Annie Medina-Walpole, MD, has built a career around one word: yes.
Her latest “yes” was an enthusiastic one to URMC CEO and SMD Dean Mark Taubman, MD, who in 2016 charged her with building the Institute. At the time, she was the University’s representative to the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) program, a prestigious, yearlong, national fellowship for women in medicine. She started building a plan for the Institute as her fellowship project, bringing together people from every corner of the University to create an infrastructure and priorities in each area.
Medina-Walpole is a familiar name in the world of American geriatrics. She joined the American Geriatrics Society as a chief resident, and by midcareer she was on the board, serving as president in 2020-2021. Right now, she’s co-leading an examination of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the 6,000-member society, urging a rethink on ageism and racism in health care, particularly for older people of color—an issue that came to light during the pandemic.
“It’s not about just hosting a training session or webinar, a one-and-done. We’re embedding this work into the fabric of our society,” she says. “We’re creating a multi-year, multi-pronged approach to address the intersection of structural racism and ageism. Our ultimate goal is health care systems that are free of discrimination and bias.”
Medina-Walpole has held just about every leadership post in geriatrics education at URMC since joining the faculty in 1998. She sees her role in the Institute as that of a convener, a connector, and a mentor. Outside the University, she is helping to stitch the Institute into the wider community, where, like Medina-Walpole herself, older adults are building networks of their own to improve the lives of their peers.
“We are not just focused on how we can help older people, but also on how they can help us. It’s important to see aging in a different light,” she says. “I truly believe the possibilities are endless with what we can do to empower older people to engage with our University, live longer and healthier lives, and ensure that everyone can age with vitality.”