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UB Alzheimer’s clinics are seeing more patients

UB’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center's clinics use a multidisciplinary approach to differentiate between normal aging and mild cognitive impairment that may be an early sign of dementia.

By ELLEN GOLDBAUM

Published June 9, 2017

“With treatment, we can give patients more good years.”
Kinga Szigeti, associate professor of neurology and director
Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center

To meet Western New York’s growing need for quality care for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, UB’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center is expanding its clinics in Buffalo and Williamsville.

Part of UBMD Neurology and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the center is conducting clinical trials on two new dementia treatments; it will begin enrolling patients in a third trial in August. It was designated a Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease by New York State last year.

Now in new offices on the fourth floor of the Conventus medical office building at 1001 Main St., Buffalo, the downtown clinic of the Alzheimer’s center has been seeing patients twice a week since April, up from once a week. The clinic cares for approximately 700 patients, a three-fold increase since the center opened at Buffalo General Medical Center (BGMC) in 2011.

The center and UBMD Neurology moved into Conventus from BGMC earlier this year. UBMD Neurology was the first clinical practice to move into Conventus, followed by the other practices of UBMD Physicians’ Group.

The move of the practice plans into Conventus, along with construction of the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building, are part of the continued expansion and enhancement of the academic health center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“We are looking forward to the synergies that will result from having our clinics so close to where UB’s medical students are training,” says Kinga Szigeti, associate professor of neurology, the center’s director and a physician with UBMD Neurology. “Our clinic expansions are proof of the growing demand for neurologists, neuropsychologists and other physicians who specialize in caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.”

And starting Aug. 1, patients being seen at UBMD Neurology’s Williamsville clinic at 5851 Main St. also will be able to access more specialty care for dementia and related disorders when the memory disorders program expands from one day a month to once a week. Margaret W. Paroski, professor of neurology and physician with UBMD Neurology, oversees the Williamsville site.

The UB center uses a multidisciplinary approach, according to Szigeti. A team of neurologists, neuropsychologists, social workers and nurses conduct a detailed evaluation, including the patient’s medical history, and neurological and neuropsychological exams, as well as brain imaging.

“The goal is to differentiate between normal aging and mild cognitive impairment, which may be an early sign of dementia and various dementias,” she explains.

Earlier diagnosis

The center addresses all stages of dementia, but Szigeti notes research is beginning to focus more heavily on the disease’s earlier stages.

“We treat all stages of dementia,” she says, “but more and more research is being conducted on mild cognitive impairment and early signs of Alzheimer’s disease with the goal of slowing or even stopping progression of this neurodegenerative disease.”

To that end, she says, the UB center’s physicians emphasize early screening and diagnosis.

She adds that Medicare reimburses primary care providers for doing cognitive assessments of patients for signs of memory disorders. Such testing may involve simple word recall, the ability to draw a clock or open-ended questions, such as asking patients to name items typically found in a supermarket.

“Some of the things we look for are when patients have trouble learning new information and saying it back,” Szigeti says. “That is a sign of Alzheimer’s, the rapid forgetting of new information.”

The goal is to begin treatment soon after diagnosis. “With treatment, we can give patients more good years,” she says.

New clinical trial launches in August

Because the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center is part of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, whose professors conduct medical research, the center’s patients have access to some of the newest dementia treatments through clinical trials.

The UB center has enrolled 27 patients in two clinical trials, with a third coming this August. These studies focus on patients who are as young as 55 years old and who have mild cognitive impairment to early Alzheimer’s disease.

“When one of our patients is in a clinical trial, that means that in addition to being treated with drugs now on the market, they also have access to the newest treatments,” Szigeti explains. “These patients are getting a jump on cutting-edge treatments that won’t be available to the general patient population for many years.”

To schedule an appointment at either the Conventus or Williamsville clinic, contact Jodi Berner at 716-323-0556.