For Jeffrey L. Cummings, M.D., an interest in identifying and treating neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other dementias, began early. After growing up in the rural town of Basin, Wyo., Cummings went to the University of Wyoming (graduating with high honors) and then on to medical school at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle.
"As an undergraduate student and even as a high school student, I was greatly attracted to philosophy, natural history and biology," he told Psychiatric Times. "So as I entered my undergraduate studies, the zoology and premedical courses attracted me to medicine, but the philosophical theme drew me to behavior, and to the choices of neurology or psychiatry. Undecided between the two, my career has been a union of those two disciplines."
At UW, Cummings worked with a neurologist, John Green, M.D. An epileptologist "committed to humanitarian care," Green encouraged Cummings "to think about the relationship between neuroscience and society and between neurological disease and the human mind and human spirit."
After his studies at UW, Cummings completed a rotating internship at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., followed by a residency in neurology and a fellowship in behavioral neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts and another fellowship in neuropathology and neuropsychiatry at the National Hospital for Neurological Diseases in London.
It was at Boston University that Cummings met neurologist D. Frank Benson, M.D. Benson's 1975 book Psychiatric Aspects of Neurological Disease was a benchmark publication in which neurologists and psychiatrists contributed to discussions of brain diseases that produced psychiatric manifestations.