Multiple NYU schools collaborate to Study Innovative Health Services

New York, N.Y.-New York University has been awarded a two-year grant by the RAND/Hartford Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Health Care Research Centers Initiative to develop a new center focused on improving the health of older adults through innovative, interdisciplinary research. NYU is one of seven institutions nationwide to receive such a grant. The award signifies both the ongoing importance of the University’s work in the field of geriatrics and the promise of significant future contributions.

“The complexity and fragility that comes with advanced age dictate the need for interdisciplinary research and collaboration,” says Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing. “NYU has substantial ‘pockets of excellence’ within its academic and health care community that, with this grant, can be fully realized. This research center takes the best of all of us.”

The new research center will capitalize on existing strengths in geriatric research and training at NYU, bringing together extensive gerontological expertise in the College of Nursing-a flagship for geriatric nursing-and NYU School of Medicine as well as the College of Dentistry, the School of Social Work, and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service with participation from faculty in multiple departments and institutes. Its mission will be to develop and study innovative clinical and health-services interventions in geriatrics, and to provide interdisciplinary research and training opportunities for new and established investigators.

Central to this project are three pilot studies on areas of importance to geriatric researchers in overlapping areas:

  • The first study, led by Dean Terry Fulmer of the College of Nursing, Dr. Michael Freedman of the School of Medicine, Dr. Stefanie Russell of the College of Dentistry, and Dr. Sheryl Strasser of the College of Nursing, will test an innovative methodology for estimating the prevalence and incidence of elder abuse-a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality among older adults-in a large sample of community-dwelling elderly.
  • The second study, led by Dr. Freeman and Dr. Marc Gourevitch of the School of Medicine and Dr. Victor Rodwin of the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, aims to expand the reach of a highly successful falls-screening and prevention program by offering screening, assessment, and intervention within naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs).
  • The third study, led by Dr. Michael Turner and Dr. Jonathan Ship of the NYU College of Dentistry, Carolyn Auerhahn of the College of Nursing, and Dr. Daniel Gardner of the NYU School of Social Work, will determine the burden of xerostomia-or dry mouth- among the geriatric patient population of the Nursing Faculty Practice within the NYU College of Dentistry. Xerostomia in the elderly has a wide array of causes and wide-reaching effects. Researchers will investigate its causes, develop treatments for individual patients, and determine the impact of the syndrome on subjects’ quality of life.

“Older adults may have 3 to 5 conditions, take up to 10 medications, and, suffer from a loss or from transition issues. These types of issues require a team approach,” says Dean Fulmer. She adds, “The pilot projects funded by the Hartford-RAND grant will enable us to build on our expertise and create the next generation of scientists in these areas.”

Each of the pilot projects brings together researchers from several disciplines. As part of the elder-mistreatment study, for example, Dean Fulmer of the College of Nursing will mentor a dentist and a social work faculty member, both of whom are early in their careers. Researchers will conduct work in their own academic settings but also come together in a variety of locations. The new center will feature weekly collaborative research training and education seminars, a mentoring system for the development of junior investigators in interdisciplinary geriatric research, and two leadership retreats a year.

Three internationally renowned consultants have been recruited to bring their expertise to bear on the pilot projects: Mark S. Lachs, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Weill Medical College, will consult on the elder-mistreatment project. Mary E. Tinetti, MD, Gladys Phillips Crofoot Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine and an expert on falls in the elderly, and Fredda Vladeck, PhD, project director of the Aging in Place Initiative at the United Hospital Fund and a renowned expert on NORCs, will consult on the falls-prevention program.

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