Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2003
Lavonne Luquis (510) 987-9194


To help meet the needs of California's aging population, the University of California has pulled together $12 million in state and private funds to fully fund six new endowed chairs in geriatric medicine -- a subspecialty dedicated to providing medical care for elderly patients.

The new faculty chairs will be located at UC's five medical school campuses -- Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco -- and at the Berkeley campus. Although there is no medical school at Berkeley, the campus offers major health sciences programs in public health and optometry, as well as a joint medical student educational program that is operated in conjunction with the medical school at UC San Francisco.

"This is an unprecedented initiative in academic medical education," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson, who will retire on Wednesday (Oct. 1). "We appreciate the state's recognition of the university's role in training future physicians to meet the needs of the people of this state and we are very grateful to the two foundations that made generous contributions to support this effort."

A total of $4 million in state funding was provided to UC to fund two new chairs at a level of $2 million each. These chairs will be named in honor of former California governors Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr., and Ronald W. Reagan and located at the UCSF School of Medicine and at the UC Irvine College of Medicine.

The Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, with headquarters in Petaluma, contributed $2 million to fund the new endowed chair at UC San Diego and the Archstone Foundation in Long Beach provided $1.5 million for the chair at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine. Each of these chairs will be named for the foundation that made the gift.

Smaller donations from other private sources and reallocations of existing endowments provided funding for the other two chairs.

The aims of the new UC initiative are to:

- recruit and retain UC faculty clinicians who are skilled in the art and science of caring for the elderly;

- promote state-of-the-art teaching for UC medical students, residents and other health sciences students by ensuring that the faculty filling these chairs assume active roles as teachers and mentors; and

- ensure that "best practices" in geriatrics education and research are readily shared through the UC system.

California has the largest elderly population in the nation. An estimated 3.3 million Californians are age 65 and older. This population is expected to reach 5 million by 2010 and to exceed 7 million in 2020. The fastest growth among California's seniors is in the age group 85 years and older. Today, 1 in 77 Californians are 85 years old or older; this proportion is projected to be 1 in 62 by 2010 and 1 in 34 by 2040.

The impetus for the program was legislation signed by Gov. Gray Davis in September 2000. Also known as the Geriatric Medical Education Training Act of 2000 (formerly Assembly Bill 1820, by Rod Wright), this legislation requested that the UC system develop new initiatives to improve teaching in geriatrics for UC medical students and resident physicians.

The same year, the state appropriated $4 million to fund two new endowed chairs, which were to be based at two of UC's five medical schools. Recognizing the need for new resources in this field for all UC medical schools, Atkinson encouraged his staff to seek additional private support to fund other new endowed chairs. Generous gifts to the UC system from the Larry L Hillblom Foundation and from the Archstone Foundation were subsequently made to support the effort.

The Larry L. Hillblom Foundation is a non-profit public benefit corporation whose mission includes support for medical research programs conducted by the University of California. Initial research priorities of the foundation have included a focus on diabetes mellitus and diseases associated with aging.

The Archstone Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation whose mission is to prepare society for the growing needs of an aging society. The Archstone Foundation's funding priorities include elder abuse prevention, fall prevention, and emerging needs among the elderly.

As president, Atkinson has the authority to establish new endowments for faculty chairs, which he exercised in officially approving and launching the program.

The new chairs will be part of the UC Academic Geriatric Resource Program, authorized by the California Legislature in 1984 as a mechanism for developing new initiatives in geriatrics, gerontology and other disciplines related to aging. The nearly 20-year-old program has a $1.1 million annual budget and a long record of collaboration among its six participating campuses.

The Academic Geriatric Resource Program is one of five legislatively established programs administered by the University's vice president for health affairs, Dr. Michael V. Drake.

"We believe UC health sciences programs should be increasingly focused on meeting the health needs of all Californians," said Drake. "This is the start of an important new effort and we look forward to working with our campus colleagues to ensure its success."

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