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UC San Diego Receives $5M to Support Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program

New programs to focus on engaging underserved communities and creating more aging-friendly health systems

nurse helping a senior patient
UC San Diego is one of 41 universities in the country selected to participate in the Geriatrics Workplace Enhancement Program (GWEP), which seeks to support more aging-friendly health care systems and communities. Photo Credit: Manassanant Pamai/iStock

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The University of California San Diego has been selected for the third time to participate in the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP). This highly selective program comes with a $5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These funds will be used over the next five years to support the San Diego Imperial Geriatric Education Center (SDIGEC), which provides geriatric educational programming to health workers and other care providers across both San Diego and Imperial counties.

SDIGEC is an ongoing collaboration between UC San Diego and San Diego State University (SDSU) that works to address the critical need for more aging-friendly communities and health systems. Since its genesis in 2015, SDIGEC has been housed at SDSU, but the new funding will relocate the center to UC San Diego. The grant will also support new programming to reach underserved communities and provide training for a wider variety of health workers and caregivers, emphasizing the needs of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“As our aging population continues to grow and diversify, care needs will continue to evolve, so our workforce must evolve in turn,” said Roopali Gupta, M.D., clinical professor in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care at UC San Diego School of Medicine and SDIGEC project director. “Over the next five years, SDIGEC will work to reach a broad range of learners across multiple health care professions through training and education with the ultimate goal of providing the best care possible for older adults in our communities.”

This year, 41 institutions were selected for GWEP funding across the U.S. Only two of these, UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific University, are located in California.

“One of the beautiful things about the GWEP program is that in addition to continuing our work locally, we get to join a national community of organizations with a shared mission, and we are honored to be invited into that community,” said Jennifer Reichstadt, SDIGEC project manager and director of education and development for the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care. “Working together to address these issues at the national level gives us a tremendous opportunity to improve older adult care for the wider community, and it’s wonderful that UC San Diego was selected to help meet that goal.”

With the new funding, the center will focus on providing interprofessional geriatrics clinical training and education to current and prospective health care professionals, including nurse practitioners, master’s in social work students, medical students, resident physicians, fellows, as well as providers and preceptors in tribal, tribal organizations, underserved, and/or rural (TTOUR) primary care sites and delivery systems, including nursing homes. The program will also prioritize community outreach and education for caregivers, recognizing the critical role they play in supporting older adults.

“By tailoring knowledge and training to the specific needs of underserved communities, we hope to address the significant disparities in health care that exist for these populations,” said Gupta. “In addition to improving health care itself, engaging closely with the many diverse groups living across these two large counties can help us make the entire community, not just health care facilities, better equipped to accommodate the needs of aging people and those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”

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