WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., has been named director of the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The center is a research program focused on improving the health of older adults and preventing age-related disability.
With the naming of the new director, the School of Medicine will also expand the center's efforts by bringing new researchers to the institution as well as increasing collaborations between basic research scientists and those who study disease in humans.
“The center’s focus is to learn more about how age and disease affect older adults and to develop strategies that reduce the functional problems that can result. Our goal is to increase the ‘health-span’ of older adults,” said Kritchevsky.
The center is already nationally recognized for its aging research. It is one of nine Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers nationwide, which means that it receives funding from the National Institute on Aging to study ways to reduce disability and to train the next generation of researchers committed to studying the unique problems of older adults. It is also home to the Kulynych Center for Memory and Cognition Research.
The center’s expanded efforts come at a critical time, Kritchevsky said.
“The number of North Carolinians who are over 65 will double in the next 25 years. We need to develop prevention strategies to reduce the burden of age-related disability now.”
Kritchevsky said that the epidemic of obesity – which is a focus of the center’s research – is a particular concern. The number of overweight and obese people entering their older years is rapidly increasing. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, arthritis and even dementia.
“Many of the most disabling health problems faced by older adults are related to excess weight,” he said.
Kritchevsky’s expertise in aging research is one reason for his selection as director, said William B. Applegate, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president of Wake Forest University Health Sciences and dean of the medical school.
“Dr. Kritchevsky is widely respected and recognized nationally for his research on aging body composition and disability,” Applegate said. “The job he has done as an interim director has been spectacular and he was the No. 1 choice of our search committee.”
Kritchevsky is a professor of internal medicine at the Medical Center. He had been acting director of the center since last year. Prior to joining the Medical Center in 2003, he was a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee.
His research focuses on the role that chronic disease and body composition play in disability among older adults. He is particularly interested in nutritional factors and in testing various strategies to delay or prevent the onset of age-related disability. For example, he worked with researchers from across the county on a study looking at whether exercise can delay disability in older adults who already show signs of declining walking ability.
Kritchevsky is a graduate of the University of Chicago and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in epidemiology at the School of Public Health of the University of North Carolina. He serves as a reviewer for a variety of medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American and European Journals of Epidemiology.
The center on aging is located in the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation, which also houses inpatient rehabilitation services, a variety of medical services for older adults and the Elder Law Clinic, a program of the Wake Forest University School of Law.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,282 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.