May 11, 2016

IU Center for Aging Research founding director honored by American Geriatrics Society

INDIANAPOLIS — Christopher Callahan, M.D., the founding director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, a Regenstrief Institute investigator and the Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Professor of Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, has been named the 2016 recipient of the American Geriatrics Society’s prestigious Edward Henderson Award.

Dr. Callahan is an internationally respected geriatrician and aging researcher with a longstanding interest in late life depression and Alzheimer’s disease. He has spent over two decades developing and studying new models of care designed to improve the health of older adults who are treated by internists or other primary care physicians, the doctors who see the majority of older adults in the United States.

“Many older adults fear the prospect of losing their mental capacities more than they fear death,” said Dr. Callahan. “Potential insults to brain health are seemingly everywhere, ranging from conditions like vascular disease and dementia, to conditions like depression and head trauma, to the side effects of medications, to the consequences of inactivity and poor nutrition. Our health care systems and our communities need to get much better in helping older adults protect their brains.”

Recognizing the unique health care needs of older adults, his research seeks to redesign health care systems with a focus on team-based care and with the recognition that health care must be integrated with social and community services. He also studies how to disseminate new care models into routine clinical practice in physician offices. He notes that primary care physicians need practical strategies to help them systematically redesign their offices to better serve older adults.

Utilizing existing health care data, such as those available in electronic medical records, Dr. Callahan and his team seek to identify opportunities to improve the quality, efficiency and cost of care. They have contributed new science in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease, late life depression, transitional care, multi-morbidity, and the effects of medications on the aging brain.

New models of care and practice redesign also require new thinking about the health care workforce. Dr. Callahan is a co-author of a 2012 Institute of Medicine Report that estimated that as many of one in five older adults in the United States have one or more mental health conditions or problems stemming from substance misuse or abuse. At present the U.S. lacks the workforce needed to care for these older adults and the majority of hands-on care provided to older adults with dementia is provided by family caregivers.

Dr. Callahan is the principal investigator of a four-year $4 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to the Indiana University Center for Aging Research. Awarded in 2015, the grant funds the Brain Health Patient Safety Learning Laboratory, at Eskenazi Health, a collaboration with the IU schools of Medicine, Informatics and Computing, and Nursing; the Purdue University schools of Biomedical and Industrial Engineering; Purdue College of Pharmacy and the Regenstrief Institute.

Dr. Callahan will deliver the 2016 Henderson State-of-the-Art Lecture at the society’s annual meeting on May 19 in Long Beach, California. His presentation will focus on providing care to persons with Alzheimer’s disease and supporting their family caregivers.

Media contact:
Cindy Fox Aisen
Regenstrief Institute