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Philanthropic commitment gives geriatric medicine division a new name

Holly Holmes, MD, director of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in McGovern Medical School at UTHealth (Photo by Randy Gay/UTHealth)
Holly Holmes, MD, director of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in McGovern Medical School at UTHealth (Photo by Randy Gay/UTHealth)
Photo of Holly Holmes, MD (left). Carmel Dyer, MD, (center) and Richard Andrassy, MD, (right). (Photo by Randy Gay)
Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in McGovern Medical School at UTHealth renamed after significant gift. Pictured: Holly Holmes, MD, (left), Carmel Dyer, MD, (center) and Richard Andrassy, MD, (right). (Photo by Randy Gay)

In gratitude for the care they have received from Holly Holmes, MD, director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), Joan and Stanford Alexander have made a significant gift to strengthen the division.

“We see a tremendous need to ensure that older adults receive the care that will help them enjoy what should be a wonderful time of life,” said Joan Alexander. “We believe this is a step in the right direction.”

UTHealth has renamed the division as the Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in honor of their gift, which will provide significant resources for the division’s clinical, educational, and research priorities.

“We are grateful to the Alexanders for their partnership to promote healthy aging and advance the field of geriatric and palliative medicine,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, president and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair at UTHealth. “Their deep commitment to the health of older adults is transforming how we teach the next generation of geriatric specialists, innovate through research, and set the standards of excellence in patient care.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic placing restrictions on in-person events, the division held a virtual event on Sept. 30 to reveal the new signage for the Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine.

“The Alexanders share the vision that older adults should be treated with compassionate, individualized care,” Holmes said. “We are so proud that our division bears their name.”

Amidst a national shortage of geriatric specialists—only 2% of physicians qualify as geriatricians even as the number of adults age 65 and older continues to rise—the Alexanders’ pledge aims to strengthen the division in three key ways:

  • Enhance the Joan and Stanford Alexander Professorship in Gerontology—held by Holmes—to an endowed chair. Funds from the endowment will create an annual mental health and wellness program for division faculty and support professional development.
  • Establish the Joan and Stanford Alexander Gerontology Education Endowment. This endowment will support an ongoing interprofessional education program to train providers across UTHealth in geriatric medicine, while also funding programs that educate patients and their caregivers on such issues as dementia and mental health—an important step given the toll of neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Create the Joan and Stanford Alexander Gerontology Research Endowment. This endowment will provide seed grants for junior faculty to conduct pilot studies—exploring subjects such as physical function in homebound elders—which will generate the data they need to attract large external grants for their research. The fund will also provide bridge funding for faculty to maintain their work in between grants as they investigate priorities such as preventing elder abuse and reducing the number of medications prescribed to older adults, which can interact with harmful effects.

“We have seen the growing importance of geriatric and palliative medicine in our society, and thanks to the Alexanders, McGovern Medical School will lead the way in ensuring older adults receive the care they deserve,” said Richard J. Andrassy, MD, executive dean ad interim of McGovern Medical School and H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor in the Medical Sciences. “We are grateful for their generosity.”

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