The Longwood University Nursing Department will soon begin research on a critically underserved population, according to the study’s backer: care for dementia patients.

A $30,000 gift from Drew Hudson ’90, president and CEO of The Choice Inc., a staffing company in Washington, D.C., establishes the Gertrude Hudson Research Scholar for Dementia Care and provides funding for a five-year research program to study interaction with dementia patients.

The study will focus on ensuring that nurses and doctors don’t miss diagnoses like cancer or other diseases because of an elderly patient’s dementia or Alzheimer’s. Often, according to Hudson, geriatric patients with dementia have a difficult time expressing what’s happening with them, or they lose trust in doctors and nurses and keep critical medical information from their health care providers. This can contribute to missed diseases or incorrect diagnoses.

"When a diagnosis is incorrect or missed, the patient continues to suffer," said Hudson. "But this research is not about pointing fingers of blame at doctors and nurses—this is about finding solutions that will makes lives better going forward."

Hudson, whose mother’s dementia contributed to a missed cancer diagnosis, fears the same story happens time and again, especially in the rural South. "The goal is to influence the conversation," said Hudson. "We want to see a strategic plan come out of this research program with recommendations for hospitals and doctors—a real roadmap for addressing this issue."

Nursing Lab

Hudson hopes this research can help put Longwood on the forefront of nursing research, because nurses are often the front lines in dealing with geriatric patients. "It’s not the most high-profile issue, but it’s about aging with dignity," said Hudson. "Longwood is a living laboratory, and the most logical place to get this research started.

"We are excited and ready to get started on this research," said Dr. Deborah Ulmer, chair of the nursing department. "Because of our partnerships with regional hospitals and growing community presence, we have an opportunity to dig down into this issue and develop effective strategies that will mean real people get real help. Longwood has a long history of service to the community—indeed, it’s one of the pillars of citizen leadership—and we look forward to continuing that through this research."

The Gertrude Hudson Scholar program provides an opportunity for an undergraduate nursing student to embark on significant research—the foundation of Longwood’s recently released quality enhancement plan. The plan calls for a focus on research, particularly in STEM areas, especially studies that foster community engagement. In addition, an annual $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a rising junior nursing student, who will be guided by a full-time faculty sponsor.

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