Credit: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) today announced that Helen Fernandez, MD, MPH, a national geriatrics education leader focused on improving the care of older people, will be honored with the 2021 Dennis W. Jahnigen Award in recognition of her commitment to building the geriatrics health workforce we all need as we age. Director of the Geriatrics Fellowship program and Professor of Geriatrics in the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dr. Fernandez has dedicated her career to improving the care of older adults. In addition to teaching and mentoring young clinicians, Dr. Fernandez has developed and implemented innovative new geriatrics fellowship programs and pathways. Dr. Fernandez will receive her award at the AGS 2021 Virtual Annual Scientific Meeting (#AGS21) taking place May 13-15 (pre-conference day on May 12).
“Our Society’s vision of a world where all have access to high-quality, person-centered care informed by geriatrics principles will only come to fruition if all healthcare professionals are educated in these principles,” said AGS President Annie Medina-Walpole, MD, AGSF. “Thanks to the contributions of innovative pioneers in geriatric education like Dr. Fernandez, that world is within our sights.”
Widely admired for her dedication to the cause, Dr. Fernandez has worked tirelessly on the local, regional and national levels to enhance the training of healthcare professionals in geriatrics throughout her career. In her capacity as co-director for the HRSA Consortium of New York Geriatrics Education Centers (CNYGEC) from 2007 to 2015, she developed and conducted more than 20 interactive workshops on the overlap of geriatrics and palliative care, cultural and linguistic competency, and health literacy, and helped create an interprofessional faculty training program for nurse practitioners. She has served as a senior educator for the Veteran’s Administration (VA) Rural Interdisciplinary Team Training, a program teaching participants at VA clinical sites, tribal health clinics and the Indian Health Service about common geriatric conditions and working in interdisciplinary teams. Since 2011, she has created online geriatrics training modules and mentored about 80 healthcare professionals in the VA Geriatrics Scholars Program, which improves veteran care by integrating geriatrics principles into primary care practices. In recent years, Dr. Fernandez has taught healthcare professionals about rethinking and confronting ageist stereotypes as a “Reframing Aging” trainer.
Dr. Fernandez has perhaps accomplished the most significant achievements of her career thus far at her professional home at Mount Sinai, where she first arrived as a geriatrics fellow in 1999. At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, she co-created the first-ever integrated geriatrics and palliative fellowship, the model for which has been disseminated across the country, re-energized the complementary relationship between the two fields, and launched the careers of numerous clinician-scholars. Dr. Fernandez also co-directs a mini fellowship program for non-geriatricians and leads the annual Board Review course in geriatric medicine at the school, where she holds a tenured professorship in the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine.
In her many roles as an educator, Dr. Fernandez has disseminated her expertise and products nationally and internationally. Her presentations at multiple conferences–including the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting and the International Association of Medical Education–and her published work in such scholarly outlets as the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society demonstrate her dedication to the science of education. She is altogether a remarkable role model for her generation of aspiring academic geriatrics educators.
An AGS member since 1999, Dr. Fernandez has been a member of the AGS Education Committee since 2015, after serving on the Ethnogeriatrics Committee. In 2019, she became course director of the AGS/Association of Directors of Geriatrics Academic Programs (ADGAP) Leadership and Life Skills Longitudinal Course for Fellows. She is currently Chair of the ADGAP Fellowship Working Group last year and a member of the ADGAP Board. The Jahnigen Award is not her first accolade from the AGS; in 2013, she won the Society’s Outstanding Mid-Career Clinician Educator of the Year award.
Dr. Fernandez earned her medical degree from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Mexico in 1993 and her Master of Public Health degree in community and preventative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The late Dennis W. Jahnigen, MD, was a compassionate geriatrician and acclaimed educator who dedicated his life to training future leaders. Today, his namesake award recognizes an AGS member, like Dr. Fernandez, committed to working with students and advancing geriatrics education in schools of health and medicine. It is one of several honors conferred by the AGS at its Annual Scientific Meeting–which will next take place virtually on May 13-15 (pre-conference day May 12). Awardees from last year, including the 2020 Jahnigen Award winner, John B. Murphy, MD, will also be celebrated at this year’s meeting.
About the American Geriatrics Society
Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has–for more than 75 years–worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.
About the Dennis W. Jahnigen Award
The late Dennis W. Jahnigen, MD, was a compassionate geriatrician and acclaimed educator who dedicated his life to training future leaders. Today, his namesake award recognizes an AGS member committed to working with students and advancing geriatrics education in schools of health and medicine.
About the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting
The AGS Annual Scientific Meeting is the premier educational event in geriatrics, providing the latest information on clinical care, research on aging, and innovative models of care delivery. More than 2,000 nurses, pharmacists, physicians, physician assistants, social workers, long-term care and managed care providers, healthcare administrators, and others will convene virtually May 13-15 2021 (pre-conference program on May 12) to advance geriatrics knowledge and skills through state-of-the-art educational sessions and research presentations. For more information, visit Meeting.AmericanGeriatrics.org.
Nicole A. Levy