Ann W. Nguyen, PhD
Jack, Joseph & Morton Mandel School of Applied Sciences
Case Western Reserve University
Tell me about yourself and how you are involved with the Cleveland Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (CADRC).
I am an Assistant Professor in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. I received my doctoral training in social work and psychology from the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. My research aims to identify psychosocial factors, such as social relationships, social isolation, discrimination, and religious participation, that represent risk and protective factors for health and well-being among Black Americans across the life span. The overarching goal of my research program is to contribute to health equity by identifying modifiable factors that lead to disparities in health.
I became interested in investigating risk and protective factors of cognitive decline among older Black adults because of stark disparity in Alzheimer’s disease risk between Black and white older adults. I am also interested in this topic because it is a common condition that is co-morbid with many of the mental and physical health conditions that I study.
What are your main activities and goals as they relate to brain health?
The overarching goal of my research on brain health is to identify modifiable psychosocial determinants of cognitive impairment and decline among older Black Americans. My hope is that a better understanding of these factors will lead to culturally relevant interventions that will promote racial and social equity in brain health.
What is the focus of your research currently, and where do you see your work going in the next two-five years?
My current research project investigates how qualitative and quantitative differences in the social networks of middle-aged and older Black and white adults contribute to this racial disparity in cognitive function. This work is expected to have broad translational importance in the prevention of cognitive decline and elimination of the disparity in cognitive impairment and dementia between Black and white Americans. I am excited to expand upon my current research efforts in the next few years by identifying mechanisms that link cognitive health, sleep health, and mental health among older Black adults.
How do you see research in brain health/Alzheimer’s Disease/dementia evolving in the next 2-5 years?
I am hopeful that ADRD research will prioritize studies that aim to uncover the determinants and course of ADRD specifically among older populations of color, many of which are at disproportionate risk of ADRD compared to non-Latinx white Americans. Improved understanding of these diseases and their modifiable contributors can help us design interventions that are culturally relevant. Culturally relevant interventions can increase treatment participation in traditionally underserved populations.
Do you have any suggestion or recommendations for students or young researchers who wish to get more involved in brain health research?
I encourage emerging scholars interested in brain health research to connect with an ADRC to explore research opportunities. Further, brain health conferences, such as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, are great places to not only learn about innovative brain health research but are also a wonderful opportunity for emerging scholars to network and connect with researchers in this area.