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JAMA Commentary First for USF College of Behavioral & Community Sciences

Elizabeth Perkins, PhD, RNMHDr. Elizabeth Perkins, a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Child & Family Studies, has become the first faculty member in the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences to author a Commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the most pre-eminent medical journals in the world, and the most widely circulated.

In the Commentary, "Aging Adults with Intellectual Disabilities," featured in the July 7th issue, Dr. Perkins and co-author Dr. Julie Moran, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center - a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School - urge the medical field to become better prepared in providing geriatric health care to the rapidly increasing population of aging adults with intellectual disabilities (ID).

"We're especially pleased for this to be published in such a prestigious journal where it will have more visibility and impact," said Dr. Perkins. "It's a crucial message that needs to be heard and we can't think of a better way to reach its intended audience."

The concerns addressed in the commentary focus specifically on older adults who are more vulnerable to developing complex medical and mental health issues in addition to pre-existing lifelong health concerns.

The commentary profiles the need to:

Dr. Perkins works within the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, one of 67 federally funded centers that facilitate the flow of disability-related information between communities and universities. FCIC is currently developing research, training, and dissemination projects to address the needs of older adults, their family caregivers, and to better prepare healthcare professionals to provide appropriate care to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Perkins and the FCIC are currently collaborating with Dr. Kira Swygart and Dr. Laurie Woodard (Dept. of Family Medicine, USF College of Medicine) to provide mandatory education in disability issues to all 3rd year medical students.

"We are working on ways to expand this to other students at USF who would also benefit from this knowledge," said Dr. Perkins,  "however, this disability training module is a rarity. The fact remains that this type of training should be readily implemented throughout medical schools nationwide."

Whether concentrating her efforts on projects within the FCIC or writing articles for publication, Dr. Perkins' focus remains the same.

"As we emphasize in our JAMA Commentary, our greatest concern is that the rapidly expanding population of older adults with intellectual disabilities should no longer be forgotten or ignored," she concluded. 

About the authors:

Dr. Elizabeth Perkins is a Research Assistant Professor and Health Coordinator for the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities/UCEDD.  She has a PhD in Aging Studies and a BA in Psychology, both from USF. Dr. Perkins is also an RNMH, a registered nurse from Great Britain, trained specifically in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is the President of the Gerontology Division of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and is Chair of AAIDD's National Task Force on Aging and End of Life Issues. Dr. Perkins has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, and is a co-author of the 5th edition of the textbook "Physical Changes and Aging: A Guide for the Helping Professions", along with Drs. Sue Saxon and Mary Jean Etten.

Dr. Julie Moran is a Staff Geriatrician in the Division of Gerontology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  She graduated with her doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine (DO) from the School of Osteopathic Medicine, at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.  After her residency in Primary Care Internal Medicine at the University of Connecticut, she completed a two year fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA.  She is thefounder (in 2006) and Director of the Aging and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at BIDMC Senior Health, a busy consultative practice that serves the needs of older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS) at the USF College of Behavioral & Community Sciences is committed to improving the well-being of individuals, children, and families within communities across the country through promoting respect, inclusion, development, achievement, mental health, and an optimum quality of life.

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