Researchers shaping care for older adults

May 7, 2015

In 1998, the IU School of Medicine launched the IU Center for Aging Research to help the university tackle health care issues faced by an aging population across the state and throughout the nation.

The center was established by director Chris Callahan, the IUSM Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Professor in Aging Research, whose game plan included consolidating IU’s emerging centers of excellence in the field.

The Center for Aging Research, affiliated with Regenstrief Institute, is based in the Health Information and Translational Sciences building near the downtown canal.  | Photo By IU COMMUNICATIONS

“Our original mission was to be a research center for the care of older adults,” Callahan said. “We’ve stayed true to that mission, through partnerships and relationships that helped us help improve care, and better understand the emerging importance of self-care: the role older adults have in their own care.”

The relationships include long-standing ties to the Regenstrief Institute, Eskenazi Health (formerly Wishard Health), IUSM and a growing research climate focused on geriatric care that has taken root in central Indiana.

Research is just one part of that care, according to Callahan. The new knowledge that research teams develop only has an impact when it is coupled with education and clinical care, one reason why the Center for Aging Research is embedded within the larger IU Geriatrics program directed by Steven Counsell, M.D., the Mary Elizabeth Mitchell Professor of Geriatrics and professor of medicine at IUSM.

“Not long after we started, we made a decision to offer a balanced program in geriatric medicine,” Callahan said. That approach has been both logical and valuable, he added, because it is built on “a great deal of collaboration across disciplines, throughout our (IU) campuses, with Regenstrief, with Eskenazi Health and with other organizations in the community.”

Callahan is proud of what the IU Center for Aging Research has accomplished in less than two decades. “We have built a national and international reputation for studying the various models of senior health to see which are most effective,” he said. “That is one of the biggest benefits of our ties to Eskenazi Health. It is critical to show a working model that other researchers and geriatric experts can see and visit, and Eskenazi fills that role for us. In turn, we help Eskenazi provide better care.”

The ties with Eskenazi offer center researchers another advantage, as well, he noted: “a glimpse of the emerging problems” that researchers will want to tackle in the near future. “The information that their medical experts provide to us gives us ideas to study and to test,” Callahan said.

He is proud of the center’s research teams, but said IUSM is strong in the field of geriatrics because of the three-pronged approach to care.

“You can’t provide quality care if you aren’t moving forward, and that’s based in research,” Callahan said. “But education is also vital, because that is the best way to put research into action, through the third component: clinical care. That has been our greatest advantage.”