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Undergrad Student Joins Faculty Member, Heart Association in Researching Dementia

January 30, 2023

By Dennis Spellman

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) selected an undergraduate student from the University of Houston College of Nursing to provide research on improving the lives of elderly people with dementia.

Yolanda Batz was awarded the research opportunity through the AHA's Hispanic Serving Institutions Scholars program.

Portrait of a Hispanic woman smiling wearing a black jacket.

"The AHA placed me with Dr. Cheryl Brohard as my research mentor," Batz said. "My role is to help Dr. Brohard in her research of life review intervention on older adults with dementia."

Batz is a student in the traditional track of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at the UH at Katy instructional site. Students in the Traditional BSN program begin taking classes as freshman on the main campus before being admitted and completing the BSN degree at the Katy instructional site. The University of Houston is an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).

Brohard, associate professor of nursing and the current president of the International Center of Life Story Innovation and Practice, is developing an education and training program for caregivers of individuals with dementia to help them with life review. Batz is writing the research paper about Brohard’s work.

Life review is a therapeutic intervention shown to increase the quality of life and decrease depression of the elderly. It helps them to resolve their past conflicts, reconstruct their life stories, and accept their present conditions.

Not many undergraduate students have the opportunity to write a paper for the AHA.

"This is an enrichment program for exposing students to research activities in their junior year of college," Brohard said. "It is designed to increase students' interest and enthusiasm for science and scientific inquiry under the mentorship of a faculty member."


Batz's documentation will provide the AHA with information on ways to improve the lives of people with dementia.

"There is not much research done on the topic, so as of now, it's been a little difficult," she said.

Brohard says historically, life review requires eight weeks to conduct, though the decline of a person with dementia often prohibits completing an eight-week program. She is developing a program that accounts for those individuals who experience a rapid decline because of dementia.

"I have condensed this educational program through design and some trial and error. The AHA paper is about that process and the resulting program that is developed," she said.

“Undergraduate nursing students at the University of Houston have the opportunity to do amazing research under the mentorship of incredible faculty like Dr. Brohard with the support of institutions such as the American Heart Association,” said Kathryn Tart, professor and founding dean of the College of Nursing.

Batz says her studies in the nursing program have helped her understand the important role of skilled caregivers.

"A caregiver doesn't necessarily have to be a nurse or a medical professional; sometimes, a family member who has received some training or support can do a great job," she said. "This research project has opened so many doors for me. I've met many incredible professionals through the AHA's network, and this incredible experience will help me reach my goals."

Batz eventually hopes to earn a Master's in Public Health and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

"I want to serve underprivileged communities in and around Houston," she said.

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