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August 9, 2001

Coastal Carolina University is one of three state institutions of higher learning chosen to take a leading role in the new South Carolina Geriatric Education Center, which is being established in an effort to help improve the quality of life for older South Carolinians. The College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has received a five-year $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services to develop the project.

The center will develop collaborative efforts across the state to provide educational and training programs in geriatrics and gerontology for students, faculty and practicing health and social services providers. Other institutions involved in the collaboration are the University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University and the South Carolina Health Education Consortium. The center, under the direction of Esther M. Forti, R.N., a rural health specialist and assistant professor at MUSC, will be located in the MUSC College of Health Professions, Office of Research.

Coastal is the only institution of higher education in the state which offers a gerontology certificate at the bachelor's level. "Through this collaboration, our program at Coastal will be made available across the state through distance education," says Billy Hills, an associate professor of psychology at Coastal and director of Coastal's gerontology program. "In the past two decades, the South Carolina coastal region, and the Myrtle Beach area in particular, has become more and more of a retirement destination, so it's critical that we provide the best possible training for health professionals who seek expertise in aging and aging services."

Activities of the center will include developing a Web page that will be a clearinghouse with links to other aging resources throughout the state and nation, designing an aging health career program for minority high school students, delivering regional rural community forums on aging issues with a statewide aging summit, and creating Internet-based courses for a statewide certificate program in geriatrics and gerontology. There will be an emphasis on health promotion, mental health, diversity and ethnogeriatrics, end-of-life and palliative care, and outreach to rural and medically underserved. The project's theme is "Healthy Aging: Preparing for the Best to Come!"

Given the rural nature of South Carolina, the program's emphasis on distance education will enable more providers to become current with major issues relating to caring for older adults. Collaboration among universities and service agencies allows for shared resources.

For more information, contact Hills at 349-2276 or call (843) 792- 2419.