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The UTMB Pepper Center Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC)

The UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), currently directed by
Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, has been continuously funded since 2000. Our Center nurtures a multidisciplinary translational research culture to fulfill our mission, which is to improve physical function and independence in older adults. Central to this mission is the career development and training of the next generation of leaders in geriatric research. Our scientific focus has evolved over the years from a narrow interest in the mechanisms of sarcopenia to the translation of our findings in patient-centered interventions to improve physical function and independence in older adults.

The Pepper Center at UTMB has recently been refunded through 2020 by a $3.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. Read more about us.

Pepper Center News



National Institutes of Health / NIAMS Award

By SCoA | March 23, 2018

photo of Dr. Fry

Christopher Fry, PhD receives an NIH / NIAMS R01 award. Dr. Fry is a former Pepper Research Education Component (REC) Scholar and current co-leader for the Metabolism and Biology Resource Core. The award of $2,186,072 is for 5 years, March 26, 2018 through February 28, 2023. The goal of the grant is to determine the efficacy of myostatin blockade in a mouse model of ACL injury to improve muscle mass, strength and morphology. Additionally, the goal is to determine the contribution of myostatin activation in patients following an ACL injury and reconstruction to underlying muscle cellular deficits that contribute to protracted muscle weakness.

Elite Reviewer 2017

Dr. Pappadis Named Elite Reviewer at Archives of PM&R

By SCoA | January 18, 2018

photo of Dr. Pappadis

Rehabilitation Sciences Assistant Professor Monique Pappadis, MEd, PhD has been named an Elite Reviewer for Archives of PM&R Journal for 2017.

Elite status designation reflects the number, timeliness, and quality of reviews for the Archives in 2017 as judged by the editors. Selection reflects critical thinking and effective participation in the process of peer review. After examining the performance of reviewers, approximately 3 percent of reviewers (97 people out of 2,985 reviewers who submitted 1,730 reviews in 2017) were judged to be deserving of this recognition.

Experienced Physicians

Patients more likely to die under care from 1st-year hospitalists

By HealthExec | January 02, 2018

photo of Dr. Goodwin

An extra year of experience for a physician can make an impact on patient mortality in a hospital, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that found 30-day and hospital mortality rates were higher for hospitalists in the first year of practice than their second.

The study, led by James Goodwin, MD of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, looked at more at Medicare data from between Jan. 2007 and Dec. 2013 for more than 3,800 first-year hospitalists. Only physicians who continued to practice as hospitalists four or more years after their initial year of experience were included. Read full article at

Sanofi Innovation Award

UTMB Pepper Center Co-Leader Receives Award for New Study

Sealy Center on Aging | 12/20/17

photo of Dr. Watowich and Dr. Fry

Congratulations to Pepper Center MB-RC2 Co-Leader Chris Fry, PhD, recipient of a new Sanofi Innovation Award, “Therapeutic development of novel orally-bioavailable small molecules to treat muscular dystrophies and sarcopenia.” Dr. Fry will serve as Co-PI with Stanley Watowich, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

New Approach for Recovery

UTMB to study new approach for hip fracture recovery

Texas Medical Center News | 11/2/17

photo of Dr. Volpi

A multimillion dollar grant could help researchers develop a novel therapeutic for elderly women recovering from hip fractures. UTMB’s Elena Volpi is one of seven principal investigators and part of a consortium of seven universities that received $15.6 million from the National Institute on Aging for the research project. Story also found at Press Release Point and Publicnow.

Too Much Protein?

Can you eat too much protein?

Men's Health | 11/1/17

photo of Dr. Paddon-Jones

While protein is important to build and maintain muscle, can you eat too much protein? This article cites research conducted by UTMB’s Doug Paddon-Jones that found that people who ate 12 ounces of beef, did not experience any greater benefits than those who ate four ounces of beef. This story can also be found at NewsDog and Pulse.

Empty Stomach Workout?

Is it bad to exercise on an empty stomach?

TIME | 10/19/17

photo of Dr. Paddon-Jones

In this fitness column, the issue of working out on an empty stomach is addressed. “You might feel tired or edgy and you won’t be able to work out as intensely as you would have if you had eaten something,” said UTMB’s Douglas Paddon-Jones. Story also published in True Viral News.

2017 Volunteer Luncheon

2017 SCoA Volunteer Luncheon

Sealy Center on Aging | 10/10/17

photo of volunteer luncheon

The 2017 Annual SCoA Volunteer Luncheon was held at Fisherman's Wharf. SCoA and Pepper investigators explain the clinical trial results to the volunteers and their guests. Top-left photo: Attendees mingle and take their seat for the luncheon. Bottom-left photo: Ms. Rose Daniels speaks about the help she received from SCoA through the clinical trials. (l to r) Dr. Elena Volpi, Ms. Rose Daniels and Dr. Brian Downer. Right photo: Ms. Sherry Keel wins the door prize. (l to r) Ms. Sherry Keel and Dr. Elena Volpi.

NIH Grant Awarded

Pepper Scholar Receives R15 Grant from the NIH

Sealy Center on Aging | 10/10/17

photo of Kyle Timmerman, PhD

Kyle Timmerman, PhD, received an NIH grant from the Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15) program, “Influence of Aerobic Training and Weight Loss on Skeletal Muscle Inflammatory Markers and Muscle Protein Balance in Older Adults.” Dr. Timmerman is an associate professor at Miami University and a previous Pepper Center Scholar.

2017 Pilot Projects

2017 Pilot Projects
UTMB Pepper Center has funded the following pilot projects:

Sealy Center on Aging | 09/15/17

photo of people exercising with text: Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center 2017 Pilot Project Awardees
  • Rachel Deer, PhD, Rehabilitation Sciences: Validating a Screening Tool for Sarcopenia Using a Model for BIA Analysis
  • Ted Graber, PhD, Rehabilitation Sciences: Aging Skeletal Muscle and Sarcopenia in the Murine Model
  • Mansoo Ko, PhD, Physical Therapy: Initiating Gait with the Non-Paretic Limb Affects Walking Performance in People with Hemiparesis
  • Cynthia Li, PhD, Rehabilitation Sciences: Functional Trajectory and Successful Community Discharge in Older Adults

The Exercise Antidote

The Exercise Antidote
UTMB Collaborates with Institutions Across the U.S. to Study How Physical Activity Benefits the Body

UTMB Academic Enterprise Magazine | PDF | Summer 2017

photo of people exercising

What happens to your body when you work out? UTMB and other institutions around the country are joining forces to find out. UTMB recently received a $6.6 million grant to participate in a national project, the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC), which aims to better understand how physical activity improves health.


Foods for the Muscle Bound

Dr. Rasmussen and Paddon-Jones on Combating Aging and Muscle Loss

Foods for the muscle bound - Prepared Foods | 07/20/17

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As people age, muscle mass decreases, a process termed sarcopenia. This can make life more difficult and can increase one's risk of falling a major cause of disability. Several things contribute to sarcopenia but inadequate protein or calorie intake is a major factor. UTMB's Blake Rasmussen and Doug Paddon-Jones are contributors discussing the importance of nutrition and the need for more research.

New Investigator Award

Dr. Fry Receives New Investigator Award from the American Physiological Society

Sealy Center on Aging | 04/24/17

photo of Chris Fry

Chris Fry, PhD, Assistant Professor in Nutrition & Metabolism received, "The American Physiological Society Environmental and Exercise Physiology New Investigator Award" during the Experimental Biology Meeting April 22-26, 2017.





Annual Pepper OAIC Meeting

Dr. Downer Receives Best Poster Award at the National Pepper Meeting

Sealy Center on Aging | 03/24/17

photo of Brian Downer

Brian Downer, PhD, Assistant Professor in Rehab Sciences received the Best Poster Award at the 2017 National Pepper Older American Independence Center Meeting for his work titled, "Cohort Differences in Pre-Frailty and Frailty for Mexican Americans Aged 77 and Older". Co-Authors were Rafael Samper-Ternent, Bret Howrey, Soham Al Snih, Kyriakos Markides, and Ken Ottenbacher.


TRT Good or Bad?

Is Testosterone-Replacement Therapy Good or Bad?

Men's Fitness | 03/03/17

Testosterone is important to male health but most normal, healthy 30 to 40 year old men don't need testosterone-replacement therapy. "If you go in and say, 'Well, you know, in the past 10 years I've gotten more tired, I'm having trouble keeping weight off...' that's simply not enough-it's a natural phenomenon!" UTMB's Jacques Baillargeon told Men's Fitness magazine.


Dr. Volpi in LA Times: Muscle

Muscle mass declines with age. Here's what you can do

LA Times | 02/23/17

Older adults exercising

A small amount of muscle loss is nearly inevitable with age. While the rate varies quite a bit, studies suggest the average person loses about 1% of muscle every year after about age 50, says Dr. Elena Volpi, director of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Winter Series 2017

The 22nd Annual Lefeber Winter Series on Aging Tuesday Evenings January 31 through February 28

Click for more info: UTMB's Sealy Center on Aging presents the 22nd Lefeber Winter Series on Aging.

The Lefeber Winter Series on Aging, now in its 22nd year, features nationally recognized gerontology research educators, basic scientists, clinicians and social scientists. Each speaker presents a lecture on an important aspect of aging research and consults with students, faculty and staff on research topics, grant applications and articles being written for publication. Videos Now Available


Six Facts About Protein

6 'Facts' About Protein You Should Stop Believing

Women's Health Magazine | 02/13/17

The average American eats twice the daily amount of recommended protein, UTMB's Douglas Paddon-Jones tells Women's Health Magazine. If you are eating an omnivorous diet then "protein inadequacy is really not an issue," Paddon-Jones said.

Here's How You Can Slay Your Workout Hunger

Men's Health | 02/07/17

UTMB's Doug Paddon-Jones is quoted in this article on what to eat after working out. "Twenty-five to 35 grams of high-quality protein per meal seems to maximize the building and repairing of muscle," says Paddon-Jones.

Functional food and supplement manufacturers urged to get creative with whey protein offerings

Dairy Reporter | 01/13/17

UTMB's Doug Paddon-Jones spoke about the benefits protein may provide in dealing with Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle tissue due to aging. "Awareness is still growing for the general population, who are currently learning the benefits [of whey protein] for older demographics as well as for weight management and satiety," said Paddon-Jones according to Dairy

Getting Fit After 55

Getting fit after 55 is easier than you think

Galv Daily News  1/15/17

Staying fit after 55 comes with many benefits. UTMB’s Jim Goodwin said one of the best reasons to exercise is that people feel better when they do. “For the last million years as we’ve been evolving, the species has been very active and stayed very active until recently,” Goodwin told The Daily News.




Weight Loss is No Secret

The secret to weight loss is no secret

Galv Daily News  1/2/17

A new year means many people will be hitting the gym looking to trim a few pounds. UTMB's Jean Gutierrez and Elizabeth Lyons were quoted in a story on exercise and weight loss in The Daily News. "Very small changes can have a very large impact on your health," Lyons said according to The Daily News.

Site managed by UTMB Sealy Center on Aging • Last updated March 2018

301 University Blvd. Galveston, TX 77555-0177 | p 409.747.0008 | f 409.772.8931
The Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center Award #P30-AG024832 is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA),
part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.