Carmel Bitondo Dyer, MD, an internationally renowned geriatrician and executive director of the Consortium on Aging at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), passed away Tuesday, May 4. She was 62.
With passion, vision, and an innovative spirit, Dyer dedicated her career to preventing elder abuse, training the next generation of geriatricians, and revolutionizing access to specialized health care for older adults.
“Dr. Dyer leaves a tremendous legacy that will carry on at UTHealth through our initiatives to dramatically improve health and health care at every stage of life,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, UTHealth president and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair.
Dyer joined McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in 2007 as the first director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, establishing research, education, and clinical programs, and setting the pace for its tremendous growth. In that role, she led the design of both inpatient and outpatient geriatric and palliative medicine programs at UTHealth’s primary teaching hospitals, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. She created the Acute Care of the Elderly Unit and an inpatient geriatric and palliative consult service. She also developed two geriatric and palliative house call teams to bring exceptional care to older adults in their homes, and worked to establish both geriatric and palliative fellowship programs.
“Through her passion for her patients and her inspiring commitment to teaching others, Dr. Dyer influenced so many health care professionals to pursue a life’s work in geriatrics and gerontology,” said Holly Holmes, MD, MS, associate professor, Joan and Stanford Alexander Chair in Gerontology, and director of the newly named Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine. “Her impact on the careers of so many in our field can be seen through the enormous growth of our programs dedicated to healthy aging at UTHealth and the successful careers of her many mentees. She was an exceptional doctor who served as a model for addressing the whole person.”
Dyer went on to lead and expand the UTHealth Consortium on Aging, inspiring collaboration among all six schools at the university. Exemplifying her tremendous gift for bringing people together to work on behalf of vulnerable patients, membership quickly grew to more than 200 professionals from various disciplines and community partners. Consortium members established centers of excellence in elder abuse, mobile and connected health, and distributed seed grants to new investigators. This foundational work inspired Dyer’s novel geriatric health care delivery model that greatly increases quality of care for older adults while reducing costs.
"Dr. Dyer was, simply put, the most skilled and dedicated geriatric care professional in the nation. Quite possibly in the world," said The University of Texas System Regent Jodie Lee Jiles. "She was fully committed to her personal patients, and also to expanding clinical services for older adults throughout our community. I had the pleasure of working with her and the Three Amigos—Archbishop Fiorenza, Reverend Lawson, and Rabbi Karff—to improve access to care for aging Houstonians, and let me tell you, she was a force to be reckoned with! It was truly an honor to work with her, and a blessing to have known her."
In 2010, Dyer became the first medical director of the UT Physicians Center for Healthy Aging, which promotes a circle of care concept to deliver comprehensive, age-appropriate care to older adults. A testament to Dyer’s leadership, focus on inter-professionalism, and commitment to the highest level of care, patients and their families routinely express their gratitude for the extraordinary care provided by the center’s team of specialists.
“Dr. Dyer’s unwavering service to the patients, learners, faculty, and staff of Internal Medicine was unparalleled,” said David McPherson, MD, professor and chair of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School. “As the division director of geriatric and palliative medicine, she developed a robust program from scratch, bringing health care for the aging to a new level at UTHealth.
“Dr. Dyer’s personal light shone brightest through the care of her beloved patients and their families, all of whom will miss her dearly,” said McPherson, the James T. and Nancy B. Willerson Chair and Francine and Frederick Pevow Distinguished Professor in Cardiology. “This is an unbelievable loss of an admired colleague, respected physician, cherished mentor, servant leader, and dear friend.”
Nancy Guinee, a member of the UTHealth Development Board’s executive committee, echoed McPherson’s sentiments. “Dr. Dyer gave me the greatest of gifts, not only as a consummate physician for myself and late husband, and not only as a friend,” Guinee said. “She ignited in me a purpose for the rest of my life through the work and contributions I have been honored to do, and will continue to champion, through the Consortium on Aging.
Dyer previously served as Chief of Staff of Harris Health LBJ and, more recently, as executive vice chair in the Department of Internal Medicine—recruiting and mentoring faculty to take on key leadership positions—and special assistant in the Office of the President. As the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Chair in Gerontology and Nancy P. and Vincent F. Guinee, MD, Distinguished Chair, she continued her collaborative work to improve the health of older adults. Dyer partnered with Amy Franklin, PhD, of UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics on two projects to improve telemedicine access for older adults and also create a university-wide patient research registry to provide older adults an opportunity to directly contribute to breakthroughs that will change lives.
“Dr. Dyer was often described as the voice for the older patient population,” Colasurdo said. “May we continue to serve as her voice for the vulnerable and reflect with gratitude on the honor to forever count Dr. Dyer as one of the many faces of UTHealth.”
In Dyer’s memory, the university is establishing the Carmel Bitondo Dyer, MD, Chair in Geriatric and Palliative Medicine.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to UTHealth, 7000 Fannin, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77030 benefiting the Carmela and Salvatore Bitondo Graduate Fellowship in Elder Mistreatment. Donations also can be made online at https://giving.uth.edu/memorial.