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February 21, 2023

San Francisco VA chief is first female researcher to earn John B. Barnwell award

Dr. Kristine Yaffe (photo courtesy University California, San Francisco)

Dr. Kristine Yaffe (photo courtesy University California, San Francisco)

Dr. Kristine Yaffe, chief of neuropsychiatry and director of the Memory Evaluation Clinic at the VA San Francisco Health Care System, California, has received the 2022 John B. Barnwell Award for her groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and the effects of risk factors such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on cognitive impairment.

The John B. Barnwell award is the VA Clinical Science Research and Development's highest honor for achievement in clinical research; Yaffe is the first woman to ever receive the award.

"Dr. Yaffe's scientific leadership and her commitment to improving health care for Veterans are clearly reflected in her outcomes-based clinical trials," said Dr. Rachel Ramoni, chief research and development officer for the VA. "She has led many of the original investigations on modifiable risk factors for dementia, causing a shift in dementia prevention from a pharmacological approach to modifiable lifestyle-based risk factors.

"Because modifiable risk factors are common in older adults," said Ramoni, "implementing effective interventions will have a significant public health impact, especially in vulnerable populations such as Veterans."

Yaffe is also the Roy and Marie Scola endowed chair and professor of psychiatry, neurology, and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. She is an internationally recognized expert in the epidemiology of dementia and cognitive aging. Her discoveries have led to improved dementia screening among older adults and have laid the foundation for effective prevention strategies for Veterans and others.

She has taken on a leadership role in dementia research, serving on multiple advisory boards and committees, and chairing a leading dementia research conference. Yaffe has also testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and co-chaired the National Academy of Medicine's Committee on Cognitive Aging, contributing to a report called "Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action."

In 2010, Yaffe and her team published a paper that found that Veterans with PTSD had a two-fold higher risk of developing dementia in later life. She has also published more than 600 peer-reviewed articles, many in high-impact medical journals.

Yaffe was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2019, one of medicine's highest honors, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the advancement of medical science, health care, and public health. She has received numerous research awards, including the Potamkin Prize for dementia research and the 2021 NIH Robert S. Gordon, Jr. Lecture in Epidemiology award for contributions to the epidemiology of dementia research.

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