“More than 53 million Americans provide care for adults and children who cannot care for themselves. Whether helping an aging parent, a seriously ill spouse or child or some other special person in need, those giving care often do so at a great personal sacrifice of time, energy and income.” These are the words of Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady of the United States, and founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI). In this one statement, Mrs. Carter emphasizes the common, essential, and difficult nature of the role caregivers have in the world. For this reason, among countless others, the Health and Aging Policy Fellows National Program Office team remembers Mrs. Carter fondly, as a true trailblazer and change agent in the lives of many.
Our program Founder and Director, Dr. Harold Pincus, was profoundly influenced by his time as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar in the late 1970s, when he had the opportunity to work with the former First Lady on the President’s 1978 Commission on Mental Health. He was so influenced by this experience, in fact, that it directly led to his development of The Health and Aging Policy Fellows Program.
From the outset of the program in 2008, Health and Aging Policy Fellows have focused on issues impacting caregivers, and numerous alumni have contributed to caregiver work and initiatives – including but not limited to Jennifer Olsen, 2021-2022 Fellow and CEO of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. The importance of this issue also led to the establishment of a Caregiver track within the Health and Aging Policy Fellows Program, beginning with the current (2023-2024) cohort of Fellows. Funded by The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, this track enables Fellows based in Western New York and Southeastern Michigan to become effective advocates and help shape and implement family caregiving policies at the state and federal levels that would improve the lives of caregivers and those they care for.
Harold will always remember Mrs. Carter as “one of the most caring and approachable figures I’ve had the privilege to work with”, and as someone with genuine interest and compassion for doing work that truly makes a positive difference in people’s lives. The Health and Aging Policy Fellows Program will continue in its ultimate goal to keep this vision alive.