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Yvonne Troiani Sweeney always had passion for the well-being of her patients. She dedicated her life to her nursing career that spanned 30 years after earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing (1978) from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (ESU) and a graduate degree in nursing from Villanova. Her colleagues and patients became her second family. Nursing led her to leadership roles at what is now the Lehigh Valley Health Network, Franklin Square Hospital in Maryland, Albert Einstein Medical Center and the Geisinger Health System. Wherever her occupation led her, she became an inspiration to others for the incredible level of care she delivered every day.

All of that changed six years ago for Sweeney and her family who live in Mountaintop. Diagnosed with a form of early onset dementia called posterior cortical atrophy, she set aside her career and focused her energy on the daily challenges she faced, alongside her husband, Chris and two sons, Christopher III and Michael.

Support came in many ways from Sweeney’s family. Her sister, Linda Niedbala, with the help of her husband, Sam Niedbala, started the Yvonne Troiani Sweeney Lecture Series for Nursing Enrichment at ESU, which kicked off in March 2014. The Niedbalas wanted this initiative to be a lasting tribute to Sweeney’s devotion to others while making a significant contribution to the education of healthcare professionals and the community at large about the cognitive impairment associated with dementia and other diseases of a similar nature.

This year, the lecture series continues on April 6 with a keynote address by Glen R. Finney, M.D. titled “21st Century Cognitive Care.” Finney is a board certified behavioral neurologist and director of aging brain and behavioral neurology for the Geisinger Health System. Behavioral Neurology studies all those functions of the brain that make us human, such as consciousness, personality, imagination, creativity, planning, judgment and language as well as the diseases that threaten them. The most common of these diseases with aging are dementias, especially Alzheimer’s and vascular dementias.

Finney’s goal is to promote brain health throughout the elder years and to prevent, detect, diagnose and help people and their families manage age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as dementias, through our region.

Finney’s lecture is at ESU’s Innovation Center, in East Stroudsburg.The event is open to the general public at no cost.

“This endowed lecture series is a tremendous gift to the university and to our medical community,” said ESU President Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D.

For more information about the lecture series, contact Laura Waters, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of nursing, at (570) 422-3569. Those interested in making a gift to the Yvonne Troiani Sweeney Endowed Lecture Series for Nursing Enrichment may call ESU’s Office of University Advancement at (570) 422-7000.

About Posterior Corticol Atrophy

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) refers to gradual and progressive degeneration of the outer layer of the brain (the cortex) in the part of the brain located in the back of the head (posterior).It is not known whether PCA is a unique disease or a possible variant form of Alzheimer’s disease. In many people with PCA, the affected part of the brain shows amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, similar to the changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease but in a different part of the brain. In other people with PCA, however, the brain changes resemble other diseases such as Lewy body dementia or a form of Creutzfeld-Jacob disease. Most cases of Alzheimer’s disease occur in people age 65 or older, whereas the onset of PCA commonly occurs between ages 50 and 65.

There is no standard definition of PCA and no established diagnostic criteria, so it is not possible to know how many people have the condition. Some studies have found that about 5 percent of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have PCA. However, because PCA often goes unrecognized, the true percentage may be as high as 15 percent. Researchers and physicians are working to establish a standard definition and diagnostic criteria for PCA.

The symptoms of PCA can vary from one person to the next and can change as the condition progresses.The most common symptoms are consistent with damage to the posterior cortex of the brain, an area responsible for processing visual information.