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Wake Forest Baptist is Renewed as a “Pepper Center”

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center will remain one of 11 nationwide Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Centers (OAIC) for a fourth consecutive five-year cycle.
The center has received notice that its competitive OAIC application was successful, providing Wake Forest Baptist with almost $1 million each year to support and promote clinical research in aging, with a particular focus on the maintenance of functional independence of older adults.

“The competition for Pepper Centers is intense,” said Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Ph.D., Research Director of the Section of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine and a professor of internal medicine. “This renewal is a strong validation of the strength and depth of the aging research program here at Wake Forest.”

Kritchevsky serves as the director of the Wake Forest Baptist OAIC, which was initially established in 1991. He was named the director of the Sticht Center on Aging after a national search in 2006. Cardiologist Dalane Kitzman, M.D., serves as co-director.
An act of congress directed the National Institute on Aging to create the OAIC program, establishing “centers of excellence” in geriatrics research and training. The goal of the OAIC program is to increase scientific knowledge that will lead to better ways to maintain or restore independence in older people.

The National Institute on Aging expects OAICs to serve as a source of advice and collaboration to other institutions regarding technology, methodology and analysis. Other expectations of the centers include providing intellectual leadership and innovation, providing career development for future research leaders and stimulating incorporation of emerging technologies, methods and scientific advances into research designs.

“Our five-year goal is to provide scientific knowledge, leadership and resources to formulate evidence-based responses to the consequences of increased adiposity” and obesity in our older adults, researchers wrote in their OAIC application.

Wake Forest Baptist will use the OAIC funding to support a variety of activities and four research support cores. Core leaders are Kitzman, radiologist Jeff Carr, M.D., geriatrician Jeff Williamson, M.D., physiologist Barbara Nicklas, Ph.D., biostatistician Michael Miller, Ph.D., and Charles McCall, M.D. and Richard Loeser, M.D., both from the Section of Molecular Medicine.

The money will also help to support a research career development core, which is focused on training junior faculty to become independent researchers. In addition, the OAIC will support several pilot studies this cycle, including studies in arthritis, vitamin D nutrition, the genetics of the response to exercise, fat patterning and aging in monkeys and a project using the latest touch-screen technology and animation to evaluate the function of older people.

In addition to the OAIC renewal, Wake Forest Baptist was also awarded funds to coordinate the National Pepper Center program. The coordinating center will be directed by Kevin High, M.D., and will help the National Institute on Aging to align the strengths and capabilities of all 11 Pepper Centers to increase the effectiveness of the program overall.

“The Pepper renewal and the recently awarded Harford Center of Excellence provide a national validation of the excellence of our aging research and education programs,” Kritchevsky said.

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Media Relations Contacts: Jessica Guenzel, jguenzel@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-3487; Bonnie Davis, bdavis@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-4977; or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-4587

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