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USF Health gets $2M federal grant to improve geriatric care curriculum

Healthcare services for older adults in the Tampa Bay area received a big boost in funding during August 2015: $2.24 million in federal grant dollars.

The University of South Florida is one of only two awardees in Florida and 44 groups across the nation to receive a portion of the $35 million disbursed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program.

The three-year grant, awarded to USF Health in partnership with Tampa Family Health Centers (TFHC), will fund inter-professional training and curriculum for students entering health professions with the overall aim of improving care for older adults.

The bulk of the grant’s support goes toward encouraging inter-professional geriatrics education and training among USF Health faculty and TFHC health care professionals. TFHC and USF Health faculty will work together to create a custom, tailored geriatrics curriculum for incoming USF medical, nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy students, as well as current residents and fellows specializing in geriatric care. Students will also spend a rotation at TFHC for clinical training under faculty supervision.

More than 2,000 students will take the new, geriatric-driven curriculum.

“Florida does not have an adequate workforce to support the state's growing geriatric population,” says Dr. Rita D’Aoust, associate professor and associate Dean of academic affairs and inter-professional initiatives in the USF College of Nursing. “USF Health has tremendous potential to address geriatric workforce needs in our community and, ultimately, to transform geriatric care in our region.”

USF Health is a partnership of the USF Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the USF Physician’s Group.

TFHC, a federally qualified health center (FQHC), services underrepresented communities at 15 clinics across Hillsborough County. The center offers medical, dental, pharmacy and behavioral health outpatient services to children and adults.

Federally qualified health centers “play an important role in providing primary care to underserved populations,” D’Acoust says, noting that around 80 percent of TFHC’s 6,000 patients ages 60 and over had an income below the federal poverty line in 2014. Common health complaints included obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

By taking on “the issue of building a resilient, trained geriatric workforce,” USF Health and TFHC aim to make geriatrics a primary focus in Florida’s FQHC primary care clinics, D’Aoust says. Together with the USF Byrd Alzheimer's Institute (BAI) and TFHC, USF Health aims to “embed geriatric primary care and related services into the FQHC and the training curricula of USF.”

In addition, the USF Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Project will support three community-based organizations that provide long term care services or support for elders: Senior Connections, Hillsborough County Department of Aging Services and the Health Services Advisory Group. 

“The GWEP award will be a powerful catalyst to transform USF Health and revitalize student and resident interest in geriatric care,” D’Aoust says.                                                                                                                           

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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