Dementia researcher appointed chair of clinical and health psychology
Smith will join UF August 1 from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he is a professor of psychology in the College of Medicine, the associate director of education resources at the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and deputy director of education at the Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.
“We would like to thank Dr. David Janicke for his strong interim leadership of the department of clinical and health psychology, and look forward to Dr. Smith’s arrival as the new chair,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “Dr. Smith’s dedication to graduate education and multidisciplinary patient care will advance the already excellent education and clinical programs in the department, and his prolific record of scientific contributions in areas such as dementia and patient centered outcomes will create synergies with current UF research in aging, implementation science and many other areas.”
In his 25 years at the Mayo Clinic, Smith’s dementia research has focused on early diagnosis, outcomes, depression, behavioral issues and successful cognitive aging. His research led to the development of the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Action to Benefit Thinking and Independence, a 10-day, 50-hour intensive program for people with mild cognitive impairment. The program combines physical and mental exercise, memory compensation training and patient and caregiver education and support. Studies by Smith and his team have shown the program helps people in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease maintain their functional independence. He has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1993.
“Dr. Smith’s vision, along with his experience and expertise as a scientist, educator and clinician, represent precisely the right blend of assets to lead an outstanding department to even higher levels of accomplishment,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
Smith currently leads a study comparing the effectiveness of several behavioral interventions designed to prevent or slow dementia in patients with mild cognitive impairment. The project is funded by a $2 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
A member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Aging, Smith is past president of the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology and the Division of Clinical Neuropsychology of the American Psychological Association.
The UF department of clinical and health psychology is home to several interdisciplinary research centers, including the Center for the Study of Attention and Emotion, the Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health, and the Center for Pediatric Psychology and Family Studies. The department offers a doctoral program in clinical psychology and an internship in professional psychology, and is the primary psychology service provider for UF Health.
“Among the things that attracted me to this position were my firsthand knowledge of the department’s accomplished faculty, students and graduates,” Smith said. “In addition, UF offers many opportunities for research and clinical collaboration in cognition and older adults as well as outstanding resources through the McKnight Brain Institute, the Institute on Aging, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and UF’s neuroscience preeminence initiative.”