Press Release

Meet the doc who worked with the ‘This Is Us’ writers on depiction of Alzheimer’s

October 27, 2020
This is Us
Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) on "This Is Us." (Photo/NBC/Instagram)

What will become of Rebecca? That’s one of the questions fans of the hit NBC drama “This Is Us,” which had its Season 5 premiere Tuesday night, are asking.

Last season it was revealed that Rebecca (portrayed by Mandy Moore) has Alzheimer’s disease. This “Today” post from Feb. 26 detailed the stunner:

The matriarch of the Pearson clan discovered she is probably in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease when she went to the doctor with Kevin and Miguel to get the results of her MRI.

The doctor told them that her mild cognitive impairment is “likely due to Alzheimer’s.”

The fact that Rebecca appears to have Alzheimer’s will most likely be an integral storyline for the NBC drama going forward.


But did you know that a USC physician and researcher is the consulting neurologist on the hit NBC show? Somebody has to advise the writers on how to realistically portray the journey a patient goes through when they’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And Michael S. Rafii, MD, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurology and the Director of Medical Safety at the USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Center (ATRI) in San Diego, is that person.

Dr. Rafii

“It has been a pleasure to work with the show’s writers, as well as with Mandy, to help portray Alzheimer’s disease with accuracy and authenticity,” Rafii says. “Hopefully, with greater awareness, viewers will be motivated to seek out medical evaluation if they are concerned, and consider participating in clinical research in order to help us conquer this terrible disease.”

Moore, the singer-actress who has been nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes for her role as Rebecca, has become an advocate for people suffering with Alzheimer’s and their families. At the 20th annual Sentinel Awards last week, Moore honored “This Is Us” writers Julia Brownell, Kevin Falls and Jonny Gomez for their work in handling the issue in several episodes last season. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Moore said:

“When our show decided to take Rebecca and her family on this terrifying journey, of course, we immediately called Hollywood, Health & Society and their help made all the difference in getting these episodes right. Not that long ago, senility and the image of a doddering, mentally challenged senior citizen was played for cheap laughs on TV comedies, but with its characteristic sensitivity and honesty, three episodes of This is Us — ‘So Long Mary Ann,’ ‘Clouds,’ and ‘New York, New York’ — took viewers through the fear and resentment and conflict Rebecca feels as reality slowly unravels around her.”

Moore also is leading the Be Brain Powerful campaign and was honored at last week’s Us Against Alzheimer’s gala.