Marv Welstead’s mission to further Alzheimer’s research began during his wife’s own struggle with the disease.

“When Jean was in the nursing home, I started reading books at the library and then later I would get on the internet,” he said.

At that time, most people Marv encountered knew little about the disease his wife Jean was suffering from.

“When Jean first had it, I’d say she has Alzheimer’s and people would just look at me with a blank stare,” he said. “They’d say, ‘What’s that?’”

Whether it was the need for further research to help find a possible cure for the Alzheimer’s, or the need to raise awareness, Welstead dedicated his life to researching and raising awareness throughout the remainder of Jean’s life and beyond.

Following Jean’s death in 2009, Welstead was one of three people who organized the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Committee, now the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Collaboration, to harness community support and fundraising efforts to help him in his quest to assist others impacted by Alzheimer’s.

In 2012, the Collaboration established the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Fund, administered through the Fremont Area Community Foundation, and began fundraising through the annual Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Walk, as well as online gifts, memorials and an annual golf tournament fundraiser.

In recognition of his years of service to advance Alzheimer’s research, Welstead was honored with a University of Nebraska Medical Center Community Service to Research Award at the Distinguished Scientists awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Welstead was nominated by Dr. Daniel Murman, M.D., vice chair, clinical and translational research, and director of the Memory Disorders Clinic and Geriatric Neurology Program at UNMC, who also presented the award to Welstead at the awards ceremony.

“In the past five years, the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Fund has funded and granted five different projects to do clinical and translational research in the area of Alzheimer’s disease at UNMC,” Murman said. “Each of those investigators could not have done it without the support of the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Fund, and Marv is the driving force behind that fund.”

Through Welstead’s efforts, the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Fund has granted more than $125,000 to support clinical and translational Alzheimer’s disease research projects at UNMC that help investigators successfully compete for additional extramural funding.

Some of those research projects include:

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  • Build infrastructure for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials.
  • Purchase a retinal imaging machine (OCT imaging) to study Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Investigate changes in neuronal networks in Alzheimer’s using resting-state MRI and explore the impact of neuromodulation on memory and these networks.
  • Study a transcranial Doppler technique as a potential biomarker for preclinical Alzheimer’s.
  • Understand the neural basis of attention and working memory deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s using MEG.

Along with Welstead’s dedication to furthering research, Murman also pointed to the nearly 97-year-old Fremonter’s ability to engage the community and raise awareness.

“I think he really can translate the research and what is being done to the community,” Murman said. “I think the community understands the importance of Alzheimer’s research. They realize it is being done in the area, and we have had many people from the Fremont area who have participated in research projects, so that has been inspirational. His ability to engage the community and his persistence and passion for this has been inspirational for us, and I think it really has made a difference in supporting research at UNMC.”

Although Welstead’s goal has never been to gain recognition for his support of Alzheimer’s research and awareness, he appreciates receiving the award.

“Well, it’s an honor as far as I’m concerned to be selected for this, of course UNMC has been very, very supportive of Fremont and I am proud to be able to facilitate their research,” he said.

Even with all he has already done to support research and awareness of Alzheimer’s, Welstead still hasn’t reached his ultimate goal.

“Our goal with the collaboration and the fund is to make the public aware of Alzheimer’s, to provide caregiver education and get involved with research,” he said. “My goal, of course, is to someday see a cure for Alzheimer’s.”

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