Although the earliest US training programs in geriatric medicine were initiated independent of VA, by the late 1970s almost all American geriatric medicine fellowships were VA-supported, and mostly affiliated with GRECCs.
The first decade of GRECC activities made clear by the mid-1980s that care for elderly persons (including veterans) needed to differ from other medical specialties in that its goal was not to cure but rather to optimize and preserve function and quality of life in the face of age and concurrent illness.
To met that goal required more than the physician alone could provide. This relates especially to geriatric care managers and other helping professionals, It would require a multidisciplinary effort to take account of factors including patient preference, self-care, living status, nutrition, medications, family involvement, mental health, and function.
As such, GRECC training programs in aging for pharmacy, psychology, occupational and physical therapy, social work, and other associated health professions also arose in GRECCs. As a result, a significant proportion of geriatric research, clinicians, clinical training, and models of care presently in the U.S. derive directly or indirectly from GRECCs.
If you are in the Geriatric field in the US thank the VA for creating geriatrics and geriatric research in the US.
In the early 1970s, leadership of the VA Department of Medicine and Surgery (the forerunner of VHA) began to plan for challenges they expected to face as the 13 million living World War II veterans aged into their seventies. “Geriatric medicine,” or care of the elderly, was at that time a recognized medical specialty in the UK, but had little to no presence in the U.S.
VA leaders undertook a bold prescientmove in 1975, designating six VA sites with existing “geriatric and gerontology” research programs–collaborations with their affiliated medical schools that focused on aging and its accompanying health challenges — as Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers (GRECCs). They took the added charge and used their resources to put their findings to use in developing new approaches for caring for those of advanced age and disability; to teach the existing VA clinical workforce about those approaches; and to develop a new cadre of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to become leaders in geriatric care. Congress endorsed this plan in 1980, authorizing up to fifteen such centers; in 1986 they expanded the authorization to 25. Since 1999, VA has supported twenty GRECCs. They literally gave us the field of aging in the US.