UCI Health gerontologist receives award for work with seniors

November 09, 2011

UC Irvine gerontologist Kerry Burnight, PhD, received the first Senior Care Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Administrator of the Year for her work in detecting and addressing elder abuse and neglect at an Oct. 23 ceremony hosted by Answers Eldercare OC, a coalition of organizations united to recognize excellence in senior care. The group plans to bestow the award annually.

Burnight is associate professor in the UC Irvine School of Medicine’s Program in Geriatrics and co-director of the Elder Abuse Forensic Center, a multidisciplinary collaboration of professionals from legal, medical, social services, and law enforcement agencies working to detect and intervene in cases of elder abuse. Seven hundred cases of elder abuse are reported every year in Orange County. For each case reported, at least five more go unreported. The Orange County Elder Abuse Forensic Center is the model for three other centers in California and additional ones planned in New York, Virginia and Japan.

Burnight also chairs Unseen OC, a coalition dedicated to addressing elder abuse in Orange County.

The Elder Abuse Forensic Center is among several efforts by UC Irvine’s Program in Geriatrics to improve conditions for senior citizens, including the Center of Excellence for Elder Abuse and Neglect and Elder Abuse Training Institute.

Burnight and Laura Mosqueda, MD, chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Family Medicine and the Ronald W. Reagan Endowed Chair in Geriatrics, also were honored in April by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for their work in preventing elder abuse. The 2011 Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services recognizes extraordinary individuals and programs whose work serves crime victims.

In August, the U.S. Administration on Aging designated the Program in Geriatrics as the National Center on Elder Abuse. In this role, UC Irvine will serve as a clearinghouse for information to prevent, identify and respond to elder abuse.

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John Murray
UCI Health