$2 million grant will transform geriatrics training across the medical education continuum

WORCESTER, Mass.—The University of Massachusetts Medical School has received a prestigious $2 million award from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to dramatically enhance the training of medical students, residents and practicing physicians in geriatrics. One of 10 grants awarded this year by the Foundation as part of its Aging and Quality of Life Program, the UMMS award will support the implementation of a comprehensive geriatrics curriculum across the span of training for physicians. The Medical School will commit additional funding in excess of $1 million to support this important educational initiative.

“As the commonwealth’s only public medical school, UMass Medical School is in an excellent position to effect ground-breaking change in training physicians to care for the growing geriatric population,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, dean of the school of medicine and provost & executive deputy chancellor of the Medical School. “We have an obligation to educate the finest caregivers, starting with guiding medical students’ first interactions with older patients, to honing residents’ abilities to recognize and address the health care needs of elders, to providing practicing physicians with state-of-the-art approaches to serving this ever-growing patient population.”

By 2030 the number of Americans age 65 and older will reach 70 million, 20 percent of the nation’s population, and more than double the size of that group in 1995. Those 85 and older represent the fastest growing age group: their numbers will at least double within 30 years, to 8.5 million.

The UMass Medical School project, entitled, “Integrated Geriatrics Education: A Model Curriculum across the Medical Education Continuum,” is a four-year initiative set to begin in January 2009 that will substantially bolster the school’s current geriatrics curricular offerings. A full range of initiatives to enhance geriatric education will be implemented, featuring:

  • an enhanced, integrated educational program in geriatrics spanning undergraduate and graduate medical education, with faculty development focusing on the principles of providing high quality care to the elderly;
  • a new Geriatrics Education Resource Center to bring together the essential state-of-the-art educational services, technologies and expertise in curriculum development;
  • a special program to educate chief residents across the medical and surgical specialties regarding the unique considerations in caring for the older patient; and
  • the recruitment of new geriatric faculty to teach medical students and residents.

The new program will be overseen by Michele P. Pugnaire, MD, associate professor of family medicine & community health and senior associate dean for educational affairs, and Jerry Gurwitz, MD, the Dr. John Meyers Professor of Primary Care Medicine and chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine.

“The time is right for this project at UMass Medical School,” said Dr. Pugnaire. “We are in the midst of a major curriculum redesign and aging has been endorsed by our curriculum committees and redesign teams as a unifying theme for all components of our new curriculum. Our Reynolds initiative will comprehensively integrate geriatrics teaching in all four years of our educational program, serving as a model that other academic health centers nationwide will choose to emulate.”

UMMS is one of ten institutions to receive the grant in the Foundation’s fourth group of awards. The Foundation, a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named, provided funding to institutions in 2006, 2003 and 2001, for a total of $80 million in geriatrics education funding over the years. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Reynolds Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

 The University of Massachusetts Medical School attracts more than $193 million in research funding annually, and its innovative programs are the centerpiece of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative. Consistently ranked by U.S.News & World Report as one of the leading medical schools in the nation for primary care education, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research and public service. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care.