Renzi-Hammond, Beer to lead UGA Institute of Gerontology

The University of Georgia College of Public Health (CPH) is pleased to announce two new leaders at the helm of the College’s Institute of Gerontology (IOG).

Lisa Renzi-Hammond has been named IOG director. Jenay Beer will serve as associate director. Both Renzi-Hammond and Beer joined the faculty at College of Public Health and IOG in August 2017 and have since been close collaborators.

They plan to focus on two major related initiatives: expanding the Institute’s ability to serve aging Georgians at risk for or living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and becoming a resource for all the University of Georgia’s researchers who study aging.

The Institute of Gerontology houses the Cognitive Aging Research and Education, or CARE, Center, which Renzi-Hammond and Beer co-founded. The Center is an interdisciplinary initiative to improve access to diagnosis, care, clinical research participation opportunities, and education for rural Georgians.

“The CARE initiative is truly groundbreaking,” said Renzi-Hammond, “The initiative has already brought collaborators from ten different academic units across the University, all united in a desire to serve older people in Georgia. But service is the tip of the iceberg. The Institute is conducting engaged scholarship and, through CARE, creating research infrastructure that is unique within our university.”

Renzi-Hammond specializes in lifespan sensory, cognitive and neurological development. She is interested in the relationships between brain structure, sensory and cognitive function and risk for disease, and the behaviors that promote cognitive vitality across the lifespan. She also serves as the interdisciplinary group lead for Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience within the Integrated Life Sciences program in the UGA Office of Research.

Renzi-Hammond has demonstrated visionary leadership in her academic and industry roles.

From 2012 to 2015, she worked for Abbott Nutrition as the Manager of Clinical Nutrition Science, within its Global Research and Development network, tasked with setting vision and strategy for the adult clinical nutrition platform, which accounted for half of the $7 billion annual revenue from Abbott’s nutrition division and included clinical trials with as many as 110 clinical sites. At UGA, Renzi-Hammond has continued to study nutrition and neurodegenerative disease prevention as part of her larger research program, which also includes partnering with industry to study new technologies aimed at improving visual function in older people. She also works closely with Beer on federally funded clinical trials that study new technologies to improve cognitive health.

Beer is an associate professor at the Institute of Gerontology, with a joint appointment in the College of Public Health and the School of Social Work. Her research program investigates how technology can promote health and well-being for older adults, particularly those with, or at risk for, dementia. In the CARE initiative, Beer leads a group of clinicians and scientists developing telehealth solutions to conduct geriatric and neuropsychological assessments for rural medical clinics that currently lack access to these specialty services.

As associate director, Beer will focus, in part, on the Institute’s role in technology innovation.

“So many people see technology as the solution for solving the problems of older age. It is absolutely true that technology plays a role in supporting us as we age, but technology has to be designed with older people in mind to be effective,” said Beer.

“The Institute is well positioned to support the wider UGA community as it continues to grow in the areas of assistive technologies, m-health and telehealth, socially assistive robotics, and other technologies that may benefit older people.”

Beer has investigated the usability, acceptance and adoption of technology supports and interventions ranging from apps to advanced robotics, with over 60 peer-reviewed publications. In 2019, Beer was selected as one of two inaugural UGA Innovation Fellows.

“With Drs. Renzi-Hammond and Beer stepping into these roles, I am excited about the leadership of IOG and honoring its history of ground breaking research, training opportunities for students across UGA, and outreach to improve the health of all,” said Marsha Davis, dean of the College of Public Health.

– Lauren Baggett

Posted on August 11, 2022.