Consortium on Aging established at UTHealth
Initiative combines efforts of five schools to advance patient care, research and education
HOUSTON – (Aug. 16, 2010) – To meet the escalating patient care, research and healthcare education needs for a rapidly aging population, a university-wide Consortium on Aging has been established at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
"The Consortium on Aging allows us to leverage the strengths of our academic health center and our community collaborators to better serve Houston's older adults," said Carmel B. Dyer, M.D., professor and director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine; vice-chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UTHealth Medical School; and director of the Consortium.
The Consortium will include five schools of UTHealth: The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing, The University of Texas Dental Branch, The University of Texas School of Public Health and The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics.
“With the strong leadership of Dr. Dyer, the Consortium is galvanizing UTHealth to be the leader in education, patient care, research and community outreach for healthy and meaningful aging,” said UTHealth President Larry R. Kaiser, M.D. “By combining all of our geriatric and palliative care initiatives and strengths under the umbrella of the Consortium, we are able to offer a healthier future to our aging population.”
The University of Texas Houston Retiree Organization (UTHRO) recently announced that the Consortium is the recipient of the group’s first-ever Excellence Fund award. “We believe this is an exceptional opportunity for both UTHRO and the Consortium to fund projects that benefit older adults. We are especially excited about the Consortium’s aging initiatives across nearly every school,” said UTHRO President Frances Poole Knight.
Caring for patients, community outreach, innovative research and transforming education are the four cornerstones of the Consortium’s collaborative efforts.
Patient care includes outpatient clinical practice, inpatient special hospital units for the elderly and two house call programs specifically designed for geriatric and palliative patients. In clinical care, the newly opened UT Physicians Center for Healthy Aging and Brain Health Clinic at Bellaire joins UT Physicians clinics at Sienna Village and the Texas Medical Center, and the geriatrics clinic at Settegast Community Health Clinic, part of the Harris County Hospital District. The UT Physicians House Call Program provides care for patients too frail to travel to an outpatient clinic. Geriatric specialists provide in-depth care for patients in the Acute Care for the Elderly units at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and the hospital district’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.
Community outreach includes the Texas Elder Abuse and Mistreatment Institute (TEAM). Collaborators are UTHealth, Adult Protective Services of Texas, the Harris County Hospital District and Baylor College of Medicine. TEAM also works with the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office on joint research and education projects and operates the Harris County Elder Abuse Fatality review team, a volunteer effort. Another initiative, the TEAM Financial Abuse Specialist Team, was formed by Dyer and is now managed by the Better Business Bureau. The Center on Aging at UTHealth’s School of Nursing offers an Ombudsman Program that works with residents, families and facility staff to improve the quality of life of residents in long term care.
“The Consortium on Aging is a clear example of UTHealth’s vision, excellence and leadership through geriatric interdisciplinary collaboration addressing healthy and meaningful aging,” said Kathleen Pace Murphy, Ph.D., professor and holder of the Suzie Conway Endowed Professorship in Nursing. “It will offer state-of-the-art geriatric clinical care, education and research with the ultimate goal to improve the quality of life and well-being of older adults, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. It is visionary leadership.”
Research under the umbrella of the Consortium includes the Consortium for Research in Elder Self-neglect of Texas funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; the largest death study in the country on elder mistreatment victims funded by the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging; and a study evaluating Vitamin D in the elderly funded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Chronic disease, pressure ulcer prevention and stroke/caregiver issues are part of the research at the nursing school’s Center on Aging.
Schools within the Consortium provide unique education opportunities to students in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health and information science. UTHealth has received an extension of its highly regarded Houston Geriatric Education Center (HGEC) with a $1 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HGEC focuses especially on the frail or impaired elderly while training faculty, students and practicing professionals. Dyer is principal investigator of the HGEC and Sharon Ostwald, Ph.D., Isla Carroll Turner Chair in Gerontological Nursing at the School of Nursing, is co-principal investigator. In the UTHealth Dental Branch component of HGEC, June Sadowsky, D.D.S., M.P.H., assistant professor in restorative dentistry and biomaterials, teaches geriatric dentistry to all dental students. The school also offers continuing education in geriatric dentistry to practicing professionals.
As part of their education, Medical School students may elect a four-year scholarly concentration in geriatric and palliative medicine. In addition, beginning this September through a D.W. Reynolds Grant, all medical students will participate in a highly innovative interactive program using a Second Life avatar as an aging patient who has increasingly complex issues each year. Medical students also participate in a one-week rotation through geriatric medicine. In addition, they may choose an elective course in geriatric and palliative care. The UTHealth School of Nursing offers a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Program.
To create the Consortium, Dyer worked alongside elder care visionaries including Ostwald, the deputy director of the Consortium; Murphy; Tom Cole, Ph.D., professor, director and chair of the John P. McGovern, M.D., Center for Health, Humanities & the Human Spirit; and Andrew Achenbaum, Ph.D., adjunct professor in the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at the UTHealth Medical School, a fellow at the McGovern Center and the Gerson and Sabina Professor of Global Aging at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
For information, visit http://www.uthouston.edu/aging/.
Deborah Mann Lake
Media Hotline: 713-500-3030