Geriatrics Specialist Seeks Alzheimer’s Research Breakthroughs

Dr. Diana Kerwin

Dr. Diana Kerwin has led the team at Kerwin Medical Center since 2018, focusing on clinical studies and research regarding the prevention of and cure for the most well-known cognitive disorder: Alzheimer’s disease.

The Chicago native earned her bachelor’s degree at Boston College and attended medical school at Northwestern University. She completed her residency at Northwestern and worked as an assistant professor in geriatrics and a faculty member at the university’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center before moving to Dallas in 2013.

Kerwin’s professional career spans more than 20 years, but as a child, she saw her mom work as a nurse in a long-term care facility.

“(My mom) thinks it’s why I do what I do today,” Kerwin said. “I do think going to work with her instilled a sense of compassion in me at an early age.”

Growing up, Kerwin and her brother would go with their mom to work on Christmases.

“I’d take my new doll and show them off to the patients,” Kerwin said. “I remember how much they enjoyed that.”

Kerwin says patients can expect an “extremely patient-focused experience” at Kerwin Medical Center.

“Patients who choose to participate in clinical trials are extremely altruistic because they recognize this may not be of benefit to them at all, but it might save their children or grandchildren,” Kerwin said. “There is a burden placed on these patients and their caregivers to participate, so let’s improve quality of life. I really enjoy that aspect, and our staff is really attuned to that goal.”

Kerwin oversees the center’s research and development and says she and her team constantly evaluate potential clinical trials. Some of the daily study visits Kerwin leads include evaluating participants for entry into clinical trials and reviewing MRIs and amyloid PET scans to confirm Alzheimer’s diagnoses.

The center also has an on-site research pharmacy that prepares study drugs or compounds investigational drugs for administration, which can be oral, injectible, or IV. The on-site laboratory collects and processes patient blood samples to compile data.

From start to finish, Kerwin develops, implements, and evaluates the efficacy and safety of drugs that could one day end Alzheimer’s.

In 2018, Kerwin also founded the Dementia Studies Foundation, a nonprofit committed to removing barriers to clinical trial participation and increasing the diversity of participants.

She says while access to treatment and clinical trials has primarily gone to traditionally privileged groups, the foundation works with community partners and faith-based groups to raise awareness about brain health and Alzheimer’s development.

Additionally, the center has an internship program with UT Dallas and is working with Dallas ISD to develop an internship program for high school students interested in its work.

“A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s today is not the same as 10 or even five years ago,” Kerwin said. “With recent breakthroughs around new medication to treat early Alzheimer’s, a tidal wave of development is coming. We don’t know the answers yet, but we could in as little as six to 12 months.”

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