News Release: Emory Healthcare , Research , School of Medicine

Sep. 1,  2009

Emory Center for Health in Aging Names Interim Director

News Article ImageDr. Ted Johnson

Emory University's Woodruff Health Sciences Center has named Theodore (Ted) Johnson II, MD, MPH, as interim director of the Center for Health in Aging. The Center addresses health care issues affecting the rapidly growing senior population in the United States through research, clinical care, community outreach and education.     

Johnson is director of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. He is also associate director and Atlanta site director for the Birmingham/Atlanta VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC).

"The health of senior citizens is a key priority for Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center," says Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD, Emory executive vice president for health affairs. "Ted Johnson brings not only nationally recognized clinical expertise to his new role, but also a deep understanding of the full range of seniors' health care needs and a commitment to addressing them."

There are compelling demographic reasons to study aging. According to U.S. census records, a wave of 2.7 million Americans will turn 65 by 2011, and each succeeding year the swell grows until it peaks in 2025 with 4.2 million new 65-year-olds. In the Atlanta metropolitan region, the population age 65 or older grew by more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to a University of Georgia study. The study also notes that more than 20 percent of the metropolitan region's population will be over age 60 by 2030.

The healthcare implications for seniors in Georgia and the United States are tremendous, according to Johnson. The sheer numbers of older adults will place strains on our healthcare system and the family and professional caregivers who help them. The cumulative effect of that surge, plus the fact that people are living far longer then ever before, poses a looming crisis for the health care system, Johnson says.

Johnson earned his medical degree from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and performed his internal medicine residency training at the University of North Carolina. Following a fellowship in geriatric medicine, he earned a master of public health in epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, focusing on the impact of urinary incontinence and other lower urinary tract symptoms on older adults. Johnson is an expert on this topic, with more than 40 publications, and numerous invited talks.

By 2030, when the youngest boomers have become seniors, the number of Americans 65 and older is expected to be more than 70 million - nearly twice as many as in 2005, and a jump from approximately 15 percent of the entire U.S. population, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies.

These older adults aging into this demographic will want a say in their lives - in how they age.

"Even more so than dying, many older adults express a deep fear of being admitted to a nursing home," says Johnson.  "It may be to some older adults as dreaded as a diagnosis of cancer. Minimizing the chance that an older adult will be institutionalized for life should drive our research, clinical, educational and outreach agendas on aging.  This program will allow us to dedicate ourselves to finding solutions, with the vision of eliminating the need for long-term nursing home admission as a routine, expected destination for older adults as they age in Georgia within the next 12 years."

The Center benefits from well-established and successful programs in clinical care, aging research and education at Wesley Woods Center of Emory University, one of the nation's few campuses devoted to the health and well being of older adults. Wesley Woods serves more than 30,000 elderly and chronically ill patients each year through outpatient clinics, a hospital, a skilled nursing care facility and a residential retirement facility. In addition, Emory is affiliated with the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which has an extensive array of geriatric clinical, research and training programs.

As part of its core mission, the Center has created a five-pronged, multi-component strategy.

  • Seek out medical breakthroughs in the treatment of chronic and disabling conditions, such as stroke, dementia, congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease and urinary incontinence;
  • Study basic biological mechanisms that are the root causes of chronic and degenerative conditions;
  • Develop sustainable nutrition and exercise interventions in frail individuals ages 60 to 70, who within 12 years will potentially be bound for nursing home admission;
  • Develop care models (such as palliative care, nursing home diversion programs, enhancements to home visit programs)) that transition elements of care now routinely provided in nursing homes, and more fully develop them as programs within the home, community and alternative institutions;
  • Address societal issues - in partnership with community organizations, faith-based communities, governmental agencies - through re-developing communities so there is easy access to food, health care and meaningful activity; developing model health care delivery programs; and supporting care-givers.

"If we are to succeed, it will be from a combined effort of many. This mission can draw expertise and collaboration across multiple units," says Johnson. "Many partners are highly accomplished and nationally recognized groups with the Emory and Atlanta communities."

These include, but are not limited to, psychiatry, geriatric medicine, cardiology, neurology, diabetes/endocrinology, palliative care, physical therapy, the Emory/Georgia Tech Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Georgia Tech Aware Home Research Institute, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, the Rollins School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Atlanta Regional Commission's Health Aging Coalition.

"Our work also will be consistent with the core purpose of Emory University, which is to create, preserve, teach and apply knowledge in the service of humanity," says Johnson.

The goal of eliminating the routine need for longitudinal, life-long nursing home care for elderly adults is also consistent with the 2008 Institute of Medicine report, Retooling for an Aging America- Retooling the Health Work Force, Johnson notes, which focuses on developing new systems of care.

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital, the jointly owned Emory-Adventist Hospital, and EHCA, a limited liability company created with Hospital Corporation of America. EHCA includes two joint venture hospitals, Emory Eastside Medical Center and Emory Johns Creek Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 18,000 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $5.5 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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