Dr. Francoeur is named a fellow in the Social Research, Policy, and Practice section of the Gerontological Society of America

by Kurt Gottschalk

By Dr. Richard Francoeur’s own admission, his methodological innovations in gerontological research aren’t “something that the world sees.” Which is why being named a fellow in the Social Research, Policy, and Practice section of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in May 2015 was so significant to the Adelphi University professor. “Having people whom I respect, and understand what I’m doing, acknowledge in this way is very meaningful,” he said.

The fellowship—which will be marked at the organization’s annual meeting in November 2015—is the GSA’s highest level of membership. The designation is a considerable recognition of Dr. Francoeur’s valuable research, most notably into the ways symptoms that might appear to be unrelated can impact upon each other. He is the author (in most cases, sole or primary) of 20 peer-reviewed articles and four book chapters reflecting his valuable work in the field of aging, in particular the interaction of symptoms.

“Pain doesn’t usually just occur alone,” he said, explaining that pain often co-occurs with fatigue, insomnia or other problems.

In patients with chronic conditions, for example, pain is usually a part of a cluster of interacting symptoms, both physical and mental. The symptoms within a cluster can reduce or intensify one another through their interaction. Dr. Francoeur’s work is geared toward helping practitioners make synergistic diagnoses that recognize, as a simple example, that pain and insomnia can be influencing each other and not simply co-occurring.

As a practical implication of some of his recent findings, Dr. Francoeur has considered cigarette smokers who have been diagnosed with cancer. If they try to quit smoking, they sometimes develop a fever that can aggravate their neuropathic pain, anxiety, and depression. In such cases, he said, hospitals and care centers should understand that they may be taking from the patient a self-administered treatment for pain and related mental health issues in the form of nicotine.

“If that’s the case, if you’re trying to get people who have cancer to quit smoking without ongoing nicotine replacement through a patch or some other means, then you’re taking away the very thing that might be taking away pain, anxiety, and depression for them,” he said.

Dr. Francoeur has been conducting his research at Adelphi University since 2006, when he left Columbia University, attracted by an already strong leaning toward aging studies in the smaller university’s School of Social Work.

“Adelphi is very much a teaching institution and it has been increasingly focusing on the research and the excellence of its scholars,” he said. “To have faculty who are recognized as fellows in important academic institutions says a lot of good things.”

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