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Emory School of Medicine student merges love of art, medicine

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Emily Lu, fourth year medical student at Emory University School of Medicine, launched Museum Moments for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.

For many students, summer break means lounging poolside or hitting the beach. Not Emily Lu. In the summer of 2004, she was working in the labs of Emory neurologists Allan Levey and James Lah to learn more about the Alzheimer's disease process. That same summer, she learned about 'Meet Me at MoMA,' New York City's Museum of Modern Art's outreach program for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. Soon, an idea had taken root.  

Then an undergraduate student at Harvard University, Lu created the Harvard Alzheimer's Buddies for the Arts program, which encompassed both art-viewing and art-making activities at several museums in Boston.   

"Working with these individuals to experience and engage with art has been one of my most rewarding and meaningful experiences, and I knew then that this was an area I wanted to pursue," says Lu, now a fourth year student at Emory School of Medicine. "When I learned that Emory had both a wonderful museum on campus and world-class Alzheimer's care, I couldn't have been more excited at the possibilities." 

With collaboration from the Michael C. Carlos Museum and the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC), Lu created Museum Moments, a program that engages individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and dementia and their care partners in the exploration of art to foster expression, dialogue and the creation of meaningful experiences within a supportive, accepting environment.   

Specially trained docents lead each tour, focusing on engaging participants in open conversations and interactive discussions about art.  

"We believe that through this engagement with art, both participants and their care partners have the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas, share individual experiences and access memories," says Ken Hepburn, PhD, clinical core director of the Emory ADRC and professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. "This program is the perfect example of how we care for our patients not only in the clinical sense, but we also do our best to take care of them and their care givers emotionally and socially. "   

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