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Q&A with Kenzie Latham-Mintus, PhD from Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

latham mintusMeet Kenzie.

“I am currently working with an interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate the relationship between cumulative disadvantage and telomere length as it relates to racial health disparities.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I first joined GSA in 2008 as a graduate student. I attended my first meeting the same year and presented preliminary research from my dissertation. I was immediately delighted by the supportive environment provided by GSA. Over the years, I have been able to connect with scholars from all over the country and globe.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: GSA has created an intellectually stimulating and congenial space for networking opportunities. The interdisciplinary nature of GSA allows for new and exciting collaborations that move the field of gerontology forward. I have benefited from wonderful mentoring because of GSA over the course of my career.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I became interested in understanding health disparities due to chronic diseases during my undergraduate studies. I decided to continue to explore this vein of research while pursuing my PhD in Sociology at the University of Florida. The field of aging gave me the theoretical and methodological tools to connect experiences earlier in life to health disparities in later life. Aging is truly a lifelong process.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: The ability of GSA to bring together scholars from multiple disciplines from all over the world is invaluable to aging research. The cross-fertilization of ideas that occurs at GSA enhances aging research.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: I recently joined the Environmental Gerontology Interest Group. I look forward to expanding my network of colleagues interested in understanding how the environment influences aging.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I am currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at IUPUI. My key responsibilities are research, teaching, and service. I teach multiple courses related to health and aging at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I conduct research with colleagues and students from a variety of disciplines across campus including public health, medicine, and social work.

Q: What is your most memorable research/patient experience?
A: While wrapping up my postdoctoral training at the Population Studies Center (PSC) at the University of Michigan, I had the opportunity to present my research at the “Aging with Disability: Demographic, Social, and Policy Considerations” Interagency Conference in Washington D.C. The conference bought together researchers, policymakers, and activists interested in understanding aging with disability and advocating for older adults with lifelong disabilities. My experiences at the conference solidified my desire to conduct research with clear policy implications to help enhance the health and wellbeing of older adults.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Seek out mentors and connect with colleagues. Research flourishes when we are able to get constructive feedback and support.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: I was recently selected as a GSA Fellow. GSA Fellowship is such a great honor because GSA gives so much to its members. I look forward to more opportunities to act as a mentor to emerging scholars. I am currently working with an interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate the relationship between cumulative disadvantage and telomere length as it relates to racial health disparities. We are applying a biopsychosocial approach to health disparities with an emphasis on understanding how stressful experiences across the life course impact cellular aging and the development of chronic disease.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I have benefitted from multiple caring and supportive mentors. In particular, Philippa J. Clarke, PhD, my postdoctoral advisor at the University Michigan and GSA Fellow, has supported my career and development. Besides helping me grow as a researcher, Philippa facilitated multiple networking opportunities including introducing me to colleagues while attending GSA meetings. Additionally, I had excellent mentoring from Charles W. Peek, PhD while at the University of Florida.

Want to ask Kenzie a question? Contact her on GSA Connect!

Q&A with Patricia Fletcher, BA, MA, MS, at Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

fletcherMeet Patricia.

"I had the honor of being her caregiver as she fought Stargardt and Alzheimer’s diseases. As a result, it has informed my research, and for those reasons, I am eager and dedicated to the advancement of gerontological research."

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: Currently, I am a PhD candidate in interdisciplinary studies in public policy and social change at Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio. My intellectual work focuses on examining the resiliency of visually impaired older adults with cognitive decline aging in place.

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments?
A: Most recently, I worked for the State of North Carolina for the Emergency Management Department; I assisted individuals that were displaced by Hurricane Matthew in Kinston and Lumberton, North Carolina. I provided them with consistent verbal reassurance and helped them find suitable residential relocation until they were able to return to their homes. Putting them in contact with services that helped them manage the impact of the storm. Similar, I have been deployed with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Austin, Texas, for Hurricane Harvey to support the leadership in establishing and maintaining adequate coordination structures with the Recovery Support Functions, state agencies, FEMA program areas, tribal/local governments and the private sector. I have applied the knowledge of interagency policy development processes, ecological housing modeling, and aging population expertise to build a robust recovery.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: Dr. Charlene Lane, who is a part of my dissertation committee has been instrumental in guiding me in my career in gerontology. She offered me my first internship and job in gerontology.

Q: What are your motivations for studying aging?
A: My mother provided me with the most significant source of inspiration for studying aging. In my pursuit of my Ph.D. and through life, she has taught me to be courageous and triumphant through any struggle. I had the honor of being her caregiver as she fought Stargardt and Alzheimer’s diseases. As a result, it has informed my research, and for those reasons, I am eager and dedicated to the advancement of gerontological research.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: One of my most memorable experiences in gerontology was being the featured interview in a half-hour public access TV show, in Charlotte North Carolina, to talk about older adults aging in place.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA.
A: I was introduced to GSA years ago from a professor in my graduate program. Consequently, I joined the organization because it is devoted to research, education, and fostering collaboration between those who study aging. In 2015-2016 I served on the ESPO Executive Committee, as communications chair.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA provides an interdisciplinary platform for research and serves as a guide in developing my areas of interest. As well, it offers a community of scholars that think the way I do in advancing aging research.

Q: Is there anything unique about yourself and experiences that you would like to share?
A: While my career in aging has been deliberate, it has not followed a traditional trajectory. I have used the interconnections in communications, gerontology, and public policy and social change to provide unique insights into aging research.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: As you embark on your career in the field of aging, follow your dreams, find the place in research that feeds your soul, and helps you to be your authentic self.

Want to ask Patricia a question? Contact her on GSA Connect!

Q&A with Joseph June, MPH, from the University of South Florida, in Tampa, Florida

juneMeet Joseph.

“I am concerned that the amount of people who will need care in the near future will not have an adequate supply of quality long-term care providers...”

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: Currently, I am a second-year PhD student at the USF School of Aging Studies.

Q: Tell us about your recent activities and accomplishments.
A: I am currently working on two papers, one that will be submitted soon and another I hope to submit by the end of the year. The first focuses on deficiency data on assisted living communities (ALCs) in Florida, and the second looks at evacuations of ALCs in Florida from Hurricane Matthew (2016). I was also involved in a poster presentation at the International Conference on Urban Health 2017 in Coimbra, Portugal.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career?
A: Dr. Kathy Hyer has been an important mentor in my career. She has helped guide me to focus on assisted living facilities and inspection data. Through her mentoring, I believe I have found an area of research that I am excited to work in.

Q: What are your motivations for studying aging?
A: My main motivation for studying aging is to improve quality of care for residents of long-term care. I am concerned that the amount of people who will need care in the near future will not have an adequate supply of quality long-term care providers, whether it is nursing homes, ALCs, or continuing care retirement communities. My goal is to assist with state and/or federal policies that improve quality in these settings.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: My most memorable experience was my involvement with the emergency management and response forum in Pinellas County, Florida. In attendance were researchers from Taiwan who visited to learn about Florida’s emergency preparedness and response, and to share their recent experience of earthquakes and typhoons.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA.
A: I have been involved with GSA for one year. I am with the Social Research, Policy, and Practice Section.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: I believe GSA is a great resource for gerontology and aging research. GSA focuses on many aspects of aging research and helps create an interdisciplinary approach to the field of gerontology.

Q: Is there anything unique about yourself you would like to share?
A: Though I am not an international ESPO member, I was born abroad and my interest in gerontology started during a study abroad program in 2011.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Though the field of gerontology has grown considerably, there are still areas that need further research and expertise. Find something that no one else is doing and become the expert that is needed.

Want to ask Joseph a question? Contact him on GSA Connect!

Q&A with Jung Kwak, PhD, MSW, FGSA, from the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas

kwakMeet Jung.

“I just found the aging experience to be a fascinating field to study and learn about. It is an inevitable experience for most of us who are lucky to grow old and yet, there is so much diversity in it.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I have been a GSA member since 2001, when I was a first-year graduate student in the Aging Studies PhD program at the University of South Florida. Among many GSA member benefits I like are subscription to the Gerontologist and Journal of Gerontology, GSA Connect, discount rate to attend the annual GSA meetings, opportunities to connect and network with colleagues across the world. As a gerontologist, I think the GSA membership is a must. I am also the current chair of the GSA’s Minority Issues in Gerontology Committee.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: GSA membership has benefited greatly at so many levels. However, if I were to pick one, I would say it is the opportunities to meet, learn from and collaborate with colleagues with similar/common interests in aging research.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I just found the aging experience to be a fascinating field to study and learn about. It is an inevitable experience for most of us who are lucky to grow old and yet, there is so much diversity in it.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: It is important for others to join GSA because GSA is the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization in the field of aging research, practice, and education, and fosters collaboration between scholars from various disciplines.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: Hospice, palliative, and end-of-life care interest group.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I am associate professor in the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin. My responsibilities include teaching, research, scholarship, and service.

Q: What is your most memorable research/patient experience?
A: When I was a first-year doctoral student, I submitted a term paper on cultural diversity at the end of life. With the persistent encouragement and mentorship from my professor, I was able to turn it into a manuscript, which was published in The Gerontologist two years later. This experience has not only shaped my program of research but also helped me appreciate the value and meaning of mentorship.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Stay focused, persistent, and open-minded.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: Recently, my colleagues and I completed data collection and analysis on end-of-life decision-making and communication among persons with dementia and their family caregivers in rural areas.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I learned and benefitted so much from amazing mentors. They include my mentors during my doctoral training: Professors Bill Haley, PhD, FGSA, and David Chiriboga, PhD, FGSA, at the University of South Florida, and Larry Polivka, PhD, FGSA, at the Florida State University, as well as my post-doctoral fellowship training mentor, Professor Emeritus Rhonda Montgomery, PhD, FGSA.

Want to ask Jung a question? Contact her on GSA Connect!

Q&A with Stephanie Hicks, PhD, from Fordham University in New York, New York

hicksMeet Stephanie.

“I want to know what I can do personally to age well. I take what I learn and apply it to my own life and behaviors.”

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: I recently graduated from my doctoral program, which was Fordham University’s Applied Developmental PhD program. My dissertation focused on the ways in which older adults’ perceptions of aging influenced subjective and objective health over time. I’m currently working within Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service as the Research Project Manager on a NIH study focusing on long distance caregivers.

Q: Tell us about your most recent accomplishments.
A: I defended my dissertation in April and graduated from my doctoral program this past May. My dissertation is entitled, “Examining the impact of perceptions of aging and objective physical functioning and self-rated health”. I also received a Research Support Grant from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which assisted with travel funds for AGHE’s annual conference that was held in Miami this past March. I presented within a symposium at AGHE’s annual conference in March. I also published two articles over the past year. One examined the effect of telehealth use within a post-acute setting on physical functioning upon discharge. The other looked at positive affect and leisure activity engagement as mediators in the relationship between self-perceptions of aging and health.

Q: Have you had any important mentors in your career?
A: I was fortunate enough to have more than one amazing mentor during my academic career. My mentor at my undergraduate university really inspired me to continue on to graduate school, and helped me every step of the way as I went through the process of going on to earn my M.A. and later my PhD. Her door was always open and she became a great source of support for me. My mentor within my doctoral program was also an invaluable source of support. She is someone who is always on the ball and that organization and consistency helped me stay on track with my dissertation and my degree. Her style of mentoring (which included great communication and sticking to her word, among other things) meshed so well with my style of working that it made research and the dissertation stage as painless as possible.

Q: What are you motivations for studying aging?
A: It sounds kind of selfish, but part of it is that I want to know what I can do personally to age well. I take what I learn and apply it to my own life and behaviors.

Q: What has been your more memorable experience gerontology?
A: Something that was extremely memorable was picking my final dissertation topic. I felt so much excitement over choosing a topic that I was passionate about and embarking on a journey where I will become an expert in that area. Something that was cool to see over the next year or so as well was that my dissertation topic gained popularity in gerontology research, so I was able to learn more and more about this area of aging research and incorporate it into my own research.

Q: Tell us about your involvement with GSA.
A: I have been a member of GSA within the BSS Section since 2013. I became a member during the first year of my doctoral program, and have presented at the annual GSA conference every year since. GSA has provided wonderful experiences for me just over these past 4 years. For instance, I was able to take on a leadership role within ESPO as the chair of the Paper and Poster Award Committee from 2015-2016. This role, as well as attending the annual conference each year, has led to invaluable networking experiences that have truly made me feel like a part of the GSA/ESPO community.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology?
A: The fact that GSA encompasses multiple disciplines within gerontology and experts from around the world make it the top authority in aging research and gerontology. GSA gives gerontologists an opportunity to share their research in aging, as well as learn about the latest aging research from outside their specialty area, which is invaluable.

Q: Do you have any trips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Choose a topic you love to study and research within gerontology – it will make your work so much more (dare I say) fun and rewarding!

Want to ask Stephanie a question? Contact her on GSA Connect!

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