Award gives aging research new life

At 1 Church St., a group of young scientists are working to benefit the old, and, for Dr. Susan Hardy GRD ’04, the job has just gotten a little easier.

Hardy, an instructor in geriatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, was one of two researchers recently presented with the Pfizer/Foundation for Health in Aging Junior Faculty Scholar Award for Research on Health Outcomes in Geriatrics. The prestigious award, given to up-and-coming scientists, will provide Hardy with $65,000 annually for the next two years. This money will allow Hardy to devote more of her time to research rather than seeing patients.

Hardy, who is now in her sixth year at Yale and will complete her Ph.D. this December, is one of two scientists to receive the award this year. Her planned research stems from her Ph.D. work focusing on factors that affect independence and disability in the elderly. She plans to examine recovery from disabilities incurred during basic, everyday activities such as walking and bathing. She is also focusing on how previous disabilities and psychological trauma affect an older person’s recovery from subsequent disabilities.

“I find older patients, especially frail older people, to be very interesting patients,” Hardy said. “They have complex diseases and, often, the social context of these patients is very important. Disabilities are so important to these patients in [hindering] their daily lives.”

Hardy was the only applicant nominated by Yale for the award, which has been presented annually since 1984.

Hardy was sponsored in her research by Dr. Thomas M. Gill, co-director of the Yale Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology. Gill and Hardy have worked together for the past four years, using the same group of data for their research.

“This award identifies [Hardy] early on as one of the leaders in the aging and geriatric fields,” Gill said.

Gill, who joined the faculty at Yale in 1993, is currently working on projects similar to Hardy’s. He is studying the “factors that allow [older people] to remain independent” and is developing methods to deter the onset and progression of disabilities with age.

Hardy and Gill are both members of the Yale Program on Aging, currently in its 14th year of existence. In 1992, the program became one of the ten National Institute on Aging-funded Pepper Centers for aging research, Joanne McGloin, the program’s associate director, said.

McGloin said aging research was not a high priority when she came to Yale about 30 years ago. Age-related research started at Yale in the late 1970s and interest in geriatrics and aging research has increased rapidly since then, she said.

The Program on Aging is currently composed of about 50 staffers, working in research and data collection capacities, and 40 investigators working off-site. There are currently over 40 ongoing projects conducted within the program.

A primary objective of the current program, McGloin said, is to “build a cadre of physicians and scientists who are focusing on aging and other subjects in a multidisciplinary effort.”

McGloin said that the Program on Aging is “delighted” for Hardy and her achievements.

“This is what [the Program on Aging] is here for — after all, we’re all getting older,” McGloin said.

The central goal of the Program on Aging, directed by Dr. Mary Tinetti and Dr. Sharon Inouye, is to improve the quality of life for the elderly and develop means to combat chronic illness and personal injury. The program’s personnel of doctors, researchers and policymakers allows for collaboration and broad implementation of the center’s findings.

Comments

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