During Hispanic Heritage Month, we have been featuring researchers, civil rights leaders, and people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias on UsAgainstAlzheimers’ (UsA2) Twitter and Facebook accounts. Today we want to feature one of the youngest members on our team working to address Alzheimer’s in Latino communities.
Sofia Natalia Arraut is a paid intern with our Brain Health Equity and Access program and attends Florida International University (FIU) where she is studying Nutritional Science with a Chemistry minor on a pre-medicine track.
Too often, people think of Alzheimer’s as a disease that only affects older people, but its impacts are also felt by young people who are increasingly becoming caregivers. Sofia’s story highlights this trend.
Q. Why are you interested in Alzheimer’s disease?
Sofia Natalia Arraut: My curiosity began roughly four years ago. I was given a book called “The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health” by Emeran Mayer. It discussed the intricate biological link between the mind and gut. I began reading more books discussing neurological illnesses in relation to the gut microbiome and stumbled upon the labyrinth that is Alzheimer’s. What I had read was that Alzheimer’s stems not only from genetics, but that one’s diet is a huge factor too. This piqued my interest in nutrition.
Two years later, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia and my grandfather was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s (both from my mother’s side). Their diagnoses served as a grim realization that Alzheimer’s may likely affect my wellbeing and propelled me to pursue a career in medicine and health policy.
Q. What does brain health equity mean to you and your community?
SA: Living in Miami, we have many events, community organizers, clinics, hospitals, and fundraisers for diseases that impact Latinos and Hispanics. However, I know that other major cities do not have the same level of activity.
Access to Alzheimer’s research and treatments are highly limited for people of color, which leads to preventable deaths. To me, brain health equity calls on us to demand greater accountability for researchers, community organizers, health policy makers, and local government officials. We must ensure everyone is accounted for and given the opportunity to have a brain-healthy future.
Q. How has this experience shaped or impacted your career goals?
SA: My curiosity about the work done by health advocacy organizations increased after I attended a Washington, D.C. fly-in hosted by FIU DC. I had the opportunity to meet with advocates, members of Congress, and Hill staff. I knew then I wanted to learn more about the advocacy and social impact field.
Working alongside the UsAgainstAlzheimer’s team has been an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to see firsthand true activism. Before this experience, I believed that by becoming a doctor, I could save many lives. But, as I have seen with UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, the passionate work they do each day changes and saves lives.
I am eternally grateful to the UsAgainstAlzheimer’s family for giving me this opportunity.
Jason Resendez is executive director of the new UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Center for Brain Health Equity.