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DU Leading the Discussion of Health and Aging

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Justin Beach

Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

This critical issue was the focus of this year’s first Pioneer Symposium

News  •

Health and aging: It’s a topic that impacts all of us, whether it’s yourself, a family member or a friend. The University of Denver led conversation around this issue at last week’s Pioneer Symposium — an opportunity for the DU community to learn about the work University faculty members are doing around this topic. Nearly 300 alumni, faculty, staff, students and community members were in attendance.

“We have expertise at DU in everything from psychology to biomechanics. We have a lot to offer and a lot to add to this conversation,” said Brandon Buzbee, associate vice chancellor of University Advancement. “There are few places you can go where you are really going to get the breadth of exposure and intellectual prowess and expertise like you will here at DU.”

The timing of the symposium coincides with the opening of the Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging at DU. One of the University’s largest collaborative efforts in history, the new center combines natural science, social science and engineering to improve quality of life, wellness and community for aging populations.

Lotta Granholm-Bentley joined DU this fall as executive director of the Knoebel Institute. For the last 13 years she worked as director of the Center on Aging at the Medical University of South Carolina. Her research on Alzheimer’s and the topic of healthy aging attracted Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, to the Pioneer Symposium.

“She is the leader of our professional interest area on Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s,” Johns said. “Alzheimer’s is a huge concern to the American public. More than 5 million people have it today. We will see as many as 14 to 16 million people have it by mid-century if we can’t change the course of the disease.”

During the symposium, different faculty members also held sessions about health care costs, aging bodies, drug development and how to discuss the issue of cancer with patients and their families.

“There are estimates that 41 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime,” said Nicole Taylor, clinical assistant professor at DU’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology. “Each person diagnosed with cancer affects a lot of other people. I find that people don’t really know how to talk to their friends and family with cancer.”

Taylor led the discussion on this topic during the symposium. She is also the director of DU’s Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence (COPE), which teaches students how to work with cancer patients and their families. COPE also works with the community and allows cancer patients to come to campus to visit the professional psychology clinic.

“There are more and more people who are diagnosed with cancer, but the good news is there are more and more people surviving,” Taylor said. “The emotional and psychological part does not go away, so there’s more need for people to learn. That’s why we have COPE, to train counselors to work with these individuals.”

Last week’s Pioneer Symposium is the first of four that will be held during the 2016–17 academic year. Remaining sessions will be held on Nov. 11 (History and Service), March 1 (Social Justice and Community Building) and May 5 (Inclusive Excellence and Empowerment).

“Our faculty are working on some incredible things, and this is an incredible opportunity for our community to be exposed to the research,” Buzbee said.