We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty in Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences who are committed to education, training, and research of older adults. We have been working together since 2004 when Elizabeth Howard and Angela Nannini, faculty members in the School of Nursing, applied for and received funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, US Dept of Health and Human Services (HRSA) to be part of the New England Geriatric Education Center located at Harvard University. The subcontract grant provided for an interdisciplinary geriatric education center at Northeastern University in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences (BCHS), hence BIGEC, the Bouvé Interdisciplinary Geriatric Education Center, was born. Interdisciplinary faculty members including Sue Lowe, Physical Therapy; Nate Rickles, Jennifer Kirwin and Carla Bouwmeester, Pharmacy; Therese O’Neil-Pirozzi, Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology; Carol Garber, Exercise Physiology and Carmen Sceppa, Nutrition; joined the investigators to serve as the faculty advisors. Rose Harvey, a nurse with a background in geriatrics and education, was hired as project manager to assist the group in achieving project goals.
The Bouvé College of Health Sciences includes the School of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy and the School of Health Professions with its programs in Athletic Training, Health Science, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Exercise Physiology, Counseling and Applied Psychology and Physician Assistant. The health care disciplines that encompass the education programs residing in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences provide a perfect setting for interdisciplinary collaboration in education, experiential learning and practice. The overall goal of the BIGEC, to develop a health professional workforce skilled in the care of multicultural, urban older adults, is consistent with the University and the BCHS missions.
One of the first BIGEC activities was to form an Advisory Committee made up of members from the community and university. Professionals from community agencies involved in the care of older adults, older adults residing in the community, and students and faculty members from Bouvé College of Health Science programs were invited to meet with the BIGEC project faculty. Approximately 30 students, faculty, and community members attended the first Geriatric Advisory Committee meeting. Attendees discussed and identified the 1) health care needs of older adults in the community, 2) knowledge and skills needed by interdisciplinary health care professionals to meet the health care needs of culturally diverse, urban, older adults and 3) ways to increase the number of minorities prepared as health care professionals.
The lively discussions resulted in summaries of health care needs of the older adult and the knowledge and skills needed by interdisciplinary professionals to meet the health care needs of this culturally diverse group. Those summaries became the basis for the development of Geriatric Competencies for students in the Health Sciences curriculum and a survey of faculty knowledge and skills related to those competencies.
At the second meeting of the Geriatric Advisory Committee, members received a report of the Faculty Skills Survey. A Faculty-Community Speakers Bureau was formed to increase the exchange of knowledge between the University and the Community.
Although HRSA funding has not continued, internal funding from the Provost’s office has enabled the faculty advisory group and its project consultant to develop a Geriatric Resource Center. The resource center includes the Snell Library Gerontology/Geriatric Source Guide and this BIGEC web site. Both the library source guide and the web site were developed for use by students, faculty and community members.