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My Town Holland: Hope College grad receives award and grant for Alzheimer’s research
My Town Holland: Hope College grad receives award and grant for Alzheimer’s research

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Dr. Emilie Dykstra Goris of the Hope College nursing faculty has received an award and a new grant for her on-going research into the genetics of behavioral symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease.

In April, she will be presented the Outstanding Dissertation Award by the Physiology, Behavior, Genomics & Society Research Section of the Midwest Nursing Research Society (MNRS) for work that she conducted while in graduate school.  During the next two years, she will continue her research through a $50,000 grant she recently received from the Kenneth H. Campbell Foundation for Neurological Research.

She has been seeking to learn more about the role played by a specific gene, Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR), in apathy as a symptom among those with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s research that she notes may also enhance understanding of apathy among those with other disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

 “Apathy is associated with serious complications, including physical deconditioning, uncooperativeness with care and social isolation,” said Dykstra Goris, an assistant professor of nursing at Hope.  “Despite its prevalence and negative consequences, little is known about the characteristics of persons with neurological disorders, including biologic factors, that contribute to the presence and/or severity of apathy.”

The Outstanding Dissertation Award recognizes a member of MNRS whose doctoral dissertation is of exceptional quality and makes a significant contribution to knowledge or practice related to physiological phenomena, genomics, behavior, emerging technologies, or the impact of advances in knowledge or practice in those areas on society.  Dykstra Goris’s dissertation, which she wrote while pursuing her doctorate in nursing at Michigan State University, discussed her graduate research on apathy, genetics and functional status in persons with Alzheimer’s disease.

The award will be presented during the MNRS’s 2015 Annual Research Conference, will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thursday-Sunday, April 16-19.

Through the new two-year grant from the Campbell Foundation, Dykstra Goris will pursue research titled “Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR) Gene as a Candidate for Apathy Among Persons with Alzheimer Disease.”  Working collaboratively with Hope students, she will conduct follow-up genotyping and analyses on DNA samples that were collected from individuals with Alzheimer’s disease during her earlier research to further investigate the extent to which variations in OXTR align with apathy.

Dykstra Goris has been a member of the Hope faculty since 2012.  In addition to behavioral symptoms and genetics, her teaching and research interests include critical care nursing/acute care of the adult.

Last year, she was one of only 25 applicants nationwide chosen to attend the four-week, 2014 National Institute of Nursing Research Summer Genetics Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  Recognition and support of her work through the years has also included a Faculty Research Award through Hope from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from Michigan State University.  She has made several presentations during professional conferences regarding her research.

Dykstra Goris is a 2008 graduate of Hope, where she majored in nursing, and completed her doctorate at Michigan State University in 2013.  She participated in collaborative faculty-student research as a Hope student in addition to participating in research during her graduate studies.  Prior to joining the Hope faculty, she was a staff nurse on the Surgical Intensive Care Unit of Spectrum Health Hospitals in Grand Rapids.

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