29 JUNE 2000 • Volume 2 • Number 26

Alzheimer’s study proposes elderly driving limitations

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has issued guidelines to help determine whether people with Alzheimer’s disease should continue to drive. Richard Dubinsky, MD, associate professor of neurology at KUMC, co-authored the guidelines that appeared in the June 27 issue of Neurology, the journal of AAN.

Richard Dubinsky, MD

Researchers used studies which looked at accident rates for drivers with Alzheimer’s disease, their driving skills and how well they process what they see when driving. When the risks of those driving with Alzheimer’s were compared to the risks found in drivers 16-21 years of age or people driving under the influence of alcohol within legal limits, it was recommended that those with even mild Alzheimer’s should not drive. “They pose a significant traffic safety risk, and should be advised not to drive,” says Dubinsky. The guidelines also suggest that those with only slight cognitive impairment should have their driving skills evaluated every six months because they have an increased risk of accidents compared to other elderly drivers.
The guidelines also recommend research into the type and severity of accidents. “It may be possible that if there are typical accidents that involve drivers with Alzheimer’s disease, driving limitations or technological solutions could be used to decrease the risk of accidents,” explains Dubinsky.

Associate Dean honored for innovation in nursing education

In recognition for finding new solutions to old problems, Helen R. Connors, RN, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs at KUMC recently received an honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. Connors worked with three other schools to establish the Kansas Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program, which brings the classroom to students across the state through interactive technology. The universities share faculty and resources to provide training to nurses in their home communities and to encourage them to remain in Kansas to work.

Helen Connors, RN, PhD

Connors also led another collaborative effort, the Kansas Continuing Learning Project, to provide networking opportunities for non-urban health care professionals through the World Wide Web. 

KU Med in the Media

In the month of June, the KU Med public relations department fielded more than 100 media inquiries, not only from local news media, but also from national and international media. ABC and CBS news were interested in Dr. Richard Dubinsky’s work with guidelines for drivers with Alzheimer’s disease and the BBC e-mailed requesting information about the treatment of brown recluse spider bites after the story was covered locally by WDAF-4. “Clearly,” says Bob Hallinan, media relations coordinator, “the news media considers KUMC to be the regional expert on health issues. As an academic medical center, we have expertise in the fields of research, diagnosis, education and treatment and that makes us different from all the other hospitals in the region.”

KCTV-5 health reporter Anne Peterson visits with 2-year-old Dylan Phillips and his family.

Here are some of the stories covered by the media in June:
• The migraine research of K. Michael Welch, MD, suggesting that migraines are caused by an electrical disorder in the brain, prompted a flurry of national coverage. After the story hit the Associated Press wire June 13, it was picked up by CNN.com, ABCNews.com, the Miami Herald, the Albuquerque Journal, 
The Kansas City Star and KMBC-9. 

A recent newspaper ad announcing the opening of the Senior Resource Center.

• Health reporters from ABC News, CBS Healthwatch and WebMD interviewed Richard Dubinsky, MD, about the driving ability of Alzheimer’s patients, which is the subject of his recent research (see page 1 for story). 
• Locally, WDAF-4 television news ran a story June 12 featuring Richard McCallum, MD and Michael Moncure, MD, who are researching the use of an implanted device for severely overweight patients. 
• The Kansas City Kansan featured KU Med in a positive light in a June 25 story on long hours worked by residents.