For some Dana Alliance and Dana Foundation staff members, events on the Dana Alliance 20th Anniversary Timeline are well-known. But what will catch the eye of someone less familiar with its achievements—in this case me—who reads the timeline knowing little about the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives’ (DABI) history? Answering this question may give unique insight into how DABI programs and endeavors can impact the public.
Back in 2001, I watched the acclaimed series “The Secret Life of the Brain” on my mini black and white television in my kitchen for a science class assignment. While I enjoyed the program, I didn’t realize at the time that its lessons would increasingly resonate during my continued education and professional life. When I took a linguistics course in college and learned about a child’s developing brain and language acquisition, I thought back to the television program and its section “The Child’s Brain.” When I worked at the Rubin Museum of Art and learned pedagogy for K-12 students as an Apprentice Museum Educator, I was also reminded of its teachings. “The Secret Life” was, after all, the first time in my formal education that I learned anything about how the brain functions.
Looking through the DABI timeline, integrating neuroscience education into formal education is a recurring theme (for example, Brain Awareness Week and the Lending Library). This is foreign and invigorating to me because I learned virtually nothing about the brain from K-12 instruction and because I love innovative educational methods (stemming from my days of trying to get “dinosaur curriculum” into my mom’s 7th grade classroom). Lending Library, a collaboration between DABI and university neuroscience departments, provides educational materials to the departments for outreach programs at local schools, museums, summer camps, and community centers. Similarly motivated, BAW has reached thousands of classrooms throughout the years by providing partners with learning level-specific materials, publications, and resources, along with event ideas, planning tips, and outreach tools. Held annually as part of BAW, the NYC Regional Brain Bee Competition encourages high school students to learn about the brain by testing their neuroscience knowledge for cash prizes and a chance to compete in the National Brain Bee.
But DABI extends its educational reach beyond student classrooms as seen in other important programs like Staying Sharp. Since its launch in 1996, Staying Sharp has been attended by more than 40,000 people in 43 cities across the United States, most recently in Atlanta. The series presents a forum for the public to learn from and engage with experts who specialize in the aging brain and Alzheimer’s disease. Programs like Staying Sharp are important because they not only inform people about brain health, but by doing so they also help to fight stigmas associated with certain diseases and disorders.
My first experience with Alzheimer’s was in 2005, and information about the disease was less available. My friend’s close relative suffered from Alzheimer’s, and at first when I would visit my friend’s house, I was extremely confused by this relative’s behavior. The person’s inability to communicate and remember made me feel a miserable sense of frustration that I hadn’t felt before. As the U.S. population ages (noted frequently in the media), it’s important that people learn to recognize possible Alzheimer’s symptoms and broach the subject with compassion.
I am thankful for the work of DABI and other organizations like it. I appreciate the extent to which the brain and brain diseases/disorders have had and still have an impact on my professional and personal experiences. Please check out the DABI Timeline for yourself and see what resonates with you. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Stay tuned for future blogs celebrating DABI’s achievements.