More From Dr. Kirkland
James L. Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D.
My grandfather was a tremendous guy and the way he lived his life inspired me from a very early age. He lived through intense adversity during the First World War and the Depression. Yet he maintained a very spiritual and cheerful attitude throughout his entire life. Until he retired at 93, he rode the bus every day to work. The bus drivers knew him because he gave them Christmas presents and remembered their birthdays. After he retired, he lived a few more years that were very pleasant years for him.
Most memorable of all — my grandfather imbued a great love for older people in all of his grandchildren and for that, I am very grateful. His long and healthy life influenced my decision to become a geriatrician. I wanted to find out if there were methods and scientific processes that could help other people live a life the way that my grandfather did.
As a clinical geriatrician and a basic scientist in the laboratory, I recognize the gap that needs to be bridged between people doing basic research on aging and people providing clinical care for the elderly. Of the 7,100 geriatricians in the United States, only a handful of these specialists in clinical care for the elderly have grants from the National Institutes of Health to study basic science aspects of aging.
Conversely, the people doing basic science work in aging are very rarely trained in a clinical discipline. Although considerable advances have been made in understanding the basic biology of aging especially over the past five or ten years — not enough attention has been paid to translating this research into practical solutions that address end–of–life issues and the wider societal implications of biomedical research.
One of the great strengths of Mayo is in translational research — cutting–edge medical research — the kind of research that shortens the distance between what happens in the laboratory and the actual progression of strategies and treatments for helping people — sorely needed in the aging field, perhaps more than any other.
Since aging affects every organ system, every aspect of one’s being, Mayo Clinic represents a medical institution ideally suited for launching a center on aging. Mayo places great stock in providing the highest quality care for its patients. It offers a tremendous breadth of expertise in the clinical disciplines and sciences, and it fosters a non–competitive environment. Clinicians, researchers, educators, and support staff share their expertise willingly because they believe in the fundamental mission that the needs of the patient come first. A collegial environment really facilitates creativity and teamwork.
The Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging provides dynamic opportunities for stepping up to greater demands for impact — for taking bigger risks for bigger gains not available in more traditional, federally funded research programs. Through collaboration and innovation, Mayo wants to scale up development successes at the intersection where underlying concepts that unlock nature connect with revolutionary, individualized approaches that can enhance and increase the healthful and productive period in life.
Our mission is to understand, extend, and improve the aging process with a vision of a longer and healthier life for all.
James L. Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D.
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