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With Aging Population, Medical Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Focuses on Better Prevention and Treatment of Trauma in Older Patients

January 12, 2015

Glenn V. Ostir, PhD

New Director, Glenn V. Ostir, PhD, Appointed to Lead Multi-Disciplinary Program

Nearly 2 million people over the age of 65 are seen in emergency rooms for accidental injuries each year, 20 percent of which are related to falls. A leading cause of death for people over 65, fall-related injuries are a daily risk for people in this age group. More than 23,000 older Americans die annually after falling.

With the aging of the population and the number of emergency department visits by older people continuing to increase each year, the Program on Aging, Trauma and Emergency Care (PATEC), at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, under the new leadership of inaugural director Glenn V. Ostir, PhD, professor of Epidemiology & Public Health, is accelerating its multi-disciplinary research on the most effective ways to prevent and treat trauma in older adults.

Established in 2010, PATEC was the inspiration of the School’s internationally recognized leaders in aging, trauma, and emergency care: Jay Magaziner, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and co-director, Center for Research on Aging; Brian Browne, MD, professor and chair, Department of Emergency Medicine; and Alan Faden, MD, the David S. Brown Professor in Trauma, professor, departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, and director, Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research Center (STAR) and the National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Services. PATEC joins the expertise of these centers and more than 40 researchers and clinicians from a wide range of disciplines.

“Older adults are frequently admitted to emergency rooms for fall-related fractures, head trauma, and other internal injuries,” says Dr. Ostir. “In addition, these patients are more complicated to treat and often receive less than optimal care than younger patients. Their outcomes tend to be poorer than those in younger adults as a result.”

The issue will only become more important. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of emergency department visits by older people, currently at about 20 million per year, is projected to increase by 30% by 2030. By 2050, 40 percent of all trauma patients will be 65 or older. The number of hip fractures could reach 700,000 per year, double the current level. Currently, more than 80 percent of traumatic brain injuries in adults 65 and older are caused by falls, with hip fractures at about 340,000 per year.

“The research of this program is essential for reducing injuries and saving lives,” said UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is vice president of medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor. “With the strength and national leadership of SOM faculty in the areas of trauma, emergency medicine, epidemiology and public health, PATEC is well positioned to have tremendous impact.”

Among the areas studied by PATEC scientists are: balance improvements to prevent falls, hip fracture outcomes and recovery, traumatic brain injury, rehabilitation and exercise interventions, community-based interventions, and the effectiveness of U.S. geriatric emergency departments.

Currently studying older patient populations at local emergency departments, Dr.Ostir is also exploring collaborations with the University of Maryland Medical System to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and use of emergency medical services in the elderly. He hopes to lead PATEC investigators to focus on telemedicine, e-Health, and the development of other community-based approaches to prevent hospital admissions and re-admissions.

Dr. Ostir says PATEC has a broad vision. He believes it is on the way to becoming a national model of clinical, basic, and population health research in geriatric emergency care and trauma. A major step toward this goal was made with a generous philanthropic gift for PATEC research from Carolyn Frenkil, president of Center City, Inc., and 10-30 W. North Avenue, LLC.

“We need to get the word out that restoring elderly people from injury is a costly burden – on the patient, the family, and the system,” says Ms. Frenkil, “The aging population is growing, and the medical system is going to be overwhelmed unless we do something.” In 2009, Ms. Frenkil’s husband, James Frenkil, MD, was hospitalized for, and eventually died from injuries suffered in a fall.

“There is so much we can do,” says Dr. Ostir. “This issue is growing but vastly understudied. We really hope to change that.”

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland School of Maryland, chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States, continues today as a leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland, and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education. With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists, plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S., with top-tier faculty and programs in vaccine development, cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, and human genomics, among other centers of excellence. The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the U.S., but also has a global presence, with research and treatment facilities in more than 35 countries around the world.


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