Public Release: 

8 named Beeson Scholars, receive more than $6M for aging research and clinical care

NIMH joins prestigious partnership, the John A. Hartford Foundation renews commitment to long-standing program

American Federation for Aging Research

NEW YORK, August 12, 2009 -- The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), The National Institute on Aging (NIA), The Atlantic Philanthropies, The John A. Hartford Foundation, The Starr Foundation and other program partners are pleased to announce the 2009 recipients of the Paul B. Beeson Career Development Awards in Aging Research Program. This new cohort brings the total to 157 scholars who have been selected for this highly competitive and prestigious award, which seeks to create a cadre of clinically trained faculty who are committed to academic careers in aging research, teaching and practice.

Since the program's inception in 1995, Beeson Scholars have received more than $86 million in research grant support and have made their mark with innovative research--from the effects of depression in elderly health outcomes, to the connection between a certain type of cataract and Alzheimer's disease, to the development of new animal models to study the genetic basis of aging, to improving end-of-life care for under-served aging populations.

The Beeson program has become a model of cooperation between foundations and government entities. To that end, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced that it would join as a program partner beginning in 2010. The John A. Hartford Foundation has renewed its support through 2012.

"It is crucial to encourage and support researchers who are proficient in clinical aspects of aging," said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, MD. "The Beeson Awards provide protected research time and mentoring in a strong research environment, helping these young scientists establish their careers. Since the program began, we have seen increasing numbers of Beeson Scholars compete successfully for grant funding both from the NIA and other NIH Institutes and Centers."

The Beeson Award is granted to scholars who are laying clinically relevant groundwork in many areas related to aging, including the biology of aging and age-related diseases, as well as health outcomes, health services and clinical management issues, with the goal of enhancing the health and quality of life of older adults. Scholars receive $600,000 to $800,000 for a three-to five-year period, allowing them flexible and protected time for innovative research.

This year's scholars will study a broad array of topics such as the benefits and burdens of mammography screening for very old women, the challenges of access to kidney transplantation for elderly patients and determining the role of oxidative damage in the onset and progression of muscle loss and wasting, a common age-related condition.

"Research on aging encompasses many areas of investigation and care: from the very basic biology of aging processes to the clinical and social care needs," said Corinne Rieder, EdD, executive director of The John A. Hartford Foundation. "The Beeson program clearly addresses these needs by creating an outstanding network of the top scientists in the country who are helping to tackle the many research and clinical challenges of geriatric medicine - challenges that will only become more urgent in the future. We are pleased to renew our support for the Beeson program and welcome our new partner, the National Institute of Mental Health."

"NIMH strives to nurture talented physician scientists and to enhance the impact of their research on the enormous public health burden that mental illnesses have across the lifespan," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, MD. "We hope to underwrite such support targeted at our increasingly aging population through the Beeson Scholars program."

"One of the goals of the Beeson program is to cultivate future leaders in aging research and mentor other scientists who follow, ultimately creating a network of the best talent in the field of aging," said Stephanie Lederman, executive director of AFAR. "Our Beeson Scholars have proven that we have succeeded. Critical to the success of the Beeson program, however, are the partners, who enable the program to grow and thrive. We thank the NIMH for joining us and The John A. Hartford Foundation for renewing their long-standing commitment to the program."

The 2009 Beeson Scholars:

  • Cynthia M. Boyd, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: Treatment Burden in Older Adults with Diabetes and Multimorbidity

  • Dena B. Dubal, MD, PhD, Assistant Adjunct Professor, University of California, San Francisco: Collagen VI: Novel Mechanisms and Functions in Alzheimer's Disease

  • Christiane Reitz, MD, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons: Mapping Causative Factors in the Sortilin-related Pathway in Alzheimer's Disease

  • Mara Schonberg, MD, Instructor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Benefits and Burdens of Screening Oldest-old Women: The Case of Mammography

  • Dorry Segev, MD, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: Access to Kidney Transplantation in Elderly Patients

  • Edmond Teng, MD, PhD, Clinical Instructor, University of California, Los Angeles: Assessment of Biomarkers and Behavior in a Transgenic Rat Model of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Heidi L. Wald, MD, MSPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver: Reducing Urinary Tract Infections in the Hospitalized Older Patient

  • Jonathan Wanagat, MD, PhD, Acting Instructor, University of Washington: Mitochondrial Genetics in Skeletal Muscle Aging

In 2007, supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Beeson program expanded to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with the goal of helping to train physicians in geriatrics, build Ireland's capacity to provide high-quality care for older adults and advance knowledge of geriatric care. Five physician-scientists have been named Beeson Ireland Scholars thus far, including two this year, who received $450,000 each:

  • Chie Wei (Mimi) Fan, MD, RCPI, Clinical Director of Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL), St. James's Hospital: Age-related Autonomic Dysfunction and its Impact on Cognition, Gait and Falls

  • Ronan R. Mullan, PhD, Specialist Registrar in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, University College Dublin: Acute Phase Serum Amyloid-A (A-SAA) in Ageing, Arthritis and Obesity - Potential Common Mechanism for Cardiovascular Disease

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The Paul B. Beeson Career Development Awards in Aging Research Program is sponsored by the NIA, The Atlantic Philanthropies, The John A. Hartford Foundation, The National Institute of Mental Health, The Starr Foundation and an anonymous donor, and is administered by the NIA and AFAR. The program is named in honor of the late Paul B. Beeson, MD, who was professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Washington, and whose vision was to increase the number of physicians with a combined clinical, academic, and scientific expertise to care for a growing older population.

The American Federation for Aging Research is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support biomedical research on aging. It is devoted to creating the knowledge that all of us need to live healthy, productive, and independent lives. Since 1981, AFAR has awarded approximately $120 million to more than 2,600 talented scientists as part of its broad-based series of grant programs. Its work has led to significant advances in our understanding of aging processes, age-related diseases, and healthy aging practices. AFAR communicates news of these innovations through its organizational web site www.afar.org and educational web sites Infoaging (www.infoaging.org) and Health Compass (www.healthcompass.org).

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