UK HealthCare

Medical Residents Celebrate Marriage with Gift to Alzheimer's Research

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 12, 2011) — When University of Kentucky medical residents Dr. Brett Smith and Dr. Sarah Williams walk down the aisle to marry, they will also be taking steps to fight Alzheimer's disease.

Smith and Williams, who are both completing their residency in Internal Medicine at UK, will be married Sept. 18.  To celebrate their marriage and to support a cause they believe in, the couple will be making a contribution to Alzheimer's disease research through the Sanders-Brown Foundation, which supports the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. Their donation will be made in honor of their families and loved ones.

Although Smith and Williams both have family near Knoxville, Tenn., they met in Kentucky during their medical training. Williams grew up on a farm outside Knoxville, while Smith was raised in Florida. Smith's parents moved back to the Knoxville area to be near family three years ago.

Smith and Williams have personal connections to Alzheimer's disease. Smith's paternal grandmother lived with Alzheimer's for 10 years before her death in 2009.

"I recall the progression of her disease and when she ceased to remember who I was or who my family was, her lack of reponse to medication and her gradual decline in her ability to care for herself," said Smith.

Williams's family has also struggled with Alzheimer's and related dementias. Her great-grandmother, Myrtle Ledbetter, lost her second husband, Homer, to vascular dementia.

"Papaw Homer was alive until I was about 10," said Williams. "He was a quiet man in the time I knew him. Though I was too young to understand his disease, I remember him not wanting to go out of his house and always staying in his recliner. Nana [Myrtle Ledbetter] has been a precious gift to my life. Her perspective has taught me so much about marriage since her first husband, who was a Wiliams, died at the age of 40 from sudden cardiac death, then her second husband, Homer, suffered from dementia in his seventies.  She has been through much heartache, but you can tell how it has enlarged her heart. She has always told me that strong love makes compromises and always sees the best,".

On a happy note, Myrtle  - age 94 - will be able to attend the wedding of Smith and Williams.

Williams's family had another encounter with Alzheimer's around the time of her birth.

"My  dad's other grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in his sixties, but our family suffered for years without a diagnosis. I was born a few months before his death," said Williams.

The couple chose the Sanders-Brown Foundation as the recipient of their gift because of their personal and professional connections to the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

"I actually began to love Sanders-Brown when I was in medical school at UK. I got the chance to participate in an aging fair one year, and began to remember my family as I walked Kentucky families through signs, symptoms, coping and respite care. It was a great resource - one I wish my family had been given access to," said Williams.

In addition to their commitment to fight Alzheimer's disease, the couple's decision to donate to Sanders-Brown has been influenced by their religious convictions.

"The focus of our wedding is to keep Christ at the center. Both sides of the family have Christian backgrounds, so we want to give to causes that have impacted people and been close to us. In essence, we want to honor the memory of our relatives. We do not want to forget that we loved these people through their sufferings, and we know many other people and their families are suffering through the same right now," said Smith.