New Mexico is aging.  In at least nine of the state's 32 counties, one quarter of the residents are 65 years or older, and New Mexico has the second largest number of American Indian seniors in the nation. Yet medical education has traditionally neglected these special populations.  In one of the largest private grant initiatives ever offered for geriatric education, UNM's School of Medicine has been awarded a four-year, $2 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to strengthen geriatric medical training throughout the state.

"This partnership with the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation will improve the healthcare of New Mexico's culturally diverse frail elderly for years and decades to come," said R. Philip Eaton, M.D., vice president of the UNM Health Sciences Center, when announcing the grant.

UNM is one of only 10 schools in the nation to receive a share of the $20 million Reynolds funding to train physicians in geriatrics. The university will match the grant award by half for a total of $3 million.  Carla Herman, M.D., chief of the Geriatrics Division within the UNM School of Medicine, will serve as the principal investigator for the grant at UNM.

During the four-year funding period, the UNM Center on Aging will create an educational infrastructure that will penetrate all levels of medical education and, using existing networks, provide geriatric competency to physicians and practices statewide.  Altogether, the grant will focus on three areas of physician training:

  • Incorporating a comprehensive geriatric curriculum into the medical school;
  • Expanding geriatric training and competency in the three community-based family medicine residency programs;
  • Strengthening geriatric training for community-based primary care physicians throughout New Mexico.

"By improving the training of our medical students and residents, we will have long-term impact on the geriatric knowledge and skill of the state's physicians," said Herman.  "Another key component will offer lifelong learning programs for practicing physicians throughout the state."

"Nearly 400 New Mexico physicians, located in 25 of the state's 33 counties, play a key role in educating students by volunteering a minimum of 3-4 hours per week with a student.  More than half of these preceptors are Internal Medicine and Family Practice physicians.  The grant will allow training for those physicians so that they can in turn help train future New Mexico primary care physicians about the special needs of the state's senior population," Herman said.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named.  Reynolds was the founder and principal owner of the Donrey Media Group, which he created in 1940.  During Mr. Reynolds' lifetime, he owned and operated over 70 businesses, to includinge the Alamogordo Daily News newspaper.  Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is one of the 50 largest private foundations in the United States.