Mirella Diaz-Santos, PhD and Jason Hinman, MD, PhD: A more inclusive framework for Alzheimer’s disease

"West Angeles Church of God in Christ is used to hosting large events. The historically Black church in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles has 24,000 members. But staff were surprised when 368 church members reserved their seats at an awareness and education event about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. They had expected only 250.

“The problems and issues associated with Alzheimer’s and other diseases may seem insurmountable, but together we can support and strengthen each other,” said Charles E. Blake II, the church’s pastor, during the Faith & Healing luncheon.

The event was organized collaboratively by the church, the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Los Angeles and UCLA Health, and was an opportunity for the community and church members to hear from and interact with physicians and researchers from the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Care at UCLA.

In an effort to expand research and care opportunities, the UCLA Easton Center is prioritizing outreach to racial and ethnic minorities, including 45 annual education presentations with more than 100 community partners and a dedicated Latinx/Hispanic research lab.

Dr. Jason Hinman

“We have disparities that lie around what causes the disease and also around care opportunities,” said Jason Hinman, MD, PhD, interim co-director of the UCLA Easton Center and associate professor-in-residence in the department of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“Most of the clinical studies that have been conducted have not included even a true minority of underrepresented populations.”


Dr. Mirella Díaz-Santos headshot

When Mirella Díaz-Santos, PhD, was in college, her grandmother passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Now Dr. Santos heads Equity for Latinx-Hispanic Healthy Aging at the UCLA Easton Center. She called the lab an “act of love” for her grandmother, and focuses on breaking down the structural and social drivers that contribute to Latinos being 1.5 times as likely to have Alzheimer’s compared with white people.

“I don't want (my grandmother’s) story to repeat itself,” said Dr. Díaz-Santos, an assistant professor-in-residence in the department of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “We partner with community stakeholders to create interventions that increase access to care, and then to increase access to clinical trials.”"

Read more at UCLA Health.