Graduate school has been a true labor of love for Ann-Marie. “I don’t believe in retirement. To me, retirement would be working part-time. I want to contribute back to the field in new ways, do basic research and find ways to improve patient care. At 57, completing my Ph.D. isn’t going to make me rich and famous, but I want to do this for myself.”
Ann-Marie spent over thirty years as a nurse, at one point going back for a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, but never felt fulfilled in her role. She’s interested in pushing the boundaries of the role nurse practitioners can play in chronic diseases in the elderly. “I felt some things just needed answers. There are barriers to the healthcare system and patient care, and I want to go further than treating patients. I want to help treat the system,” she explains.
A mother of twins, Ann-Marie went to college with her kids, literally. One son attended Michigan Tech and one came to U-M with Ann-Marie. She laughs, saying, “Our plan was to graduate together, but he beat me. “I found the program here at the School of Nursing in Biobehavior and thought the program was made for me. It’s been really fun to take a break from work and get my mind excited again. My first year here, I got football tickets and tickets to UMS events, then found I couldn’t go because I had to write a paper or something.”
She’s collecting data now for the last phase of her dissertation. Simply put, Ann-Marie says she researches “the mental fog of diabetes.” She’s in a group researching cognitive impairment. “I’m examining areas of cognition that may interfere with diabetics’ ability to follow their regime. The issue isn’t just dementia. Perhaps patients don’t learn and form memories because areas of their brain are affected by high blood glucose. Diabetics are twice as likely to have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. They have higher rates of depression and often can’t multi-task well. By the time many patients realize they are diabetic, parts of their brain are already shrinking. I want to know how that affects their daily lives.”
Ann-Marie lives in Iron Mountain, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. The prevalence of diabetes is high there, and the trends over the last few years are alarming, particularly in children. She says, “I wanted to do research up where I live, where there aren’t many people studied and where I know the system well. I hope my research can result in the use of some simple tests to identify patients at high risk for cognitive impairment and find ways to help them compensate.”
In addition to her graduate research and work as a nurse practitioner, she maintains a long list of hobbies. She’s in a women’s hockey league, plays golf, and is learning to play the drums, among other things. From the sound of it, Ann-Marie won’t retire for a long, long time!