Dr. Miriam Morey was recently awarded $4.2 million for geriatric research. The Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care released the research award, which will support Gerofit COVID-19 Recovery Enhancement research being performed at the Durham VA Health Care System.
Morey (pictured above) is associate director of Research, Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center and director of the Gerofit Implementation Program.
“I came to the Durham VA in 1986 and my job was to start an exercise program for older Veterans,” Morey said. “It was a lot of fun and the Veterans improved so much that it stirred me to research to try and see if we could figure out how to take this magic that we were doing at the Durham VA and disseminate it to Veterans who couldn’t come to us.”
Program reached more than 16,000 Veterans
With more than 35 years of geriatric research involving aging adults, Morey continues to express a willingness to help Veterans. She is one of the pioneers of the Veteran Affairs Gerofit program and has assisted with the extension of geriatric education and research to 17 VA health care systems.
The collaborative efforts of Gerofit have reached more than 16,000 Veterans in the last three years.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “We had a gentleman from South Dakota, another Veteran from Kansas, someone else from Florida plus our Veterans from Durham – all together enjoying their Gerofit exercise.”
Now available to all Veterans, not just over 65
Gerofit, which was previously only available to Veterans over the age of 65, is currently open to all Veterans. The new research funding empowers VA to extend the program to Veterans who might need the program but wouldn’t qualify based on age alone.
“I view this as a very targeted, special purpose funding aimed at helping as many Veterans with COVID as we can, wherever they are,” Morey added. “We have been working with Geriatrics and Extended Care and Rural Health to refine how we deliver exercise and health promotion to Veterans everywhere and have good program options for rural Veterans.”
Morey and her team of physical trainers, medical and clinical staff initiated seven new programs in April 2021 and, with the new funding, will start 27 more Gerofit programs by the end of the year.
“For the first time, our new sites will begin with a virtually-delivered program,” she said. “Then we will try and figure out transitions to face-to-face programs.”
Morey receives profession’s highest honor
Additionally, Morey received the Paul B. Magnuson Award in 2020, the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service’s highest honor. The award recognizes humanitarianism and dedication in service to Veterans.
Though named as a recipient of the award in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed efforts to recognize Morey and restricted in-person presentations. In June 2021, she will be officially recognized as last year’s awardee.
“It’s wonderful to know that your work is going to live on beyond you,” she said. “Gerofit is so much bigger than me or anything that I could possibly put forth. Gerofit is all over VA now. It is beyond words. It’s priceless.”
Chris Camacho is a senior public affairs specialist at the Durham VA.