SocialWorker_TS467579853In Tuesday’s post on interprofessional education and the role of social workers in health care teams, I referenced a program called the Leadership Academy in Aging . This program warrants an additional mention for its success in providing leadership skills to deans and directors of schools of social work, as well as to promote the development of geriatric academic education and training in the social work profession.

The Leadership Academy in Aging is a year-long program that provides leadership skills and aging education to deans and directors of schools of social work, who also receive guidance in developing a program on aging within their school. The Academy was designed through a partnership between the Social Work Leadership Institute and the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work (NADD). The co-leaders are longtime Hartford Foundation grantee and partner Pat Volland and Katharine Briar-Lawson, Dean and Professor, School of Social Welfare, University at Albany. Originally supported by the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Leadership Academy is now supported in part by NADD and tuition from the deans and directors.

With six cohorts to date, 66 deans and directors have participated in the Academy. This represents more than one quarter of all social work deans in the country. The transformational work of the Leadership Academy in Aging participants has resulted in a variety of outstanding and lasting contributions to the field of gerontology.

leadership-academy-in-aging400Leadership Academy participants have been instrumental in the creation and revitalization of academic research and training centers that focus on both gerontology and interdisciplinary collaboration. As a result of these centers, schools of social work have received numerous grants and hired multiple faculty members who are conducting innovative gerontological research.

With the support and guidance of the Leadership Academy participants, new educational efforts such as interdisciplinary curricula, gerontology certificates and gerontology field placements have been achieved, with one program receiving one of the three prestigious awards from the Council on Social Work Education’s Anita Rosen Panel Session for Best Practices in Gerontological Infusion honoring social work programs that best exemplify gerontological infusion of foundation or generalist social work curriculum.

Schools are also collaborating with a host of community agencies, pioneering new programs to meet the needs of older adults throughout the country. The significant work of the Leadership Academy in Aging participants includes:

Creating and Revitalizing a Gerontology or Aging Center at an Academic Institution: A total of nine programs that include interdisciplinary collaborations between departments of Social Work, Nursing, Psychology, Sociology and Public Administration.

Spearheading New Gerontology Education initiatives: A total of 33 programs, including gerontology certificate programs (which includee interdisciplinary certificates with Nursing and Medicine), interdisciplinary curriculums (which include collaborations with Nursing, Medicine, Speech, Physical Education, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy departments), created or expanded gerontology course offerings (which include an interdisciplinary online health literacy course, an integrated health policy course focusing on behavioral health, and courses in other countries comparing policies and practices related to aging), expanded gerontology field placements (which include home-based services, primary care, patient centered homes, palliative and hospice care settings) and gerontology concentrations/programs (which include an interdisciplinary minor in gerontology).

Facilitating and Supporting Faculty Research on Aging: A total of eight programs, including an interdisciplinary program to develop a screening instrument for those with disabilities; a study to identify differences in social supports for terminally ill elders in hospice vs. traditional treatment; research on wellness with Native American Elders; a study on aging and domestic violence; and an interdisciplinary collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with an emphasis on families; and a multidisciplinary center’s research on areas such as caregiving among African Americans.

Increasing Gerontology Faculty: A total of 16 programs, including gerontology faculty searches and endowed professorships or endowed chairs (such as endowed chairs for two Hartford Scholars, for faculty leaders, and a $2.5 million endowment for a Chair in Aging in Social Work).

Supporting and Generating Stipends for Students: A total of eight programs, including deans supporting further development of the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education (HPPAE) and related social work interventions; and developing and offering student stipends.

Fostering Conferences and Workshops: A total of seven programs, including conferences on end-of-life planning and interdisciplinary conferences for professionals working in the field of aging.

Facilitating Community Collaborations to Create New Community Programs: A total of 14 programs. Examples include outreach to gay and lesbian older adults, African American, Latino and poor elderly; an interprofessional project to use social workers in affordable care; students working with the Hispanic elderly population; fitness-related training for older adults; hospital readmissions reduction programs; a creative housing program for both older adults and graduate students; kinship care project for grandparents raising grandchildren; and a program to address food security and nutrition.

The Leadership Academy in Aging is a good example of what the Hartford Foundation would consider a successful grant project. The Academy has strong leaders who have designed a successful program and have found ways to sustain it without continued support from the foundation. In addition, the contribution the program continues to make in academic geriatric education and professional training continues to grow and influence the field.

We at the Hartford Foundation congratulate the leaders, Pat Volland and Katharine Briar-Lawson, for their vision and continued dedication. And we appreciate the Social Work Leadership Institute and the National Association of Deans and Directors for their support of this important work.