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Dyer Named Gerontological Professional of the Year
Carmel Bitondo Dyer, M.D., director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, is the new holder of the endowed Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Chair in Gerontology.
"I am so excited and truly honored to be appointed to the endowed Huffington chair," said Dyer, who also is a professor of internal medicine. "This endowment will help us really jumpstart geriatrics at the university."
The Honorable Roy M. Huffington, Ph.D., a leader in the oil and gas industry, established the endowment in 1988 to focus on improving care of the elderly. He and his late wife, Phyllis Gough Huffington, shared an interest in gerontology due in part to Mrs. Huffington's mother, who lived to the age of 100.
Dyer is familiar with the Huffingtons' generosity and commitment toward geriatric research and medical care of seniors. She completed both her medical degree and internal medicine residency at Baylor College of Medicine and then trained as a geriatrician at Baylor's Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Center on Aging, which also was established in 1988 by the Huffingtons.
"It really feels like I'm coming full circle to again have the privilege to take part in some of the legacy building and the programs for seniors generously funded by the Huffingtons," Dyer said.
Funding from the endowment will support research on aging, as well as geriatrics education and clinical programs for medical students and residents.
Dyer came to UT Medical School in January to lead its new Division of Geriatric Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine. Originally comprised of Dyer and Kathryn Agarwal, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, the division has since added five faculty members, including three physicians, a physician's assistant and a nurse practitioner.
"I'm just delighted with the caliber of faculty we have been able to recruit," Dyer said. "They are all outstanding clinician educators, team players and interested in developing this young division."
With more members on the geriatrics team, the division is beginning to take shape.
"It seems that all the different divisions, departments and schools here at UT are embracing the division," she said. "Already, we have started participating in collaborative research, and we have been invited to give lectures in a number of settings around the health science center. UT is extremely welcoming, and they obviously see the need for more training in the care of older patients."
Specifically, Dyer studies the intervention and prevention of elder mistreatment, which includes neglect, abuse and financial exploitation.
"The division's research and my research are intertwined," she explained. "We want to expand our focus a little bit to include vulnerable elders in general. We want to look at frailty and at problems in vulnerable hospitalized patients."
Now a member of the Curriculum Committee, Dyer is working to integrate geriatric medicine into the fiber of the education curriculum for medical students and residents.
"We are developing electives for students, and we are training internal medicine residents," she said. (Because of the aging of the baby boomer generation) "doctors will be seeing so many more older patients that we want to make training available to as many medical students and residents as possible."
Setting a trend for excellence
Dyer hopes to take the Division of Geriatric Medicine to the forefront of geriatric research, education and clinical care.
"We want to be a leader in the Houston community and among the UT schools," she said. "We want to set a trend for excellent research in elder mistreatment and other issues affecting the vulnerable seniors, as well as comprehensive clinical care. Our vision is to make UT students and residents better prepared to handle the demographic changes that are occurring in our patient populations."
Dyer has had quite an exciting year. In addition to her endowed position and success with the Division of Geriatric Medicine, she recently was named the Gerontological Professional of the Year at the 21st Annual Selenia E. and Joseph C. Valley Conference, which is organized by the UT School of Nursing Center on Aging.
"Dr. Dyer's enthusiasm for teaching, mentoring and research has generated an interest in geriatrics across all levels of the department and the school," said Philip Orlander, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. "Since arriving at UT, she has developed an in-patient acute care geriatrics service at Memorial Hermann, a palliative care service at Memorial Hermann, a geriatrics service with home care visits at UT Physicians and the Harris County Hospital District, and two of her faculty have received Geriatric Academic Career Awards. This is clearly a level of accomplishment that all of us would envy."
More accolades upcoming
In December, Dyer will receive the 2007 Distinguished Professional Woman Award sponsored by the Committee on the Status of Women at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
"I was stunned," said Dyer, of her selection as the Distinguished Professional Woman. "I've only been here nine months. UT sure knows how to make a faculty member feel welcome!"
By Camille Webb, for Institutional Advancement