Developing Interdisciplinary Centers in Aging

Learning from the RAND/Hartford Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Health Care Research Centers Initiative

Published in: Academic Medicine, v. 86, no.10, Oct. 2011, p. 1318-1324

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2011

by Dana Schultz, Donna J. Keyser, Harold Alan Pincus

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The rising number of older patients with complex, often chronic conditions presents challenges in service delivery and social organization. Addressing the complexity of multiple interacting chronic conditions and devoting time for extensive interaction with elderly patients requires an interdisciplinary team. The "Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Health Care Research Centers" initiative was designed to establish geriatric research centers that would bring together interdisciplinary teams of health professionals who would integrate concepts, methods, and practices across disciplines. The directors of the centers planned and conducted activities (e.g., seminars, Wikis, and mentoring) to develop infrastructure, to conduct collaborative research projects, and to support junior faculty career development. The activities in these areas led to a number of grant submissions and awards, to manuscript acceptances and conference presentations, and to career advances for junior faculty members. Overall, the centers' directors found that building interdisciplinary research capabilities takes time, attention, and support. External grant funding helped to create centers that, through infrastructure and activities, brought together individuals from a wide range of disciplines who had common interests and then helped these individuals collaborate to develop new projects or build on existing efforts. Through their infrastructure, collaborative research, and career development activities, the centers changed the approach to interdisciplinary research.

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