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UT Houston launches geriatric training with $3.25 million in grant, matching funds

HOUSTON(Nov. 21, 2008)The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston will launch a new program, Training Excellence in Aging Studies (TEXAS), to promote geriatrics training for physicians through a prestigious $2 million award from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and $1.25 million in matching funds.

"This will allow us to teach geriatric medicine principles to everyone from the most junior medical student to practicing physicians. With the reach of Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital and Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center, we intend to impact nearly 12,000 medical students, residents, non-geriatrics faculty, practicing physicians and geriatricians over a four-year period," said Carmel B. Dyer, M.D., director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine and professor and associate chair of internal medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. "We'll also be able to add elder abuse training in emergency rooms and community health clinics."

This is the fourth round of geriatrics training grants from the Reynolds Foundation's Aging and Quality of Life Program, created to improve the quality of life for older people by preparing physicians to provide better care for them. The Reynolds Foundation's goal is to train all physicians to better care for frail elderly people, regardless of their specialty or practice. According to Steven L. Anderson, the Foundation's president, the UT Medical School at Houston was chosen for its strong leadership, high level of institutional support and creative new methods for the training of medical students, residents, non-geriatrics faculty and practicing physicians in geriatrics.

"With this program, our medical school is taking a defining step in becoming a leader in educating physicians in the care of the elderly, who are among our most vulnerable and complex patients," said Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., dean of the UT Medical School at Houston. "We are grateful to the Reynolds Foundation, Memorial Hermann and the UT Health Science Center supporters who are allowing us to better serve this growing need in our community and beyond."

Matching funds came from the late Roy Huffington, Huffington Endowed Lecture Series, Othello "Bud" and Nelwyn Hare, Memorial Hermann Foundation, Harris County Hospital District and the Office of the Dean at the medical school.

TEXAS has five components:

  • a medical school curriculum including case-based learning in a virtual world in all four years;
  • an education program using electronic "sound bytes" with geriatric principles and follow-up geriatrics case studies for residents from internal medicine, family and community medicine, emergency medicine, neurology, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, urology and physical medicine and rehabilitation;
  • a program to educate faculty from multiple disciplines to reinforce geriatric competencies among residents in their specialty areas;
  • the Reynolds Visiting Professor Program that will bring in experts from other Reynolds Foundation sites to share their expertise;
  • and the implementation of elder abuse education seminars, an area of expertise for UT Medical School geriatricians, for teams in the university's affiliated emergency centers and outpatient clinics.

Sharon K. Ostwald, Ph.D., professor in the Center on Aging at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing, is director of evaluation for TEXAS.

"We will be working to collect and analyze data from all the different educational interventions to see what changes occur in knowledge, attitudes and skills in geriatrics, and also monitoring changes in the care of geriatric patients over the four-year grant," said Ostwald, holder of the Isla Carroll Turner Chair in Gerontological Nursing.

Elmer Bernstam, M.D., associate professor at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston and the medical school, and director of the Biomedical Informatics Core of the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, will lead the information technology component of TEXAS.

Dyer, chief of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at LBJ General Hospital and director of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at Memorial Hermann TMC, is a nationally recognized expert in elder care. She participated in the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, has testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and is one of the authors of Elder Abuse Detection and Intervention.

The Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine was established in the medical school's Department of Internal Medicine in 2007. The faculty includes five physicians and three geriatrics nurse practitioners. A geriatrics fellowship program began in July 2008.

"The entire division is made up of dedicated and energetic faculty and staffall of whom will be a part of carrying out various aspects of this grant," Dyer said.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded the UT Health Science Center at Houston's Geriatric Education Center (HGEC), which in addition to the medical school, involves faculty from The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, The University of Texas School of Public Health, the school of health information sciences and the Center on Aging. Under the direction of Dyer and Ostwald, the HGEC focuses on educating faculty and students to provide quality care to the most vulnerable elderly people.

A house call program under the direction of Susan Gorman, M.S.N., R.N.C., instructor of medicine, was established in 2007 and an Acute Care of Elders (ACE) unit at Memorial Hermann TMC under the direction of Nasiya Ahmed, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, was created in September 2008.

"There is an acute shortage of geriatricians to meet local needs, much less to care for older patients from across the nation and abroad who seek medical care here," said Dyer, the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Chair in Gerontology, who pointed out that the medical school's average graduating classes of 200-plus students are among the largest in the country. "Care for vulnerable elders often falls between the cracks. We are uniquely positioned to establish an innovative, high impact and sustainable geriatric education program for our students, residents and faculty."


Contact: Deborah Mann Lake
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

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