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New centers will lead to enhanced geriatric social work training
Mar 27, 2013 - 4:00:00 AM

The Hartford/GSA National Center on Gerontological Social Work Excellence has chosen the Boston College and the University of Michigan as the locations of the first two Hartford Academic Centers of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work.

The National Center was established through a three-year, $1.35 million grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation to The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in February 2013. GSA Fellow Barbara Berkman, DSW, PhD, chairs its National Advisory Board.

Being identified as a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Center commits that university to exemplary leadership in training future generations of geriatric social work practitioners and faculty, as well as to leadership in the translation of new knowledge into policy and practice, Berkman said. This association provides a recognizable brand that empowers these universities to serve as models that will motivate other universities to meet the standards required of being an identified center.

The Hartford Center at Boston College will be led by GSA Fellow James Lubben, DSW, MPH, who also directs the University Institute on Aging there. GSA Fellow Ruth Dunkle, PhD, MSW, will lead the Hartford Center at the University of Michigan, where she serves as the associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at the School of Social Work. Three additional centers will be selected by the end of 2013.

We are pleased and excited to be selected as one of the initial Hartford Academic Centers of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work, said Laura Lein, PhD, dean of the University of Michigan School of Social Work. This initiative will allow us to build on our past relationship with the Hartford Foundation and GSA, extend our partnerships and collaborations with organizations serving older adults in our geographic region, and develop new training models for social work intervention. We look forward to working with our partner organizations in the field who are providing and extending services to older adults.

Each center is expected to provide leadership for social work educators; build bridges to local health professionals, such as those employed by Area Agencies on Aging; form regional consortia of social work field agencies serving older adults and their families, designed to address gaps in education and training on aging among these local agencies; engage in inter-professional collaborations with other departments of the university, with other professional groups within the region, and with Hartford Centers of Excellence in medicine and nursing; providing mentoring to Hartford-funded researchers based at the U.S. Veterans Administration; create and evaluate training models that translate new knowledge into practice and policy; and seek additional support to sustain the Social Work Centers.

Being named a Hartford Academic Center of Excellence demonstrates our continued commitment to social work with older adults and their families, said Alberto Godenzi, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College. The Hartford Center at Boston College will provide new opportunities for the Graduate School of Social Work to share our expertise and engage the practice community.

The grant that established the National Center was designed to build upon the successes of the Hartford Geriatric Social Work Initiative (HGSWI), which has been coordinated by GSA since 1999 and has supported over 200 doctoral fellows and faculty scholars who are helping to build a workforce of social workers trained and educated in geriatrics.

In addition to founding the five Hartford Academic Centers of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work, the National Center will collaborate with the VA to develop social work research leaders to help advance evidence-based knowledge related to VA practice in aging; mobilize of the current HGSWI Alumni Network by using their expertise to impact practice and policy; and seek funding from a variety of sources to support and expand its objectives and functions, as well as ensure its sustainability.

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