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About the IOA
History - UW-Madison Institute on Aging

History of the Institute on Aging


The University of Wisconsin Institute on Aging was founded in 1973 as the Faye McBeath Institute on Aging and Adult Life. Between 1973 and 1980, the Institute developed programs in community service as well as graduate training and research under the leadership of Professor Martin Loeb of the School of Social Work. Administratively, the Institute was located within the Graduate School of the Madison campus.

Professor David Featherman of the Department of Sociology was named Director in 1980. Under his leadership there was steady growth in the research mission of the Institute. Four multidisciplinary research clusters were conceived: biology of aging, clinical geriatrics, life-span development, and social gerontology. The first two represented basic and applied research in the biomedical sciences, while the latter two reflected social behavioral perspectives on basic and applied research.

In 1989, Professor William Ershler from the Department of Medicine became Director of the Institute. He was also Head of the Section of Geriatrics in the Department of Medicine and Director of the VA Geriatrics, Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC). Under his leadership, the Institute was expanded to include support from the Medical School, which joined with the Graduate School to provide support and oversee the direction and activities of the Institute. In expanding the administrative structure of the Institute, Dr. Ershler named four Associate Directors: Dr. Michael Hunt to oversee the educational programs of the Institute; Dr. Carol Ryff to advance social behavioral research programs; Dr. Richard Weindruch to advance biomedical research initiatives; and Mr. James Sykes to promote community outreach.

Dr. Carol Ryff, Professor of Psychology, served as Interim Director of the Institute from 1995 to 1998, and in 1998, was named Director. One Associate Director, representing the biomedical sciences, was also appointed, a position first held by Dr. Joanne Robbins and then Dr. Neil Binkley, both from Department of Medicine. Fluorescing microscope in a Biomolecular Chemistry labUnder their leadership, the Institute on Aging continues to pursue its research, educational, and outreach objectives. Particularly prominent on the research side is the MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) national study of Americans, funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging and directed by Dr. Ryff. MIDUS constitutes the leading edge of multidisciplinary aging research and involves many scientists from around the U.S., including many investigators from different departments on the UW-Madison campus. Its major objective is to understand the interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors as people age from early adulthood through later life. Also prominent is the Biology of Aging Training Grant (funded by the National Institute on Aging), first headed by Dr. Richard Weindruch and subsequently by Dr. Sanjay Asthana (Head of the Geriatrics Section in the Department of Medicine and Director of the Geriatrics Research, Education, and Clinical Center). This initiative has been a key mechanism for bringing talented new investigators to the field of aging.


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