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Updated: June 14, 2024

UNE awarded $5M for geriatrics workforce training

Aerial view of the University of New England campus in Biddeford. Photo / Courtesy, UNE The University of New England, whose main campus in Biddeford is shown here, will use nearly $5 million in new federal funding to educate and train Maine's geriatrics workforce.

To help address Maine's shortage of physicians specializing in the care of older people, the University of New England has been awarded nearly $5 million for workforce education and training.

The five-year federal grant will support Maine's Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program, known as AgingME, which UNE has administered since 2019. Funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Currently in the United States, there are fewer than 7,300 board-certified geriatricians, representing less than 1% of all physicians. The American Geriatrics Society estimates a need to train around 20,000 geriatricians to meet immediate needs, and as many as 30,000 by 2030 to serve the aging population. 

“We are thrilled and honored to receive this vital funding from HRSA to tackle workforce needs and better support Maine’s rural, older adults,” said Dr. Susan Wehry, a geriatric psychiatrist and AgingME's director.

UNE said it will receive $999,917 annually to support educational resources for students and health providers, as well as age- and dementia-friendly care for older adults in Maine.

Megan Walton, CEO of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, welcomed the funding for AgingME.

“Today in Maine, older adults are waiting weeks, months, and sometimes years for much-needed care. Dr. Wehry’s work is critical,” she told Mainebiz. “Thousands of older adults rely on Maine’s health care system, and their needs will only increase over the coming years. This grant is a positive step towards building a stronger workforce of health professionals in our state.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured funding to expand the Health Resources and Services Administration's geriatric workforce education program.

“For Maine, with an aging population of more than a quarter million Mainers over the age of 65, and fewer than 40 practicing geriatricians, there is an acute need to rapidly train more geriatric health professionals to meet the growing demand," she said in a news release announcing the funding for UNE.

The school, a private institution anchored in Biddeford with a second campus in Portland and overseas in Tangier, Morocco, is ranked No. 6 among Maine's largest colleges and universities by the 2024 Mainebiz Book of Lists. The ranking is based on UNE's full-time undergraduate enrollment of 2,200 in fall 2023.

The UNE College of Osteopathic medicine is Maine's only medical degree-granting institution.

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