Clemson University and Prisma Health celebrate the expansion of their research and clinical collaborations with the opening of new space to accommodate the expanding community research and clinical programs of the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging. The institute now occupies the top floor of the Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca, South Carolina.

Leadership from both organizations, researchers, faculty and staff launched the institute in its new comprehensive center specializing in aging, cognition research and outreach.

According to Clemson University President Jim Clements, the partnership between the University and Prisma Health in aging research has already yielded important outcomes. He sees a dedicated space for this work as necessary to increase the positive impact on citizens in South Carolina and beyond.

“Aging, and the challenges that may accompany it, can affect us all, and is something many loved ones and caregivers face every day,” Clements said. “That makes the work being done by Clemson University and Prisma Health timely and vital considering the ever-increasing proportion of older adults across our state and nation.”

The Institute for Engaged Aging is a program of the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences’ Department of Psychology. It was created to discover, develop and disseminate best practices for engaged aging through research, education and community outreach. Current institute initiatives focus on the brain, mobility and technologies that enable older adults to be engaged in family and community living regardless of their social, economic or health status.

As part of the expanded collaboration, Clemson University and Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital are partnering to explore a new advanced 3T MRI unit to be housed at Oconee Memorial Hospital for research as well as patient diagnostics. 3T technology differs from standard MRI units (1.5 T) in that it allows more refined imaging detail, particularly related to changes in the brain, and is a critical tool for research related to aging. A Certificate of Need application for the MRI was filed with the state on Feb. 18, 2022 and is currently under review.

Both institutions are working to improve access to MRI technology for researchers, patients and health care providers. Providing this technology at Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital ensures patients who live in Oconee County will no longer have to travel outside of their service area for imaging studies that require the 3T magnet.

“The challenges inherent to research and patient care related to aging and cognition are varied and multidisciplinary,” said Mark S. O’Halla, president and chief executive officer of Prisma Health. “Our partnership and the physical space afforded to the institute not only embed it within a healthcare organization, but also create a hub where faculty, staff and researchers can come together to provide important services accessible to community members close to where they live.”

The official opening celebration is an important milestone in the completion of the institute’s new home, and researchers spanning multiple Clemson University colleges and departments have been actively working in sections of the Oconee space for months.

A large portion of this work has been dedicated to Clemson’s part in a multi-university research project funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. Clemson was chosen as one of six sites across the U.S. to conduct this study, which is the largest primary prevention trial to date designed to test the effectiveness of computer-based training to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The Clemson University portion of the grant, $3.5 million, was awarded to Lesley Ross, Ph.D., SmartLIFE Endowed Chair in Aging and Cognition in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences; director of the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging; and associate professor in the University’s Department of Psychology. Ross is leading the Clemson-PACT Study with Christine Phillips, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, serving as co-investigator, who is leading participant recruitment and retention efforts across sites.

Leslie Hossfeld, Ph.D., dean of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, said the institute and the work of the many researchers involved serve as great examples of the power of collaboration among institutions and disciplines.

“The Institute for Engaged Aging is a premier program for our College and Clemson University,” Hossfeld said. “It demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary research and scholarly engagement in building people and communities.”

Other researchers currently working with the institute include:

  • Christine Phillips, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology who focuses on understanding individual and environmental-level influences on behavioral and functional outcomes and applying this knowledge in real-world settings.
  • Marieke Van Puymbroeck, Ph.D., of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management who has introduced a Balance Lab that uses evidence-based programs and interventions to improve balance and reduce falls in older adults.
  • Kapil Chalil Madathil, Ph.D., of the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering who is leading research on the design, development and evaluation of health information technologies to improve the delivery and quality of care for older adults.
  • Kaileigh Byrne, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology who is examining the effect of social isolation and loneliness on cognitive functioning and decision making and how decision-making strategies change across the lifespan.
  • Zahra Rahemi, Ph.D., RN, of the School of Nursing who is focused on enhancing the quality of end-of-life care and reducing health disparities in end-of-life care for racially diverse older adults and persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
  • Nicole Davis, Ph.D., AGPCNP-BC, GNP-BC,of the School of Nursing who uses her research to address health disparities in the management of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias among underserved groups with a focus on caregiver support and the use of technology applications.
  • Winifred Elysse Newman, Ph.D., of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities who studies space perception in older adults and adults with neurological disorders. She uses advanced digital technologies in applied research in spatial and environmental analysis to problems in mobility in aging.


About the Institute for Engaged Aging

The Institute for Engaged Aging is part of the University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS). Established in July 2016, CBSHS is a 21st-century, land-grant college that combines work in seven disciplines — communication; nursing; parks, recreation and tourism management; political science; psychology; public health sciences; sociology, anthropology and criminal justice — to further its mission in “building people and communities” in South Carolina and beyond.

About Clemson University

One of the most productive public research universities in the nation, Clemson University enrolls 27,341 students across the State of South Carolina and has an endowment of over $1 billion. The University operates Extension offices in every county of the state and has five innovation campuses and six Research and Education Center locations. Classified as an R1 — Very High Research University by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching — Clemson is dedicated to teaching, research and service. Through the research, outreach and entrepreneurial projects led by our faculty and students, Clemson University is driving economic development and improving quality of life in South Carolina and beyond.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a non-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 acute and specialty hospitals, 2,947 beds, nearly 300 outpatient sites and more than 2,000 employed physicians, Prisma Health serves more than 1.5 million unique patients annually in its 21-county market area that covers 50 percent of South Carolina. Prisma Health’s goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. Visit for more information.