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President's Column: Gratitude and excitement
By David C. Steffens, MD, MHS, AAGP President
For my last President’s Column, I thought I’d focus on two themes: Gratitude and excitement.

First, I have to thank many people who have contributed to the organization’s success this year and those who have helped me personally as President. There are many lists of individuals, who have helped AAGP move forward this year.

Click here to read AAGP President David C. Steffens' entire column.
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Annual Meeting preregistration closes Feb. 20
Don’t miss the chance to gather with your peers in Orlando, Fla., in March at the AAGP 2014 Annual Meeting to learn about the latest research and clinical trends in the field. Gain new insights during educational sessions, in the Exhibit Hall, in product theaters, and through informal discussions with your colleagues. The Annual Meeting will be March 14-17 in Orlando at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Preregister by Feb. 20 at

Did we mention the weather in Orlando? In March, we're expecting highs in the high 70s and lows in the mid 50s in Orlando, Fla.!

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New 'Research Agenda For Suicide Prevention' released
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task Force of the National Institutes of Health has announced that the finalized document — "A Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention: An Action Plan to Save Lives" — is available for download online at The Agenda outlines 30 research pathways that could help decrease the number of both suicide attempts and deaths in the United States. In addition to input from a Stakeholder Survey, the Agenda also was developed based on a literature review, portfolio analysis, mapping of the burden of suicide, and input from over 70 researchers in the field who examined what research areas show the most promise in reducing the suicide rates in the United States. The goal is for this Agenda to be used by funding organizations to help guide them in their funding decisions, as well as the researchers themselves regarding the types of research they conduct in the future. Family members, policymakers, and other interested individuals are encouraged to use the Agenda to help advocate for the field of suicide prevention research.

To ensure issues related to older adults were included in the agenda, the AAGP Research Committee provided input to the Task Force’s deliberations in April 2012. In its letter, AAGP pointed out the values of models of care and research methodologies related to the elderly. See AAGP’s letter online at

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  This is where the healing begins.

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Bipartisan agreement on physician payment formula
On Feb. 6, Congressional lawmakers announced a bicameral, bipartisan agreement to reform Medicare’s troublesome physician payment formula. The proposed legislation merges legislative language produced by the House Ways and Means Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senate Finance Committee over the past year into a new proposal. That proposal, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4015), which was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Michael Burgess, MD, R-Texas, addresses only the policy provisions related to eliminating the flawed payment update formula. It does not include financial offsets. The agreement includes a 0.5 percent payment update for physicians for five years before transitioning to an alternative payment model structure. In addition, the new proposal would provide financial incentives for physicians to participate in alternative payment models, including a five percent bonus to providers who receive a significant portion of revenue through APMs. This proposal to replace Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula with a new payment system is expected to cost approximately $128 billion over ten years, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

While the announcement — which came on the same day that the Senate confirmed Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., as ambassador to China — is good news for Medicare-participating physicians, it is by no means a done deal. Still to come from lawmakers are details on how to pay for repealing the SGR, extend certain Medicare programs, and address other Medicare and Medicaid policies as part of a total legislative package that is expected to cost between $140 billion and $145 billion over ten years. Although the Feb. 6 announcement is a step forward, there are still many details that need to be ironed out before legislation to repeal Medicare’s SGR formula can be enacted.

A short-term delay of a 24 percent Medicare reimbursement cut for physicians expires after March 31.

AAGP supports a full repeal of the SGR formula so that access to care for all Medicare beneficiaries, across all specialties, is protected. Recognizing that geriatric psychiatrists treat an overwhelming majority of Medicare patients, the possibility of ongoing payment reductions driven by a flawed formula will further undermine access to mental health care for the nation’s older adults. AAGP remains committed to working with AMA and other organizations to reform the Medicare payment system on a permanent basis.

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Alzheimer's, Parkinson's groups team up for research
USA Today
Although people with the memory loss of Alzheimer's disease and the physical problems of Parkinson's disease look very different, a growing body of research suggests that their biological damage is quite similar.

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Alzheimer's disease: 15-minute test could spot early sign of dementia
The Telegraph
A simple 15-minute test which can be taken at home can spot the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, researchers claim.

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2 proposed Alzheimer's drugs show disappointing results
The Los Angeles Times
Two biological therapies designed to improve the clearance of sticky plaques from the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease have failed to slow the steady loss of cognitive function in patients with mild to moderate forms of the degenerative disorder.

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President highlights commitment to mental health care for veterans
On Jan. 24, President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union Address to Congress. In that speech, he stated that he remains committed to ensuring that veterans’ benefits are not cut in the fiscal year 2015 federal budget process. He specifically highlighted the need for mental health care among veterans: "As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life," Obama said. "We'll keep slashing that backlog [of health care services] so our veterans receive the benefits they've earned and our wounded warriors receive the health care — including the mental health care — that they need.”
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G-8 makes commitments to address dementia
On Dec. 11, members of the G-8 gathered at a summit in London to address an international path forward for addressing dementia. Health representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia made a number of commitments, including the following:
  • A goal of finding a cure or disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025, which echoes the timeline in the U.S. National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as increasing “collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research to reach that goal”
  • Creating an international research action plan that recognizes the current state of science and describes a strategy for addressing gaps and opportunities
  • Calling for “greater innovation to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers while reducing emotional and financial burden”
  • Sharing information about the research they finance and identifying areas that are priorities for collaboration
  • Promoting open access to publicly funded dementia research where feasible and making the data available for further study as fast as possible, with safeguards for individuals’ privacy and countries’ legal and political frameworks
  • Calling on nongovernmental organizations and institutions to build on efforts across the world to reduce stigma, fear and exclusion
  • Holding a series of forums this year in partnership with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Health Organization, European Commission, EU Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease and other organizations and institutions
  • Meeting in the United States in February 2015 with other international experts, including OECD and WHO, to go over how far their research agenda has progressed.

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Welcome, new AAGP members!
Psychiatrist Members
Adharsh Sahdevan, MD, MPH
Carolina Osorio, MD
Mark Lachmann, MD, MHSc, FRCP
Mon Poulose, MD
Wayne Sparks, MD

Alan Armstrong, MD
Andrea Lopez, MSN
Barbara Berte, MSN
Barbara Morris, MD
Deborah Carney, MS
Pamela Morgan, MSN
Deepti Anbarasan, MD
James Wilkins, MD
Julia Edwards, MD, MPH
Mudassar Iqbal, MD
Nicole Stocking, MD
Ryan Silwanowicz, MD
Sarah Sherman, DO
Sheela Reddy, MD
Youssef Alshehri, MD

Student Members
Darcy Moschenross, MD, PhD
Caroline Bader, BA
Elena Schjavland, MS

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Member news: Honors for Blazer, Steffens and Gottlieb
Congratulations to Dan Blazer and David Steffens, who will both receive awards at the American College of Psychiatrists’ Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, on Feb. 22.

Dan G. Blazer II, MD, MPH, PhD, will receive the Distinguished Service Award, presented in recognition of significant achievements and leadership in the field of psychiatry. Blazer is J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, as well as Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina. One of the world’s foremost geriatric psychiatrists, he is known for his many contributions to research, teaching, clinical practice, administration, and public policy. His main research areas include epidemiology of mental and substance use disorders, late-life depression, and the interface between spirituality and psychiatry. Blazer is a past president of the AAGP (2005-2006).

AAGP President David C. Steffens, MD, MHS, was named recipient of the Award for Research in Geriatric Psychiatry, which honors an individual who has contributed to advancements in the field of geropsychiatry. David Steffens is professor and chair, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center. A highly influential researcher for more than two decades, he has contributed to the understanding of the complex relationship between depression and cognition among aging adults.

Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare in Boston, is among the nominees for Modern Healthcare's 50 Most Influential Physician Executives – 2014. See the full list in the Jan. 6 online issue. The final ranking will be published in the May 12 issue of Modern Healthcare. Gottlieb served as president of AAGP in 1994-1995.

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New SAMHSA report provides health indicators
A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration presents a set of substance use and mental health indicators from population and treatment facility-based data sets. The report, "Behavioral Health Barometer, 2013," provides point-in-time and trend data reflecting the status and progress in improving key behavioral health indicators. It is available online here.
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Latest NIH Alzheimer's research progress report available
A new online report from the National Institutes of Health highlights recent progress in NIH-supported Alzheimer’s disease research. Prepared annually by the National Institute on Aging at NIH, the latest report — "2012-2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Seeking the Earliest Interventions" — discusses the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease, describes new investments and research priorities, and summarizes research in several areas:
  • Biology of Alzheimer’s and the aging brain
  • Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s progression
  • Genes that may play a role in the disease
  • Risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia
  • Advances in detecting Alzheimer’s disease
  • Translational research to identify and test new drugs
  • Potential new therapies to treat, delay, or prevent Alzheimer’s
  • Caregiving
  • Gender and racial differences in the impact of Alzheimer’s
Other features include a video introduction by NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes, a primer on Alzheimer’s disease and the brain, tables listing NIA-funded clinical trials, and videos that further explain critical areas of study. Read the report online by clicking here.

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Alzheimer's, Parkinson's groups team up for research
USA Today
Although people with the memory loss of Alzheimer's disease and the physical problems of Parkinson's disease look very different, a growing body of research suggests that their biological damage is quite similar. To better understand those similarities — and why some people end up with one condition versus the other — three foundations that support research into the diseases are joining forces.
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AstraZeneca takes on Merck in Alzheimer's drug race
AstraZeneca is moving an experimental Alzheimer's drug into late-stage development, taking on U.S. rival Merck & Co which announced plans to start similar final-stage research in December. Britain's second-biggest drugmaker revealed its plan to move AZD3293 into the last phase of testing needed for registration as it recently announced full-year results.
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Dementia casts its shadow over China
China has 9 million Alzheimer’s sufferers, the world’s largest group of patients with the disease, according to a 2013 article in the medical journal Lancet. Since 1990, life expectancy in China has increased seven years, to 76; the flip side of that progress is that longer life spans combine with stress and other modern afflictions to fuel a rise in mental illnesses ranging from depression to Alzheimer’s disease.
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DDT exposure linked to Alzheimer's disease
USA Today
A new study links exposure to the insecticide DDT with Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found evidence of DDT exposure in 80 percent of patients with Alzheimer's disease, as well as 70 percent of those without the condition.
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