Meet the Memory and Aging Program Outreach Team

To make the groundbreaking research that’s happening within the Memory and Aging Program (MAP) at Butler Hospital possible, it requires a great deal of work out in the community. That’s where the MAP Outreach Team comes in. From public education programs, to community events, legislative and media outreach and building partnerships with community organizations, these three women bring a powerful range of skills and an inspiring amount of passion to the critical work of raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and engaging others in the fight against it…

Tara Tang

Outreach Coordinator

Tara joined the Memory and Aging Program as the first member of the outreach team in May, 2016. Her prior professional experience working in oncology research, bilingual advertising and Spanish language education provided her with a unique skill set that have made her a powerful force in making the connections necessary to build awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and to help engage more people in volunteering for research studies.

“Much of my work involves building bridges in the community with other organizations in order to help people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. I love meeting and learning from the people I interact with, be it my colleagues, research participants and their families, or members of the community. In the future I hope to reach out to more minority communities in the area and learn more about their culture, perspectives, beliefs and health needs.”

Read more about Tara...

What is the hardest thing about your job?

As with any position, there can be times when things don’t go as fast as you’d like, or they happen too fast, and it can feel like progress isn’t going the way you’d like it when you want it. Outreach is a wonderful lesson in patience and the long/marathon view – it’s not a sprint. I also don’t like to see people in pain or feelign sad so it’s really a driving force to help bring the best AD research has to offer now to those families and be part of a team that will hopefully bring the breakthrough treatment to them in the future.

What has been your most memorable moment working with MAP thus far?

There have been a lot of fun and rewarding moments in the past three years I’ve spent with MAP. My first major event was the most memorable and a great learning experience. We had technical difficulties that made me want to melt into the ground, but the panel discussion at the end of the evening was so uplifting, inspiring and made me personally want to do so much more for this field. There was so much love and understanding at the end of the night, truly beautiful to see that from all the participants.

What do you hope to achieve in the near future at MAP?

It would be wonderful to collaborate with more PCPs in the community. They are so important in the fight against Alzheimer’s because they are often the first people to hear of memory complaints from patients and their loved ones. I’d also love to see us be able to offer the community more hands-on activities they can do when we’re at a talk or health expo – like puzzles, healthy food samples or different exercise activities – so they can take them home and apply what they learned to their daily routine.

Personally, I would love to be able to reach out to more minority communities in the area and learn more about their culture, perspectives, beliefs and health needs in general. My hope is to engage communities in honest, open, and respectful conversations so that positive connections and change can be made to help improve the health (cognitive and otherwise) of people so they can be with their loved ones longer.

What are your thoughts on how the outreach team works together and what you are able to accomplish as a group?

I feel fortunate to work with a group of women who have many talents and bring so much to the proverbial table. We come from different professional backgrounds and it’s been helpful to bounce ideas off each other when we’re planning and brainstorming for our events. As a group we’re able to reach out to more people, cover more ground and have a solid presence in the community while still managing things at the office throughout the week. It’s also great to have a small team so we can take turns representing the MAP during night and weekend events.

When she’s not at work, Tara enjoys spending time with her husband and young son, traveling, trying new restaurants (the more local and authentic the better!), reading and watching movies.

Athena Lavoie

Outreach Coordinator

Athena has been part of the Outreach Team since March of 2018. Her background in event planning has been invaluable in growing the program’s “Swab Squad” volunteer ranks and expanding its “swab party” events, where the public is invited to engage in Alzheimer’s research by participating in a cheek swab that tests for genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

Athena herself has a very personal connection to the program. “My grandmother was a patient of [Memory and Aging Program Director] Dr. Salloway and passed in 2018 from Alzheimer’s, so being a part of this wonderful team was a huge draw for me,” she says.

Read more about Athena...

What do you enjoy most about what you do, and what are you most proud of accomplishing in your role thus far?  

The most enjoyable part of my job is interacting with members of the community at our events, working with our outstanding volunteers and speaking with research participants in the office.

 

What is the hardest thing about your job? 

There are challenges such as finding the best means to promote information about new trials or initiatives, but it has been exciting to get out into the community and see what works and what doesn’t.  The best way to overcome these challenges is to listen to the members of our RI community to see what their needs are and how we can best provide necessary information about the breakthrough research MAP offers.

 

What has been your most memorable moment working with MAP thus far?  

Some of the most memorable moments are of our amazing study participants.  I have been lucky enough to hear a few of our participants advocate in the community for Alzheimer’s research. Their inspirational stories and motivation to prevent AD are always so meaningful.

 

What do you hope to achieve in the near future at MAP?  

I hope to continue the growth of our volunteer squad – they have become such a crucial part of the MAP team! 

 

What are your thoughts on how the outreach team works together and what you are able to accomplish as a group?  

I’m lucky to work with such a strong group of women that come to the Outreach team with different experiences and strengths.  We work together so well to pull off large scale events, manage the front lines of communication to our registry participants and create relationships within the community.

 

A native and current resident of Massachusetts, Athena also has a very strong connection to Rhode Island – her family owns the Modern Diner in Pawtucket, where she worked as a teenager and throughout college. When she’s not working, Athena likes to spend time cooking and hiking with her husband and their dog, Tully. She’s also looking forward to the birth of her first child this summer.

Sara Lapointe

Outreach Coordinator

Sara came on board as part of the Outreach Team in December, 2018 and brought with her a wide range of skills from her work as a legislative aide in Massachusetts. In addition to helping plan educational presentations and events, Sara recently became a Study Coordinator for TRC-PA D, an initiative focused on building a large “trial-ready cohorts” (TRC) of people with pre-clinical/prodromal AD (PAD) to participate in Alzheimer’s prevention trials. Sara says she’s excited to make a difference in people’s lives as part of a dynamic team that’s focused on a single goal – finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.

“I’m really looking forward to some of the bigger events we have planned, and to continuing to expand my knowledge about this disease, the trials we have coming up and raising awareness about how everyone can get involved.”

Read more about Sara...

What do you enjoy most about what you do, and what are you most proud of accomplishing in your role thus far?

I really enjoy working in a team environment. We have a wonderful group who is dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. I think I will be most proud of the Study Participant and Partner Appreciation event I have taken the lead on. It will be a great way for MAP to show our appreciation for the time invested in our program by study participants and partners.

 

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Since I joined the team in December 2018, the hardest thing about my job was grasping all of the different aspects involved in outreach. I really feel like I am getting a hang of it! Learning in depth details about Alzheimer’s disease has been tough because I did not have much prior knowledge about it before I entered this role.

 

What has been your most memorable moment working with MAP thus far?

My most memorable moment was filling out our Butler Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry on the phone with an interested individual. The individual was very emotional and shared how thankful she was that I was being patient with her and helping her though the process because she was not familiar with using a computer.

 

What do you hope to achieve in the near future at MAP?

I am really looking forward to some of the bigger events we have planned. Personally, I look forward to continuing to expand my knowledge about this disease, the trials we have coming up and networking within the community to raise awareness about how everyone can get involved.

 

What are your thoughts on how the outreach team works together and what you are able to accomplish as a group?

I am so lucky to have joined a wonderful team! Tara and Athena have been amazing mentors throughout my transition. I think we all bring something different to the table which makes us really unique and impactful. I find we are all supportive of each other and willing to help in any way.

Born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, Sara enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and their French bulldog Jaxson, especially outdoors. She loves biking and hiking, and has even hiked the Manitou Incline in Colorado, a nearly 2,000 foot climb.

To learn more about how you can get involved with the Memory and Aging Program and efforts to find effective treatments and prevention for Alzheimer’s, visit butler.org/memory.