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Alzheimer's patients mentor young doctors to increase awareness

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Updated: 7/17/2013 3:52 pm
(NBC News) -- Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are some of the least understood problems associated with aging.

They're not diseases young people often think about, but now programs across the country are pairing seniors in the early stages of dementia with medical students.

Warren McGee is a medical student who is gaining valuable knowledge about memory loss and the aging process through his mentor, a woman who has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and wishes to remain anonymous.

McGee and his mentor were paired up through a program at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. People in the early stages of dementia spend a year with young med students with the goal of increasing awareness about the disease, along with reducing stigma associated with memory loss.

"They get to kind of unload about their struggles and their everyday things and have somebody there who understands what they're going through," McGee says.

The need for someone who understands is immediate.

"Geriatricians are actually in huge shortage in the medical community, and of course as you know, with our Baby Boomer population turning 65 every year for the next 18-20 years, we really need geriatricians," says Dr. Maria Carrillo of the Alzheimer's Association.

Warren McGee could be one of them.

"I'm hoping to combine treating or seeing the patients directly, but also with my research -- helping to find new therapies, new ways to help these patients," he says.

For now, his history-loving mentor is shaping the future for doctors and their views on dementia.

-- Erika Edwards, NBC News, reports




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