Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Education & Support

The Buddy Program™

The Buddy Program is a unique opportunity for medical students to build relationships with persons who have Alzheimer's disease or other related illnesses outside of a clinical setting.

The Buddy Program was selected as recipient of the MindAlert Award in the category of Early-Stage Dementia Programs by the Lifetime Education and Renewal Network of the American Society on Aging, in collaboration with MetLife Foundation.

As a Buddy Program Participant students:

  • receive a 3-hour orientation on Alzheimer's disease and communication skills over 2 lunch-time meetings;
  • are matched with a buddy who lives in a location convenient to visit on a regular basis throughout the academic year;
  • participate in monthly group meetings and educational seminars.

At the end of the year, students receive a certificate for your medical school records and compensation for expenses.

The Buddy Program, which was developed by the CNADC in 1998, is a unique program matching first year Northwestern University medical students with patients diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness. This program allows both students and the diagnosed person to get to know each other on a more personal rather than a clinical level and just enjoy being together.

The program has attracted ten to fifteen medical students per year who volunteer their time to take part in a 3-hour orientation course on Alzheimer’s, communication skills training, and family issues, then commit to spending at least four hours a month with their buddy, in addition to monthly meetings with the program planners. Buddy Match Day marks the first meeting of patient and student as they get to know each other at a party hosted by the CNADC. It is at this event that the buddy pairs begin their relationships, share their stories and plan ideas for the coming months’ events. Family members of the patient also get to know the student, as they often facilitate the buddy visits.

The patients are selected for the program from the Northwestern Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Clinical Core and other Northwestern related programs. Patients and families are contacted individually and are provided written material on the program. Persons with the illness are selected based on their ability to understand the basic concept of the program and their willingness to spend a minimum amount of time each week with their buddy. Patients who seem to benefit most are those in the early to moderate stages of the illness. Matches are made based on interests of both patients and students.

Download Buddy Program Brochure

The goals of the Buddy Program are to educate medical students regarding Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) at an early stage of illness by:

  • Heightening awareness of skills and strengths that remain in people with ADRD.
  • Providing opportunities to see how someone with ADRD responds to his or her own changing abilities,
  • Familiarizing students with issues of the daily care and support of persons with ADRD and their families and the most effective ways of communicating with persons with dementia.
  • Introduce students to research and practice opportunities in related fields.

Find out more

Please contact Darby Morhardt at (312) 908-9432 or e-mail:

Teaching About Alzheimer's with Buddy System

The Buddy Program on NBC Nightly News

Find out more

Please contact Darby Morhardt at (312) 908-9432 or e-mail:

Related Information

Alzheimer's patients mentor med students in Buddy Program - Sept 2013

The doctor will (really) see you now: an Alzheimer's program - August 2013

CNADC's Buddy Program provides valuable knowledge on memory loss and aging to medical students - July 2013

This page last updated Mar 28, 2014

Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center
320 E Superior, Searle 11
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312-908-9339
Fax: 312-908-8789
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