Fick part of team developing collaborative network to advance delirium research

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Donna M. Fick, Elouise Ross Eberly Professor of Nursing and director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, is part of an interdisciplinary team awarded a $3.7 million grant from the National Institute on Aging — the first of its kind — to build a worldwide interdisciplinary collaborative network of delirium researchers.

The Network for Investigation of Delirium across the United States (NIDUS) will unite delirium experts from at least 27 organizations in focused collaborative efforts, said Sharon K. Inouye, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and leader of the NIDUS team.

“The study of delirium is inherently difficult, with multiple challenges influencing the pace of scientific discovery,” said Inouye, who is also director of the Aging Brain Center at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. “I believe bringing together multiple experts with varying approaches and skill sets will be the approach most likely to accelerate advancements in this area.”

Delirium, a common clinical syndrome in older adults, presents as an acute mental condition characterized by confused thinking and disrupted attention. It affects more than 2.6 million older Americans each year, typically following surgery, hospitalization or acute illness. With a price tag of more than $164 billion in annual health care expenditures, delirium can be serious and even life threatening, often leading to cognitive decline and an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

“Even with recent growth in research related to delirium, advances in diagnosis, treatment and understanding of its biology are still lagging,” Inouye said.

NIDUS will be composed of two research cores: (1) a Research Resources and Database Core, which will develop a database of ongoing studies; and (2) a Measurement and Harmonization Core, which will develop resources to help researchers choose tools for assessing delirium. In addition, three task forces will be established. Fick is co-leader (with Dr. E. Wesley Ely of Vanderbilt University Medical Center) of the Mentorship and Career Development Task Force, which will create an intensive training boot camp for new researchers and provide ongoing opportunities for mentorship and career development.

“This initiative will encourage new researchers to join this exciting and important field,” Fick said.

For more information on NIDUS, visit the Institute for Aging Research website.

Last Updated December 12, 2016