My plans have changed but I’m committed to advancing dementia research – Catching up with RAD-Mayo Clinic Fellow, Ellen Dicks

Posted on the 7th May 2020

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic nearly eight weeks ago. In response, we had to change how we live, work and connect with other people in order to mitigate the spread of the virus. But it has also highlighted again how important dementia research is.

Individuals with dementia are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their age and common health conditions. Not being able to fully understand or remember safeguard measures increases their risk of infection. And, with social distancing measures in place, they are now additionally faced with increased anxiety and social isolation. In this way, the current pandemic also reminds me yet again of the importance to find a treatment for dementia.

And research into dementia is progressing. Still, for me personally, the plans for my RAD Fellowship also had to adapt.

Back in March, everything was set in motion so that I could go to Rochester, MN, in June and start with the RAD fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. With the dramatic increase in cases throughout Europe as well as the US, however, flights were cancelled, travel restrictions put in place, US consulates closed for visa services and so these plans were no longer viable.

Fortunately, I had the incredible support of RAD and the partnering institutions (Mayo Clinic & Alzheimercenter Amsterdam): Talking to Dr. Betty Tijms (Alzheimercenter Amsterdam), Dr. David Jones (Mayo Clinic) and RAD it was quickly decided that instead of beginning with my fellowship in Rochester I could start at the Alzheimercenter Amsterdam instead. And so, while I am not able to go to Rochester until the pandemic is under control, I am still able to start with our projects for the RAD Fellowship.

Concerning my research, I am lucky that nothing much needed to change. As I am working on brain imaging, I generally require only a computer to process and analyze the images. I can also still review current dementia research online, analyze data and work on manuscripts. And while meetings are not in person anymore but via Zoom or Skype, this also brings great flexibility. (This year, the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) also moves to a virtual event in order for researchers to connect and exchange the latest developments in dementia research.) So, although I am currently not able to go to the office, I can still continue and I am committed to help advance dementia research during this time.


Read about the RAD - Mayo Clinic Fellowship

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