"America is aging, at least one third of older people suffer from a mental disorder, and yet we have a critical, nationwide shortage of researchers trained in geriatric mental health," said Jeffrey M. Lyness, M.D., director of the Program in Geriatrics and Neuropsychiatry at the medical center. "Mental health problems like depression and dementias cause as much suffering as common medical conditions like heart disease and cancer, and we urgently need more researchers to identify fundamental disease mechanisms and develop the treatments of the future."
In 2003, the number of persons aged 65 years or older was 35.9 million, a number expected to nearly double in the next 25 years. Researchers estimate that a third of older adults have a mental disorder at any given time.
The Program in Geriatrics and Neuropsychiatry at the medical center includes more than 15 MD and PhD faculty members and has received national and international recognition for the quality of its clinical care, teaching, and research. The NIMH Training grant will support the three-year appointment of three postdoctoral research fellows to develop the skills necessary to become successful, independent researchers.
"We are fortunate to have a large and growing research program in geriatric mental health in Rochester," Lyness said. "To sustain and grow our efforts, we must provide a supportive mentoring environment for postdoctoral researchers in training. It has become harder than ever for young researchers to secure funding for research projects following traditional doctoral training."
Lyness also recently received a related NIMH Mid-Career Investigator Award of $679,000 to support his efforts to mentor junior researchers and to continue the study of depression in older adults.