Coleman wins MacArthur Fellowship to improve health care for older Americans

Eric Coleman M.D., M.P.H. ’91—geriatrician and problem-solver in chronic disease care—received a coveted MacArthur Fellowship on Tuesday, October 2. He was one of 23 Americans selected. MacArthur fellows are selected for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future, according to the foundation. Each MacArthur fellow receives a no-strings-attached $500,000 grant over the next five years.

We are all very proud of Dr. Coleman and what he has accomplished and the progress still to come,” said Stephen Shortell, dean of the School of Public Health. “We know he will put this award to good use to improve care for all people  suffering from chronic illnesses.”

After graduating from UC Davis, Coleman earned his master’s in public health at Berkeley in 1991 and his M.D. at UCSF a year later. He completed his residency in primary care internal medicine and fellowship in geriatric medicine at the University of Washington. In 1998, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Denver, where he is currently professor of medicine and head of the Division of Health Care Policy and Research and director of both the Care Transitions Program and the Practice Change Leaders Program.

At the University of Colorado, Coleman has focused on a problem in American health care that has been largely ignored: the miscommunications and errors that often occur as patients move out of hospitals to other kinds of care. Systems developed by Coleman to address such problems have “the potential to improve substantially the care and health outcomes of millions of older adults,” according to his citation. His Care Transitions Intervention, led by nurses and social workers trained as Care Transitions Coaches, equips patients and caregivers with critical knowledge and skills to enable self-care, including a complete personal health record with associated physician information; a reconciled list of medications; a timeline for follow-up appointments; and a list of red flags, or signs that the patient’s condition is deteriorating.

“It really is our hope as we look forward that this care transitions intervention, with its emphasis on skill transfer, will really create a group of consumers who play a much more active role in their care,” Coleman says in a video produced by the MacArthur Foundation. “To have the MacArthur Foundation believe in this work certainly means a great deal to myself and my colleagues and also really to those older adults and their family care givers who have taught us so much along the way.”

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Meet the 2012 MacArthur Fellows