Last week we congratulated and welcomed the 2011 Paul B. Beeson Scholars, recipients of one of our physician faculty career development awards in aging, conducted in partnership with the National Institute on Aging.  Today, we highlight another impressive group: recipients of the Dennis W. Jahnigen and T. Franklin Williams Awards, made possible through a new partnership with the NIA, the support of professional specialty societies, and our grantees the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and the Association of Specialty Professors/Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (ASP/AAIM).

Named in honor of Dennis W. Jahnigen and T. Franklin Williams, two eminent leaders in the field of aging and health, these outstanding scholars represent the hope and promise of a future in which all physicians, no matter their specialty, are prepared to care for the unique needs of older adults.  While older adults constitute a disproportionate share of patients in most medical specialties, there are glaring gaps in knowledge about their care. (See these articles on older patients and chronic kidney disease and anesthesiology, for example.)  There is also a general lack of focus on specifically geriatric care issues in specialty training.  These awards programs are intended to produce leaders from within the fields who will address these problems.

Award applications are already open for 2012 and we encourage junior faculty in the surgical specialties (Jahnigen program) and the subspecialties of internal medicine (Williams program) to take up the mantle from this year’s awardees and work to improve the care that surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, oncologists, and other specialists provide to their older patients.

The Jahnigen and Williams awardees, who are in the early years of their first faculty appointment, have been selected because of their promising research and their demonstrated potential to be champions for aging issues within their specialties.  This potential is nurtured by the unique aspects of these public-private awards, which go beyond traditional NIH research grants to provide added mentoring, annual meetings, and other career development support.  In addition to beginning their research programs and academic career tracks, Jahnigen/Williams Scholars often lead aging special interest groups within their specialty societies, take on the challenge of revising curricular materials for residency education, and go on to national prominence in academic medicine and health care more broadly.   Former Jahnigen Scholar Dr. Cliff Ko directs the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, helping ensure that surgical care of older adults remains a high priority in this large-scale effort to improve patient safety.  Dr. Sue Zieman, a former Williams Scholar, led a Hartford-funded project to create a geriatric curriculum for cardiologists and is now a Medical Officer at the NIA’s Geriatrics Branch, helping others across the country understand and access NIA’s funding opportunities.

Both the Jahnigen and Williams awards are components of larger Hartford-supported projects of the AGS and ASP/AAIM, and have been in existence since 2002 with funding support from our partners at The Atlantic Philanthropies.  To help sustain and enhance the programs beyond what would be possible with private funding alone, in 2011 the Jahnigen and Williams awards became public-private partnerships. They were reborn as the NIA’s Grants for Early Medical and Surgical Subspecialists’ Transitions to Aging Research (GEMSSTAR) program.  In addition to the $100,000 of funding over two years by the NIA, another $100,000 in professional development support is offered through partnering specialty societies (see list below), scholars’ home institutions, and the administering organizations (AGS and ASP - funded by grants from Hartford and legacy funding from Atlantic).  This unique configuration of funding not only provides these young scholars with more financial support than ever before, but also prestige and honor among specialist colleagues within their professional organizations and academic institutions.   We commend and congratulate the partnering specialty societies for their commitment to promoting care of older adults – the core business of most specialties.

But, of course, our biggest congratulations go to the 2011 Jahnigen and Williams GEMSSTAR Scholars. We wish you a great start to your careers and look forward to another impressive cohort joining you next year!

2011 Dennis W. Jahnigen/GEMSSTAR Scholars
Jaimo Ahn, MD, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
Orthopaedic Surgery
Research Project: Role of Notch Signaling in Fracture Healing as a Function of Aging

Stacie Deiner, MD
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
The Geriatric Surgical Patient: Stress, Anesthetics, and Functional Outcomes

Melissa Simon, MD
Northwestern University
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty among Seniors and their Family Caregivers

Maura Kennedy, MD
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Emergency Medicine
Research Project: Assessment of Emergency Department Patients who Develop Delirium after Hospital Admission

Michael Yeh, MD
General Surgery
Research Project: Long-Term Impact of Primary Hyperparathyroidism on Bone Density in the Elderly

Jahnigen Program Participating Specialty Societies

American Society of Anesthesiologists
American College of Emergency Physicians
American College of Surgeons
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
American Urological Association

2011 T. Franklin Williams/GEMSSTAR Scholars (additional awards pending)
Markus Bitzer, MD
University of Michigan
Research Project: MicroRNA-21 In Renal Aging

Adam T. Whaley Connell, DO
University of Missouri-Columbia
Research Project: The Role of Angiotensin II on mTOR mediated Tubulointerstitial Fibrosis

Alok Kapoor, MD
Boston Medical Center
Hospital Medicine
Research Project: Older Adult Safety in Surgery (OASIS)

Una Makris, MD*
Yale University
Research Project: Understanding the Impact of Restricting Back Pain in Community-Living Older Persons
(*2010 Williams Scholar/2011 GEMSSTAR Scholar)

Williams Program Participating Specialty Societies
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation
American Diabetes Association
American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging
American Society of Nephrology
The CHEST Foundation of the American College of Chest Physicians
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Society of Hospital Medicine