Ophthalmologist Receives Inaugural Jahnigen Career Development Scholars
Emory Eye Center
ophthalmologist Enrique Garcia-Valenzuela, MD, has been selected as
one of ten inaugural Jahnigen Career Development Scholars. The Jahnigen
Career Development Scholars Awards were created to encourage young physicians
and surgeons to become interested in the geriatrics aspect of their
discipline as a career focus through the funding of highly competitive
two-year awards in the amount of $200,000.
Dr. Garcia was selected for
this program because of the promise demonstrated in his proposal, his
mentors' sponsorship and his institution's support of his work. The
awards program was developed under the aegis of an American Geriatrics
Society/Hartford Foundation funded project: Increasing Geriatrics Expertise
in Surgical and Related Medical Specialties. The mentors associated
with Dr. Garcia's award are researcher Judith A. Kapp, PhD, of the Emory
Eye Center, and Joseph G. Ouslander, MD, Division Director of Geriatrics
at the Emory School of Medicine.
Dr. Garcia's proposal titled
"Stem Cell Therapy for Age-Related Retinal Disease" addresses the most
prevalent cause of blindness in the elderly. Age-related retinal disease
includes macular degeneration and retinal detachment, among other retinal
"There is great potential
to develop new treatments for these diseases using stem or progenitor
cells," says Dr. Garcia. "Recent evidence points to the existence of
retinal stem cells in the mammalian adult eye, including the human.
We intend to search for retinal stem cells in eye bank postmortem eyes
from subjects of different ages, with particular attention to those
from old and very old donors."
"Comparisons among young
and old donors and hosts will be made. A better understanding of the
cellular behavior or stem cells of adult human origin would set research
much closer to clinical application. The most significant potential
of such stem cells is that they are probably located in an ocular region
that is not typically affected by most retinal diseases, and it is a
location easily accessible for their surgical retrieval. Stem cells
from individual patients could be expanded and manipulated in vitro
to be used later in transplantation therapy in the same patient," he
These awards, which focus
on the urgent need for leaders in the surgical and related medical specialties
who will bring an understanding of the unique characteristics of older
patients to surgical training and practice, were announced by the American
Geriatrics Society, The John A. Hartford Foundation, and the Atlantic
Philanthropies in New York.
This ground-breaking program
seeks to ameliorate the shortage of trained academicians with a special
interest in and knowledge of the care of older people in the surgical
and related medical specialties an area where the average age of patients
is rapidly rising and where health outcomes are strongly influenced
by the quality of care provided.
Each highly competitive two-year
faculty development award of $200,000 provides a foundation on which
an individual can initiate and sustain a career in geriatrics-oriented
research and education. Ten young researchers from anesthesiology, general
surgery, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, physical medicine and rehabilitation,
orthopedic surgery, and urology were selected for this year's awards
for their innovative proposals in falls prevention, vision rehabilitation,
incontinence, and a host of other areas that are critical to senior
health but poorly represented in research on the national level.
Dr. John R. Burton, Director,
Division Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the John Hopkins School
of Medicine, and Chair of the Dennis W. Jahnigen Career Development
Scholars Awards Committee, pleased with the exceptionally high quality
of the proposals received for this new award, stated that "the committee
anticipates that each of these ten scholars will serve as an inspiration
and role model for others pursuing academic leadership roles in the
geriatrics aspect of their specialties."
According to Dr. David H.
Solomon, Director Emeritus of the UCLA Center on Aging and Co-Director
with Dr. John R. Burton of the AGS/Hartford program "Increasing Geriatrics
Expertise in Surgical and Related Medical Specialties," Dennis W. Jahnigen,
MD, the namesake of the new awards, "was a leading educator and geriatrician,
and a driving force behind the movement to include geriatrics training
in all medical specialty areas. With a looming shortage of geriatricians
in general and a relative dearth of specialty physicians trained to
address the complexities of health in aging, these career awards are
not only a fitting tribute to his life's work but a much-needed boon
to the survival and growth of geriatric research in areas that have
been neglected for far too long."
Founded in 1942, the American
Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit association
of geriatrics health care professionals dedicated to improving the health,
independence and quality of life of all older people. The society supports
this mission in many ways through its activities in clinical practice,
professional education on the clinical care of older people, research,
public education and information, public policy efforts, and through
collaborative relationships with other organizations.