Armin Grams Memorial Research Award

Announcing the Armin Gram Proposals Awarded for 2016

The Center on Aging is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Armin Grams Memorial Research Award. The annual award, which funds pilot research programs with the overall goal of increasing funded research on aging at the university, has gone to four researchers from the College of Medicine and UVM Medical Center.

For 2016, the two funded research projects and recipients are:

Frailty and Resilience in Older Adults with Advanced Kidney Disease
Katharine L. Cheung, MD, MSc, FRCPC and Virginia Hood, MBBS, MPH both from the Department of Medicine-Nephrology

Mobile Technology to Support Physical Therapy Exercise for People Aging with Arthritis
Nancy Gell, PT, MPH, PhD and Barbara Tschoepe, PT, DPT, PhD both from the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science


Katharine Cheung, M.D., M.Sc. 


Virginia Hood, M.B.B.S., M.P.H. 


Nancy Gell, P.T., M.P.H., Ph.D. 


Barbara Ann Tschoepe, P.T., Ph.D. 

Armin Grams came to the University of Vermont in 1970 to establish the Human Development and Family Studies Program. Dr. Grams developed and taught several courses on gerontology and was instrumental in establishing the UVM Center for the Study of Aging. Grams retired from UVM in 1990. Dr. Grams died in 2002.

A Center for the Study of Aging was established at the University of Vermont in 1992 by action of the Board of Trustees. In 2008, Lois McClure announced her endowment of the newly named Center on Aging through a gift of $5 million. The mission of the Center on Aging is to forge an ongoing collaboration among faculty, students, staff and programs within the University of Vermont, Fletcher Allen Health Care, and the Vermont community to promote a sense of wellbeing and a high quality of life for older adults.

Past Recipients


Title: "Nutritional intervention with plant-­‐ and dairy-­‐based bioactive fatty acids to reduce diabetes risk in the elderly"
Co-Principle investigators: Tom Jetton, PhD and Jana Kraft, PhD UVM Departments of Medicine and Animal Science

Lay Abstract

An alarming one-­‐third of the elder US population currently has diabetes and another third has prediabetes [1]. Eight percent of all Vermonters have been diagnosed with diabetes while over 15% of those over 65 have diagnosed cases. The University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center, as the State's premier center for agricultural and dairy studies, and cutting edge health care and biomedical research, are well poised to provide our expanding elderly population with new, sustainable strategies for improving their health and quality of life, reducing healthcare costs, as well as supporting Vermont's largest agricultural industry-­‐ dairy farming. The proposed project is a transdisciplinary research effort between Tom Jetton, PhD, Department of Medicine, and Jana Kraft, PhD, Department of Animal Science that seeks to critically examine nutritional interventions that may decrease diabetes risk in the aging population. For a proof-­‐of-­‐concept study, in an appropriate mouse model of progressive aging subjected to a nutritionally poor, diabetes-­‐provoking diet, we will address the extent to which specific plant-­‐ and dairy-­‐based bioactive fatty acids in the diet improve the health and function of pancreatic ß-­‐cells in male and female mice. ß-­‐cells are the sole cell source of insulin in the body that are diseased or lacking in all forms of diabetes mellitus.

This Grams Award project represents an ideal opportunity to i) strengthen the transdisciplinary collaborative effort between colleges, ii) extend both investigators' research into the field of aging, and iii) broaden our expertise which will not only advance our academic and professional development, but also open new avenues to larger extramurally funded projects. Our working model is to integrate specialized expertise across disciplines to generate a strong collaborative project on a centrally important problem that may otherwise be difficult or impossible to conduct independently. This work has the potential to identify a better way to maintain our health through nutritional modulation.

1. Cowie CC, Rust KF, Ford ES, Eberhardt MS, Byrd-­‐Holt DD, Li C, Williams DE, Gregg EW, Bainbridge KE, Saydah SH, Geiss LS. Full accounting of diabetes and pre-­‐diabetes in the U.S. population in 1988-­‐1994 and 2005-­‐2006. Diabetes Care 2009. 32(2):287-­‐ 94.


Title: Dietary Saturated and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Cognition
Co-Principal Investigators: Julie Dumas, Ph.D. and C. Lawrence Kien, M.D., Ph.D.

We propose to study the effects on cognition and brain functioning of the two most prevalent fatty acids (FA) in the American diet and body tissues: the saturated FA (SFA) palmitic acid (16:0)(PA) and the monounsaturated FA (MUFA) oleic acid (18:1 cis)(OA) 1-4. While the literature and our Preliminary Data, discussed below, support the hypothesis that the mechanism for the differential effects of these FA on cognition may involve inflammatory pathways, insulin sensitivity/secretion, and specific effects of OA on glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) secretion 5-18, we have restricted the scope of this proposal for limited funding to acquiring essential supportive preliminary data on the relationship of dietary FA to cognition and memory in middle-aged women.

We have been studying two dietary FA patterns :(1) "Western FA pattern", high PA diet (HPA). (2) Low PA/High OA diet similar in FA composition to the Mediterranean Diet (HOA diet). PA and OA per se 20-25 or the Western versus the Mediterranean Diet 26-28 have been linked to alterations in cognitive function and/or the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). We propose a novel pilot study to evaluate, for the first time, how highly controlled manipulation of dietary PA and OA alters cognition in middle-aged women.

Understanding mechanisms affecting cognition in middle age is important because there may be the potential to modify risk factors for cognitive decline in further aging. One way to modify risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia may be through dietary changes. In addition, we are studying women because risk for AD is greater in women and our published data 5,19(Appendix) show important differences between the fatty acid manipulations between women and men.


Title: Community Based Nutrition Intervention in Affordable Housing for Elders
Co-Principal Investigators: Naomi Fukagawa,M.D., Ph.D, Jane Kolodinsky, M.B.A., Ph.D.

The overall goal of this pilot project is to isolate and measure the direct short-term effect of a community-based nutrition intervention on nutritional status and frailty, utilizing an experimental/control group design, implemented in community settings that participate in the SASH program. Results will provide both a proof of concept and preliminary data necessary to develop a proposal for NIH funding. The hypothesis to be tested is that improving nutrition knowledge and literacy will result in better food choices and contribute to better SASH outcomes, including a reduction in frailty in elders at risk.

In order to test this hypothesis and achieve the project goal, a specific nutrition intervention must be chosen and the logistics necessary for implementing and evaluating the intervention must be determined. Further, a model to link the outcomes of the intervention and decreases in frailty must be developed.