WyGEC Documentary Wins National Awards

August 6, 2012
Two unidentified contestants
In this scene from the documentary, “Gray Matters: Exploring the Mature Mind,” contestants concentrate intensely during the AARP spelling bee. (Wyoming Public Television)

Current and former University of Wyoming faculty, staff and students produced a Wyoming-based documentary that recently won two major awards -- a national Bronze Telly and a Heartland Emmy award.

The documentary, “Gray Matters: Exploring the Mature Mind,” was produced by the Wyoming Geriatric Education Center (WyGEC) in the UW College of Health Sciences and aired twice on Wyoming PBS last year.

The 30-minute documentary promotes positive messages about the aging brain and features footage filmed at the 2010 AARP National Spelling Bee and AARP ”Wyoming Gray Matters: Training the Grownup Brain” workshop. The film also includes interviews with faculty researchers, health care providers, spelling bee participants and others.

UW personnel featured in the documentary are Christine McKibbin, WyGEC director and assistant professor in the UW Department of Psychology; Deb Fleming, founding director of the WyGEC; Kristina Stefka, a former faculty physician at the UW Family Practice in Cheyenne; and Pat Engler-Parish a recent graduate of the UW social work program.

AARP has used the documentary as a platform for discussing cognitive health at several locations throughout the state.

“The Gray Matters workshop series has been wildly popular and we are thrilled to see that broadcast industry experts have recognized it, too,” AARP Wyoming Director Tim Summers says. “Spellers asked us to create a workshop where they could talk to experts about how to keep their minds sharp as they age. We opened it to the public and more than 1,200 people have attended a Gray Matters workshop with thousands more tuning into the documentary.”

The Heartland Emmys is a regional division of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (producer of the national Emmy awards), recognizing the best in broadcast from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and southern Wyoming. The Telly Awards, based on the Oscar awards, is a national competition recognizing the best in film and video production.

“We hope that these awards will further raise the visibility of the documentary and that even more members of our community will watch and learn from the video,” McKibbin says. “We all want to know what will keep our brains as healthy as possible as we age. This documentary illustrates what we know at this time about what works.”

WyGEC produced the documentary with financial support from the UW Division of Social Work, Richard Chatham, the Wyoming Department of Health Office of Multicultural Health and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. The documentary was made with in-kind support from AARP Wyoming and the St. John's Institute for Cognitive Health in Jackson. Elk Run TV Production videographer Carl Filoreto, filmed and edited the production.

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