The Families of MMC Project

By Hannah Barnes

For the last two years, MMC has hosted summer interns who undertake projects combining their interests with the practice’s mission and needs. This year, two high school students found a unique way to connect across genera­tions, and I had the best seat in the house.

This was my second summer at MMC and in addition to my own proj­ects I helped Jaya Iyer and Elias Lopes with the Families of MMC project. By “helped” I mostly mean I stood in awe of their skill, maturity and dedication.

Inspired by Humans of New York, the project’s goal was to portray through photos and essays the vitality and diver­sity of families living with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Jaya and Elias approached the project with a sincere curiosity about each family they met. Jaya’s calm tone and thought-provoking questions, combined with Elias’ trained eye and skill at capturing candid mo­ments during interviews, led to an honest, heartfelt portrayal of each family’s unique story.

Most importantly, the interviews fo­cused on each family’s lives beyond their diagnoses. Jaya and Elias made it a point to ask about life advice and what bonds each family together. They learned about family traditions, world travel adven­tures, long-lasting love, strong faith, and a belief in second chances.

In watching this project unfold, I’ve learned the importance of listening and learning from one another. Life with a memory and movement disorder can feel all-encompassing and it’s hard to re­member the diagnosis is only one detail of a full story. This summer, Jaya and Elias reminded us all of just that. They featured what connects us and drives us as humans and families, and I know their work will break some of the stigma surrounding these conditions.

Hannah Barnes recently complet­ed her B.A. in Social and Personality Psychology from Cornell University. She is completing a Master in Public Health through the University of North Carolina while applying to medical school.

"Having conversations with patients taught me how giving just a few minutes to listen to someone can reveal stories no one could have imagined. There is always more to learn about a person and a family, and Elias and I wanted to highlight what makes each both special and universal.”