MUSC Center on Aging

A Message from Dr. Lotta Granholm, Center on Aging Director

The focus on aging in research and clinical care has become anurgent issue in the US, since the “baby boomer” generation is starting to turn 60 within the next year. From then on, it is calculated that 10,000 individuals will turn 60 every day for the next 20 years! Due to our increased life span, the population over 85 years of age will increase 5-fold in the same period. Contrary to this large number, fewer physicians are turning to Geriatrics as a specialty.

In fact, less than 0.5 % of health professionals are trained in gerontology/geriatrics and few medical schools have revised their curriculum to include the study of the aging human body. Despite this, more than 40% of doctor’s visits, 50% of prescriptions, and 50% of hospital visits are made by and for elderly individuals. With the decreasing medicare/ medicaid funding, it is quite plausible that the situation will amount to a health care crisis in the next two decades. Health care for seniors is the focus of our efforts at the MUSC Center on Aging.


The Center on Aging is a research, service, and education center at the Medical University of South Carolina. The center was approved by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education December 3, 1987, giving it the status of the oldest research center at the University. Dr. Lotta Granholm came on board as the fourth director for the center, July 1 of 2001. The Healthy Aging work group was instituted by the president of MUSC, Dr. Greenberg, and began its work on a new strategic plan in the beginning of 2002.

The Healthy Aging work group also functions as the Internal Advisory Committee for the Center on Aging. The hard work of this committee resulted in a revised strategic plan for MUSC, which has recently been approved by the board of directors. The overall vision of the Healthy Aging work group was to ” establish a plan that addresses MUSC’s role in promoting the health, increasing longevity, and improving the quality of life of senior South Carolinians.” This can be divided into three principal areas:

Establish a nationally prominent research program in aging with emphasis on translational research.
Develop a comprehensive and coordinated system of health care delivery for older individuals.
Provide health promotion, education, and outreach in aging for faculty, students, practicing health providers and the public.
The Healthy Aging work group report can be read in its entirety at the MUSC Strategic Planning website. This strategic plan is a “living document”, which will be used as a business plan for improvement in all of these areas within the next 5 years and beyond. The Center on Aging will work in synchrony with MUSC’s overall strategic plan, and will gain momentum by the obvious general campus-wide engagement and interest in this area.


The Center on Aging consists of several different research programs that are defined by specific areas of research:

The Movement Disorders Program is directed by Dr. Vanessa Hinson (Neurology)
Stroke Program by Dr. Mark Kindy (Neurosciences)
Alzheimer Program by Dr. Jacobo Mintzer (Neurosciences and Psychiatry)
Biology of Aging by Dr. Lina Obeid (Medicine)
Outreach and Education Program by Drs. David Garr and Esther Forti (Medicine, College of Health Professions)
Clinical Geriatrics Program by Dr. David Bachman (Neurosciences and Psychiatry)
Aging Research Day: The CoA has organized 4 Aging Research Days to date, with the last conference held February 19th, 2010, in Folly Beach, SC. These events have been completely funded through sponsorships and grants, and have grown each year, this year to encompass more than 50 abstracts and 10 speakers on clinical, social, and basic science aspects of Aging and Stroke. Click here for more information on our most recent conference and all the sponsors that made it a success! The next Aging Research Day Conference will be hosted by USC in Columbia, SC on February 4th, 2011

Seminar Series on Aging: We have invited over 20 prominent scientists over the last 3 years, who are experts in the field of aging and age-related disease. Made possible by a private donation from Dr. R. Marks.

Grants and Awards

Senior Mentor Program: Grant from Duke Foundation, $410,000, Dr. Bachman is PI, funded December 2004. This program was launched in January 2006 for all first year medical students.

Program Project Grant : This collaborative work between 4 different departments at MUSC was made possible by the administrative funds provided by the Center on Aging and was funded in September of 2005 for 5 years.

Alzheimer’s Disease Educational Outreach for African Americans: Bachman/Forti received a gift from Janssen to provide training on Alzheimer’s disease to more than 800 African Americans in South Carolina in 2004.Parkinson’s Disease Caregiver/Provider Educational and Resource Needs

Assessment Planning Grant: (Forti/Bergmann) grant from the Fullerton FoundationRecruitment of Dr. Kumar Sambamurti. Dr. Sambamurti plays a crucial role in the Alzheimer Program.

Fundraising: Fundraising in the field of Aging and Neurosciences (> 5million, Bordeau). This was made possible by funds from the Center on Aging and from the Neuroscience Institute.

Lottery Proposal on Movement Disorders: (2002, Kindy, funded)
Lottery Proposal on Memory Therapeutics: (2004 Booze USC, Granholm MUSC, submitted but not funded)Glaxo

Research: $250,000 was gifted to the Center on Aging Alzheimer Program in 2004 for implementation of the clinical core of an Alzheimer Research Center.

Grant from Predix Pharmaceuticals Inc.: (2004-2005; $240,000 including full indirect cost recovery of 46% for collaborative studies with the company). Please note that this type of company based grant is very difficult to obtain in a traditional department as we can project our work in the context of its relevance to age related diseases. This grant was made possible by collaboration between Dr. Mintzer in the Alzheimer Program and Dr. Granholm and Dr. Sambamurti in Dept. of Neurosciences.

Grant from Axonyx Corporation: (2004-2006, $562,000 including full indirect cost recovery of 46%) Please note that this type of company based grant is very difficult to obtain in a traditional department as we can project our work in the context of its relevance to age related diseases.

The Dr. Richard Marks Education grant: Dr. Marks is a retired faculty member from MUSC and an active participant in our Center on Aging activities. In 2005, he gifted the Center with a grant to hire a full-time education coordinator, Deronda Corbin. Further, he also serves as a Senior Mentor for two medical students in our education program. We are grateful to Dr. Marks for these extraordinary contributions to our Center.

The Circle: Sally Smith is an author and local artist in Charleston, who has become well known for her artwork and wonderful children’s books. She is very active in the support group for Alzheimer’s disease, as her mother was diagnosed with this disease a few years ago. In the spring of 2005, Sally approached the Center on Aging with the gift of a wonderful manuscript about her mother. This manuscript has now been developed into a novel and resource book, which is sold through the Center on Aging. Initially, we had three book signing parties in May of 2006 and sold more than 100 books. The income from this book will be used entirely for research on neurodegenerative disease. See more on The Circle here

Bridge Grant: The Center on Aging received a bridge grant in 2005 from Dean Jerry Reves, College of Medicine for pilot studies leading to the Program project Grant.


College of Medicine:Interdisciplinary Women’s Health Research Program: (IWHR, PI Brady, Co-PI Granholm, submitted in 2005) made possible because of collaboration between the Women’s Center in Psychiatry and Center on Aging.

The Program Project Grant on Dopamine: (PI Granholm, Co-PI Middaugh) has initiated collaboration between faculty working on drugs of abuse (Psychiatry and Neurosciences) and those working on aging (Ophthalmology and Neuroscience). This is unique in the country and will hopefully lead to powerful insights into the long-term effects of drug abuse during the teenage years.

Inter-College:Movement Analysis lab: A collaboration has been initiated with the Movement Analysis Lab lead by Dr. Jim Krause at CHP. The collaboration will lead to mentorship (Dr. Granholm will serve as a co-mentor for Dr. Tasos Karakostas in the Dept. Rehabilitation Sciences) and hopefully development of a novel analysis instrument for movement analysis in animal models of neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Karakostas received a pilot grant for junior faculty from the Center on Aging to initiate the development of animal models for movement disorders.

South Carolina Geriatric Education Center: Since its inception, the SC-GEC has trained over 8,000 individuals in gerontology and geriatrics. Since we moved to the 26 Bee St. location, Center on Aging has provided housing at no cost for the SC-GEC (which was originated in CHP and is directed by Dr. Esther Forti. There are only 43 of these centers around the country, and SC-GEC provides valuable training and outreach in geriatrics and gerontology to faculty, students, health care providers, and communities statewide with 203 partners.

SC Alzheimer Disease Program: This program, which was initiated in 2001 and is lead by Dr. Jacobo Mintzer, is truly an interdisciplinary program with faculty from CHP, Nursing, Medicine, and Graduate studies participating. Collectively, this has lead to unique collaborative teams between Biometry, Rehabilitation, Psychiatry, and Neurosciences. We brought in a nationally renowned consultant, Dr. Zaven Katchaturian, as well as many internationally known scientists to set up the program. To date, the program has collected tissues and cognitive data from more than 100 patients, and has a functional database, which has rendered interesting data about Alzheimer’s disease in our state. This is much thanks to the resources provided by Dr. Mintzer’s and Dr. Bachman’s group, but also to resources provided by the Center on Aging.

Movement Disorders Program: (Dr. Ken Bergmann, Dr. Vanessa Hinson, Dr. Istvan Takacs). This program has successfully implemented a clinical program on movement disorders at MUSC. There is a close collaboration between the movement disorders program (which has provided pilot funds and mentoring to young faculty and graduate students) and the Center on Aging.

With USC:USC Division of Geriatrics: During 2004, Center on Aging formalized its relationship with the Geriatrics Group at USC-Palmetto Health. Dr. Granholm is now a joint faculty member at Department of Medicine, USC, and Dr. Paul Eleazer (director for the Geriatrics Division at USC) is a joint faculty member in our Department of Medicine. Further, this collaboration led to a successful Duke Foundation Grant to implement the senior mentor program at MUSC. Since October of 2004, we have paid salary (10% effort) to Dr. Ellen Roberts who is in charge of the Senior Mentor program at USC. She is working with Dr. Amy Blue and Dr. Jeff Wong as well as the education coordinator at Center on Aging, Deronda Corbin, on implementing the program at MUSC. Meetings are scheduled monthly between the two programs, and are conducted by TV-conferencing housed in the Center on Aging conference room. Joint MUSC/USC education retreats are held annually to foster this program and coordinate education efforts on geriatrics and gerontology between the two schools. The next retreat is planned for August 2006. All the coordination for this project is handled by the Center on Aging.

USC School of Public Health: Collaboration has been initiated between the Center on Aging and the Alzheimer Disease Registry at USC. Our first collaborative meeting took place in March of 2005, and is scheduled to occur every 3 months, to implement grant applications between the Alzheimer Disease Registry and our Alzheimer Program.

With Clemson:South Carolina Nutrition Research Consortium: Faculty members in the Center on Aging have initiated collaboration with a nutrition group (PI Vivian Haley-Zitlin) that has lead to a pilot grant, which was funded by the South Carolina Nutrition Research Consortium. The collaboration is between the Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and the Department of Neurosciences at MUSC and the Nutrition Research Center at Clemson, and was made possible by connections made at the Aging Research Day last year.

Collaborative Consortium: A collaborative consortium has been developed in June 2006 (MUSC/USC/Clemson/Greeneville Hospital/Health Sciences of SC) to develop a statewide Aging Organization.

Grants and Publications: As shown in the lists below, the past year has been a productive year for Center on Aging faculty. We have submitted two programmatic grants to the National Institutes on Aging (an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, ADRC, proposal and a program project grant), and received competitive scores on both. In addition, this collaborative effort has resulted in several research grants with specific collaborations between Center on Aging faculty. This is reflected by the increased number of jointly published work. The center continues to mentor young faculty and to encourage collaborations between different departments and colleges.


As shown in the lists below, the past year has been a productive year for Center on Aging faculty. We have submitted two programmatic grants to the National Institutes on Aging (an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, ADRC, proposal and a program project grant), and received competitive scores on both. In addition, this collaborative effort has resulted in several research grants with specific collaborations between Center on Aging faculty. This is reflected by the increased number of jointly published work. The center continues to mentor young faculty and to encourage collaborations between different departments and colleges.

Establishment of a basic science curriculum committee to oversee the didactic training in biology of aging during the first two years of medical school. In the spring of 2004, the curriculum committee met with Dr. Amy Blue of the College of Medicine to perform a needs assessment regarding geriatrics in the basic science curriculum. It was agreed that we would spend the next few months assessing the existing curriculum content in Geriatrics, and then propose alterations for next year’s curriculum in terms of didactic courses and other exercises.
MUSC/USC task force on Geriatrics. In the Spring of 2004, we were charged by the Dean of the College of Medicine (Dr. Reves) to form a task force on the clinical geriatrics education at MUSC. The purpose was to collaborate with USC School of Medicine, to benefit from their expansive and excellent Geriatrics program. The members of this task force: David Bachman, David Garr, and Lotta Granholm from MUSC, and Paul Eleazer, Victor Hirth, and Darryl Wieland from USC. The task force has met once in person and three times via phone conference, and have submitted a proposal to the Duke Endowment for integrating the Senior Mentor Program (currently at USC) into the MUSC curriculum.
Development of an education coordinator at the Center on Aging . During this year we have worked on obtaining funding for an education coordinator, who could coordinate and execute the curricular changes that are needed within the next couple of years in MUSC curricula. We have now secured funding for this purpose, and expect to hire an individual by the Summer of 2004. This person will be working with the MUSC/USC task force as well as with the curriculum committee on the projects mentioned above.
Website expansion and resource building. We have expanded our library at the Center on Aging ( 26 Bee St. ) to include resource literature on age-related disease and healthy aging. In addition, we have expanded the website to include resource materials, such as problem-based learning cases (PBL), important links, and coming events related to aging in the area. The efforts for next year will include making the site more senior-friendly and expanding it further.
Development of a news bulletin on polypharmacy in the elderly . The The SC-GEC performed a needs assessment among primary care physicians in South Carolina , and found that there was a great need for information regarding polypharmacy and common side effects of prescription drugs in the elderly. Faculty from the College of Pharmacy , Dr. Andrea Wessell and Dr. Marlea Wellein, are developing a novel tool to be used for education of health care professionals as well as seniors. They performed a needs assessment of seniors at the Canterbury house and will proceed to develop their newsletter/bulletin during the next fiscal year, supported by the Center on Aging. This has also been submitted as a proposal to the Duke Endowment for funding. Brain Awareness Week, March 15-19 . During this week, Center on Aging faculty, in collaboration with the Neuroscience Institute, spent time in the Charleston area schools (grades Kindergarten-6 th) educating children about the brain and age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The children visited laboratories, touched human, rat, and mouse brains, and spinal cords, and received educational materials regarding the brain. During this week, faculty also spent time in the community, talking about Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related hormone loss.