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Longtime donors support geriatric medicine training

Couple endows UCI Health fellowship fund to nurture physicians specializing in caring for seniors

January 20, 2017
Laura and Joe Alfieri, longtime UC Irvine donors, have established a fellowship fund in geriatric medicine for the UCI Health SeniorHealth Center.
As patients at UCI Health SeniorHealth Center, Laura and Joe Alfieri know first hand the need for more specialty trained geriatricians to meet the needs of Orange County's rapidly increasing elderly population.

Longtime UC Irvine donors Joe and Laura Alfieri have created the first-ever geriatric medicine fellowship fund for the UCI Health SeniorHealth Center.

The endowment by the Anaheim Hills couple, which will support two geriatric medicine fellows, is intended to encourage more physicians who want to specialize in caring for Orange County’s rapidly aging population.

“We love to support geriatrics because we know that Orange County is about to be flooded with aging baby boomers — and we’re all living longer,” said Laura Alfieri. “Because we visit the UCI Health SeniorHealth Center, we’re also familiar with the needs there.”

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of seniors will more than double by 2060. In Orange County, the proportion of older adults is expected to increase by more than 65 percent in the next 15 years, according to Orange County’s 2013 Health Profile. This baby-boom generation is also more active, more independent and expected to live longer.

The SeniorHealth Center is staffed by trained geriatricians and a team of experts who provide full-service care, short-term consultations and memory and health assessment programs for aging adults. But the number of geriatricians in Orange County who are uniquely trained to address conditions specific to older adults is not keeping pace with growth in the population they serve, making the future of quality healthcare for seniors look precarious.

The Alfieris’ gift will help meet that need by supporting the professional development of two geriatric medicine fellows, said Dr. Lisa M. Gibbs, medical director of the SeniorHealth Center and chief of the Department of Family Medicine's Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology.

This year’s fellows — Aisha Khalid Memon, MD, and Xaviour James Walker, MD, MPH, DTMH — will in turn go on to provide much needed care for our growing population of older adults, Gibbs said.

“We are extremely excited about this generous gift,” she added. “Our fellows will benefit from attending the American Geriatrics Society conference each year, which will further their education and expose them to geriatrics on a national level, as well as to leaders in the field. Enhancing the education of our geriatric fellows is one of the best gifts we can imagine.”

Joe and Laura Alfieri have a long history of donating to UC Irvine. They have supported construction of UCI Health Douglas Hospital, the UC Irvine School of Medicine, the Department of Ophthalmology, the H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center, the Samueli School of Engineering, the university library, the Center for Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, and as parents of alumnus Stacey McKinley (’74).

They are members of the Chancellor’s Club, a community of people who care deeply about UC Irvine and help invest in its greatest needs. Over the years, the Alfieris also have volunteered at the UCI Health Regional Burn Center, the medical center's laboratory and concierge desk (for Joe), and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and gift shop (for Laura).

They hope their most recent gift to underwrite fellows training at the SeniorHealth Center, where they both receive ongoing care, will encourage others in Orange County to learn more about UCI Health, to get involved and to help support important causes that can make an impact locally.

Dr. Sonia Sehghal, fellow Aisha Khalid Memon, Laura and Joe Alfieri, fellow Xaviour James Walker and Dr. Lisa Gibbs.

The Alfieris, above, are flanked, from left to right, by Dr. Sonia R. Sehgal, Dr. Aisha Khalid Memon, Dr. Xaviour James Walker and Dr. Lisa M. Gibbs.