Aging in Place

Grateful Patient's Gift Makes Pilot Project Possible

For Dr. Carol Angle, this belief is embodied by retired UVA physician Danny Becker. Becker met Angle in 2000, and the two quickly formed a warm friendship as he cared for her over the years.

Angle would know what makes a great doctor. A pediatric nephrologist and toxicologist who taught and conducted research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Medicine for 45 years, she conducted groundbreaking studies on the effects of lead poisoning in the 1950s and co-founded the nation’s first poison control center in 1957.

Her career taught her how important it is for a caregiver to place themselves in their patients’ environment—after all, lead wasn’t being placed into medicine. Lead was found in her patients’ own homes. Now at the age of 90, Angle lives independently and gets up several mornings a week to ride her horse Tigger, a routine made possible thanks to Becker’s care.

In gratitude, Angle made a gift of $1 million last year to endow a faculty fund in UVA’s Biomedical Center for Ethics and the Humanities. The center was co-founded by Becker to teach students and faculty how to care for patients holistically.

That fellowship helped recruit Dr. Justin Mutter (A&S ’03, Med ’13), an Echols scholar as an undergraduate, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and now a UVA geriatrics faculty member. Becker and Mutter quickly got to work developing “Virginia at Home” (VaH), a pilot project that aims to re-humanize care for homebound older adults in Central Virginia. The idea immediately resonated with Angle, who made a second gift of $1.5 million to support the project.

“Dr. Angle’s very generous gift has enabled us to start building the foundation for a comprehensive house calls program at UVA,” Mutter explains. “We have found that when we wrap medicine around patients in their own homes and communities, the quality of our care improves and becomes more cost effective.”

Mutter will lead the pilot project with Becker’s retirement this past July. With Angle’s support, he hopes to establish a permanent at-home care program that could dramatically improve the quality of life for older patients and their caregivers.

“That’s the advantage of medical research and supporting medical research—it has a ripple effect,” Angle notes. “It affects people immediately in the pilot program, and it has repercussions far beyond that in terms of population and time.”