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June 26, 2001

Prestigious Honor for Young Faculty Studying Aging

Two physician-researchers at UCSF/San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center were recently awarded grants from the Paul Beeson Physician Faculty Scholars in Aging Research Program, administered by the American Federation for Aging Research.

Kristine Yaffe, MD, UCSF assistant professor of psychiatry, neurology, and epidemiology & biostatistics, and SFVAMC chief of geriatric psychiatry; and Mary Whooley, MD, assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology & biostatistics, and staff physician at SFVAMC, were two of eleven national scholars who received the $450,000 grant, which is spread over three years.

The grants are awarded to outstanding junior physician faculty committed to academic careers in aging-related research, teaching, and practice.

The program is sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, the Alliance for Aging Research on behalf of donor friends, and the Starr Foundation.

Yaffe studies potential risk factors for dementia, such as hormone replacement therapy and physical activity. She is also studying how depression affects cognitive function, as well as the progression of dementia. With her Beeson funding, she will be studying how these cognitive risk factors may vary by ethnicity.

Whooley is studying the effect of depression on coronary heart disease. Her previous studies have found increased mortality from cardiovascular diseases among patients who are depressed. Her current research is looking more closely at this association and mechanisms that might explain it.

UCSF now has four active Beeson Scholars, including Kenneth Covinsky, MD, MPH, UCSF assistant professor of medicine and SFVAMC staff physician, and Dale Leitman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. In 1995, the first class of Beeson Scholars included Frank Longo, MD, PhD, UCSF professor and vice chair of neurology, and SFVAMC neurologist.

"The Beeson Scholarship is the most prestigious honor for young physician-investigators in geriatric medicine and aging research. The award of so many Beeson Scholarships at UCSF is a testament to the exceptionally talented junior faculty and the strength of the program we are building," said Seth Landefeld, MD, chief of UCSF department of medicine's geriatrics division, and chief of geriatrics at SFVAMC.

According to the American Federation for Aging Research, only about 500 physicians currently have the combination of medical, academic and scientific training to serve adequately on medical school faculties in geriatrics. "The aging of the American population requires a substantial investment in faculty who will devote their talents and careers to advancing knowledge of effective prevention and management of illness and disabilities, and inspire successive generations of physicians to do the same," says the AFAR web site.

The Beeson Scholarship is named for Paul B. Beeson, Chairman of Medicine at Emory and Yale Medical Schools, Nuffield Professor at Oxford University and Professor and distinguished VA Physician at the University of Washington. He chaired the first Institute of Medicine study on "Aging and Medical Education" in 1978. His leadership as an editor of the Cecil Textbook of Medicine has greatly influenced medical education. He has profoundly influenced the career paths of many young physicians, who now form the core leadership in geriatric medicine.

Source: Kevin Boyd

American Federation for Aging Research


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