DIMENSIONS Autumn 2005


by Susan McCurry, PhD

Dr. Paul Crane is an assistant professor in the University of Washington, Division of General Internal Medicine. He graduated from the UW Medical School in 1997, and joined the UW faculty in 2002. He also has a master’s degree in public health, with an emphasis on epidemiology, health services research, and biostatistics and measurement.

Dr. Crane’s current work includes a combination of clinical, teaching, and research activities. Much of his current research involves looking at the tests that are used to evaluate memory and thinking in older adults and persons with Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, Dr. Crane is interested in designing simple and efficient cognitive tests that provide accurate information about how a person is doing. He says, “One of the goals of people who work with measurement issues in dementia is that we try to make the process of cognitive testing as burden-free as possible. We recognize it’s not a fun thing to be tested and we’re working on improving that.”

Dr. Crane came to medicine and measurement research in a bit of an unusual way. As an undergraduate student, he had a double major in History and English, completing dual theses on the topics of Black feminist theory and an analysis of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He turned to medicine for his life work because he “always wanted a career that would help people and that would help me use my brain and be challenged.” His social sciences background gives Dr. Crane a unique perspective on the way that medicine builds upon oral history and traditions, and how a person’s background influences their performance on standardized tests. For example, in one ongoing study funded by the National Alzheimer’s Association, Dr. Crane is examining the way that acculturation to an American lifestyle influences cognitive decline in older Japanese-Americans. Better understanding of how traditional cognitive tests may be influenced by culture will help ensure that people are not mistakenly classified as “demented.” It also will ultimately help health services clinicians and researchers understand apparent differences in rates of dementia among different populations world-wide.

When not working, Dr. Crane enjoys playing classical piano and spending time with his wife and 4 1/2-month old son. His family has a particular love for tropical fish, and they have 90 fish tanks in their basement, most of which are Cichlids from South America and Africa. On the job, Dr. Crane says what he enjoys most is collaborating with other investigators doing Alzheimer’s disease research, helping them look at their data in new and interesting ways. He says, “It’s like an enormous puzzle, and by working together we can attack certain parts of the puzzle in better ways than has been previously done. AD is a worthy opponent, and since I’ve started studying it, I’ve never looked back.”

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