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Dr Brigid Ryan takes the title of Alzheimers NZ 2023 Fellow Post Cover Image

Distinguished researcher and advocate, Dr Brigid Ryan, has been awarded the title of 2023 Alzheimers NZ Fellow for her groundbreaking work in understanding the challenges faced by individuals diagnosed with dementia mate wareware before the age of 65.

The Alzheimers NZ Fellowship provides the recipient with $15,000 to support their research.

“I am very humbled to receive this award and am grateful to Alzheimers NZ for their support for my research, which will enable me to continue this important work,” she says.

Dr Ryan’s research journey began with a focus on frontotemporal dementia mate wareware, a condition that often strikes individuals in their younger years. Through her close collaboration with University of Auckland colleagues and support from Alzheimers NZ, she is embarking on a comprehensive study to delve into the process of diagnosing the disease early on.

The University of Auckland, in partnership with Alzheimers NZ, invites individuals living with dementia mate wareware and their care partners to participate in this vital research. By completing a questionnaire and allowing access to medical records, participants will contribute to the study’s goal of understanding the unique challenges faced by those affected by young onset dementia mate wareware.

Dr Ryan’s dedication stems from her conversations with patients and their whānau, which reveal the distinct needs of individuals dealing with dementia mate wareware at a younger age. International data highlights delays in diagnosing young onset dementia mate wareware compared to their older counterparts. This delay not only adds uncertainty but also restricts timely access to crucial services and support.

“The urgency lies in understanding the time it takes for diagnosis in New Zealand and identifying strategies to expedite this process,” says Dr Ryan.

“It’s crucial to bridge the gap and provide a better path forward for individuals facing the challenges of young onset dementia mate wareware.”

Dr Ryan’s research holds the promise of enhancing the lives of those living with dementia mate wareware, ensuring timely access to support, and advancing a broader understanding of young onset dementia mate wareware.

“This has significant benefits from an equity standpoint,” says Alzheimers NZ Chair Clare Hynd.

“Many New Zealanders across all communities and all walks of life will benefit in coming years from Dr Ryan’s groundbreaking work that will break down quite major barriers when it comes to stigma and dementia mate wareware diagnosis.

“We desperately need more research, like Dr Ryan’s, into young onset dementia, and we urgently need government to fund and implement the Dementia Mate Wareware Action Plan to support the 150,000-plus New Zealanders who will develop dementia mate wareware in coming years.”

Unless addressed now by government, Ms Hynd says dementia mate wareware will develop into a $6 billion a year problem that has the very real potential to overwhelm our already under-resourced and under-pressure health sector.

Listen to Dr. Brigid Ryan’s recent podcast online