I want to tell you about my friend Charles Ogletree. For the past five years, his family saw his memories, and the person he was, fade away along with them.
You would be hard-pressed to find an African-American lawyer or politician who does not know the name Charles Ogletree as a deeply valued sponsor or role model. His brilliance as a prominent Harvard Law Professor is eclipsed only, perhaps, by his empathy, generosity and kindness.
In 2015, at age 62, “Tree” – as his friends call him – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Very quickly, his family and friends began to endure the painful process of losing the person they knew, the man they loved. Last year his family and the Boston police spent six hours trying to find Tree – he
Every day his wife, Pam, and their family watch him live with a disease that impedes his ability to communicate, to move, to remember. A disease that has robbed him of his identity.
This is what Alzheimer’s disease looks like in 2020. And I’ll bet almost all of us know and love someone like Tree.
But imagine for a moment that we are living in the 2030s.
Imagine that someone very much like Tree is sending communications from his smart device. Suddenly, he and his wife get an alert from a digital app that detects patterns characteristic of very early, subclinical neurodegeneration.
Subsequent medical consultation and brain imaging confirm preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
That patient goes on a treatment plan that includes medicines shown in the 2020s to slow progression of the disease. This treatment is part of an integrated solution that leverages clinical, imaging and digital data from the patient to guide optimal intervention.
The patient’s healthcare network has deployed this integrated solution broadly, because it has been shown to both improve outcomes and help reduce overall healthcare costs for patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
At Roche, we work to fulfill a promise to future patients and society to deliver on this vision. For people in the earliest stage of the disease, we know that pairing technology and medicine could change the trajectory of their lives.
It’s too late for Tree to benefit from this vision. But I think about my friend often as I work ... because for people like Tree, and the millions who have yet to be diagnosed with disease, we can’t move fast enough.