GinaMarie Tonini: Looking AHEAD to a Future Free of Alzheimer’s
GinaMarie Tonini has a special interest in Alzheimer’s prevention, along with a deep compassion for individuals at risk of the disease who are doing all they can to create a future that’s free from it. That interest and compassion makes her an exceptional Project Manager of the AHEAD Trial at the Memory and Aging Program (MAP). Launched in September, AHEAD is the first clinical trial to study a drug aimed at preventing Alzheimer’s disease in people as young as 55 years old.
“One of my favorite parts of working here at the Memory and Aging Program is interacting with our patients. They inspire me to be here every day,” Tonini says.
“The population I work with is cognitively normal but have a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s in the future. They are continuing to work, staying active, and may even have kids at home…but they are facing this threat to their future and they are just doing whatever it takes to prevent this disease.”
Although Tonini feels quite passionately about her work and the field of Alzheimer’s research now, it wasn’t always her professional focus. She graduated from Salve Regina University with dual bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Business Administration and continued on to get her MBA as well, all with an eye toward someday opening her own clinical practice.
“After I received my BA in Psychology and while I was finishing my MBA, I worked as an opioid treatment program counselor. I quickly learned that I loved counseling and connecting with patients. This position solidified my love for the field of psychology, and my desire to learn even more. I became interested in expanding my experience within the field, so I began to look for research-based positions. However, I also became more interested in the research side of psychology as well, and so I began to look for research-based positions.”
That’s what led Tonini to join the Memory and Aging Team in April, 2018.
“I had never had any experience first-hand with Alzheimer’s up until that point but I knew as soon as I met the team that I would really enjoy it,” she recalls. “I could tell right away that it was a team-oriented environment and I could just feel all the great energy coming from everyone I met. So I decided to give it a try, and I ended up just really loving the work and being here as part of this program.”
Tonini has become so committed to the program and its goals that she volunteered to participate in Alzheimer’s research herself.
“Working in this program has truly opened my eyes to what it means to participate in research, that I have even been signing up to participate in other research studies myself. I think when people hear the word ‘research’ there’s a common misconception that it’s this sterile, impersonal environment but it’s really quite the opposite,” Tonini says.
“It’s actually all about building and keeping a personal connection. That’s one of the amazing things about the Memory and Aging Program is how much we connect on a personal level with Our community and potential participants. If people feel a passion to participate in research, we help them find a study that interests them. It is their choice whether or not the individual chooses to participate or not. Either way, taking the time to have these conversations can break down common misconceptions about research.”
As Tonini works to coordinate the landmark AHEAD trial alongside MAP Nurse Coordinator Diane Monast, she says she’s looking forward to helping to break even more down boundaries in the field of Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention as part of a truly special and talented team.
“It’s a fascinating study. We are all excited to be a part of this groundbreaking prevention trial. It was incredible to watch the amount of work and collaboration that our team accomplished to get this study up and running,” she says.
“When I need motivation or when I’m feeling exhausted, I just think about the team I’m working with and how they step up to the plate for their patients and each other and for the bigger goals of the field. Here, they go above and beyond. That’s the kind of team I want to be surrounded with and I am just proud to be a part of it.”
To learn more about the AHEAD Trial and other trials and studies at the Memory and Aging Program, visit butler.org/memory.
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