin’s Helene Fuld School of Nursing, which has served as a co-sponsor of the annual Pythias A. and Virginia I. Jones African American Community Forum on Memory Loss. The new agreement with Coppin includes providing community practice experience for nursing students under the supervision of Crystal Day-Black, associate professor and director. “This is a four-week clinical learning experience for senior level accelerated second degree students in the area of public and community health nursing within a geographic area. Clinical experiences will consist of facilitating an assessment of a community on consumer needs related to dementia education and support; implementation of a teaching/learning project with a selected group; and beginning skills in coordination of health care through collaboration with community partners.”

“The development of Alzheimer’s Disease is often associated with the presence of risk factors (i.e, poor circulation, sometimes called “vascular disease,” stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes) that might increase vulnerability to the disease. And African Americans are disadvantaged by having a significantly worse risk factor profile. Until recently, race, as one of the important risk factors, went unrecognized,” explained Dr. Day-Black.

Diversity, equity and inclusion work is expanding in Alzheimer’s research and delivery of services. Dr. Hill explained that African American, Hispanic, Latino, Native American and Asian American communities anticipate and experience more difficulties when accessing dementia care. “They feel discriminated against, have less trust and don’t feel like they are being heard.”

This internship will help the Association build a pipeline to a more diverse staff, specialists and combat healthcare discrimination. “Our graduates have a role in improving the lives of African-American patients and their families experiencing Alzheimer’s, which will involve thoughtful consideration of historical, sociocultural, and individual factors that influence the care that is provided to this patient population,” said Dr. Day-Black.

Dr. Hill comes to the Alzheimer’s Association with a wealth of experience in health disparities. He is a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion.

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