Inspired by Coach Summitt’s vision, The Pat Summitt Clinic opened its doors in January 2017. In the first year of operation, the clinic – the first and only one of its kind in the region – has expanded the team to serve the ever-growing need for dementia care, significantly reduced wait times for patients, built strategic alliances, kicked off a fundraising initiative to support research, and increased patients' access to clinical trials. And there's no sign of the team slowing down.
Legendary basketball coach and teamwork expert, Pat Summitt, envisioned a place in East Tennessee where patients, families, caregivers, and leading medical experts would work collaboratively to improve care and support, educate future physicians and clinicians, and conduct ground-breaking research in the field of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Growing the Clinic to Meet the Need
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and one in three seniors will die of Alzheimer's or another dementia. By 2050, the number of Americans with the disease could reach 16 million – a 220 percent increase.
To meet this growing need, Roberto Fernandez, MD, MPH, PhD, clinic director, assembled a strong multidisciplinary team of experts with experience in working with the dementia population. In addition to Fernandez, who is a highly respected physician, scientist and board-certified neurologist with a subspecialty in behavioral neurology, the clinic team now includes:
- A board-certified neurologist
- Two clinical neuropsychologists
- A speech-language pathologist
- A registered nurse care coordinator
- Two social workers
"We offer a high level of expertise in one place in dealing with Alzheimer's and other dementias," said Fernandez. "We provide an overall integration between clinical care, scientific research, caregiver support, outreach and education."
By adding health care professionals to meet the community's need, the clinic now offers more access to neurologists, neuropsychologists, researchers, social workers, speech pathologists and other caregivers than any Alzheimer's facility in the region.
Reducing Wait Times for Patients and Their Families
The Pat Summitt Clinic is the first clinic in East Tennessee devoted to collaborative, comprehensive treatment for Alzheimer's and other dementias. Today the clinic serves approximately 3,500 patients in East Tennessee. That number is expected to nearly double to approximately 6,000 within the next five years.
A Patient's Journey Through The Pat Summitt Clinic
Before the clinic opened, it often took patients a year or more to receive treatment. Opening the clinic and increasing the team has reduced wait times for new patients by 75 percent – from 12 months to three months.
This allows them to receive diagnosis and treatment earlier in the disease process, which improves their ability to receive much-needed care.
Photography By Dean Baker