It has always been easier for me to absorb information in a live setting. Whether as an active participant in a classroom discussion or as an observer at a lecture, these in-person experiences help me recall the information later. That’s why I and others like me value public forums. With this in mind, public engagement has been an important part of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) work for the past 20 years.
This year DABI not only celebrates its 20th anniversary, but it also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the organization’s first public forum. DABI is dedicated to advancing public awareness and education about the progress and promise of brain research. With the technological advancements of the past twenty years, the methods of raising awareness have expanded dramatically. While DABI has incorporated more online content, it has also continued to provide public forums about different brain-related topics.
On Saturday, August 28, 1993, a full audience at the Fine Arts Theater at the Southampton Campus of Long Island University sat down for a free public forum on “Genes and the Brain.” This was DABI’s first ever public forum, presented only four months after its inception. The speakers were two world-renown neuroscientists and founding DABI members: James Watson, Ph.D. and W. Maxwell Cowan, M.D., Ph.D. In their presentations, the two experts answered questions such as: Is manic-depressive illness genetic? Is your future in your genes? Is alcoholism inherited? Is there hope for victims of Alzheimer’s disease?
Following the success of this initial effort, free public forums quickly became a mainstay of the DABI mission. In 1994, DABI and AARP partnered for the first time in a public forum about issues of the aging brain, including memory loss, depression, and stroke. Then in 1996, AARP and the Andrus Foundation (part of AARP) collaborated with DABI to cosponsor “Staying Sharp,” a series of forums about the aging brain held around the country.
As you may know from reading this blog, the Staying Sharp program continues to attract hundreds of active agers at free forums around the country. The program has expanded and evolved over the years, incorporating, among other things: a DVD; corresponding publications; live, over the phone, “Tele TownHall” forums; “brain warm-up” exercise routines; and social media. But the main goal—to provide a free, live public forum on the aging brain—has remained constant. In fact, just recently, in partnership with AARP New York, DABI presented the Staying Sharp forum to an audience of more than 400 people in Buffalo, NY, and the following weekend presented the forum at the National AARP Life@50+ conference in Atlanta, GA.
To learn more about DABI’s many programs throughout the years, be sure to check out the DABI 20th anniversary timeline. Also, for more information on the current Staying Sharp program, visit the Staying Sharp web page. We post information about upcoming sessions, so if you are like me and learn best from live interactions, check back often to see if a forum will be happening near you.