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Q&A with Brian Kaskie, PhD, from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

kaskieMeet Brian.

“The field of aging is still emerging and has not yet become so orthodox that there is only one right way to succeed.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I attended my first GSA annual scientific meeting in Minneapolis way back in 1989, and then I became a member when I enrolled in the graduate program at Washington University in St. Louis in 1990. The membership has provided a number of benefits. As a student, I was able to attend meetings at a discount; as a faculty member, I receive the leading journals in the field.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: I look to GSA’s newsletters and webpages to learn about what is currently happening in the field of gerontology. Whether it is a hill briefing, a media feature, or a posting for a faculty opportunity, I rely on GSA to offer me a “first look.”

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I did not have much of a long-term career direction when I graduated from Indiana University in 1987. Instead, I took some jobs that just seemed “right” for me at that time in my life. One job was working in a local community hospital. That is where I began to notice just how much older adults intersected with the health care system, and I was particularly intrigued by those older adults who were admitted to our unit with “senility.” After a few years in Bloomington, I moved to Chicago and took a job teaching high school and coaching boys’ basketball. This is where I discovered a joy for teaching and working with students. I seemed to build on these experiences when I decided to apply to graduate school.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research? OR Why is it important for other individuals to join GSA?
A: GSA is the scientific home for aging related research. There is no other organization like it. GSA also serves to remind the public as well as the individual members of our field just how diverse and fascinating the aging research enterprise really is. You can attend one session with the world’s leading demographer in aging, and then review a poster from a graduate student who made a new discovery about age-related neurological changes. There are few scientific organizations with this kind of bandwidth.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: Mental Health Practice and Aging.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: As a professor, I assume three responsibilities. I teach graduate courses in health policy and aging; I conduct externally funded, peer-reviewed research that examines the intersection between population aging and public policy; and I offer my expertise in serving several organizations including The Gerontological Society of America.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: I enjoy the experience of “scientific discovery.” It such a thrill to discover something that might illuminate our understanding about aging. I also enjoy engaging in the follow up needed to determine the actual value of what has been discovered. For example, as part of the research enterprise, my colleagues and I were able to illuminate some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. I also have worked on a project that illuminated our understanding about aging and retirement trends. Then, I have worked to translate these discoveries – working with healthcare systems to improve their evaluation of older patients and consulting with academic organizations developing viable responses to the aging professorate.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: I am most familiar with the academic path that can be taken by gerontologists, and I think there are one of two ways to succeed in moving through this part of the field. One is to train under an established researcher, a person who has established NIH funding ties and other professional supports. Follow this person closely, learn from her, and strive to stand upon her shoulders. Of course, it helps if you are passionate about the particular topics you are studying as a part of your mentorship. If you are not so lucky as to find this sort of mentor or have yet to find a particular topic that really excites you, then I encourage to take the other way. That way is to just show up and get to work, no matter what your background is or no matter who you know. The field of aging is still emerging and has not yet become so orthodox that there is only one right way to succeed. You will figure out your own path as you take some steps forward; you don’t always need to follow someone else.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: In 2017, I was selected as a Health and Aging Policy Fellow and served the Majority Staff of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. That experience led to my most recent accomplishment of being named editor of the Public Policy and Aging Report in 2018.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did s/he make a difference?
A: Martha Storandt was my first mentor. She was a professor of psychology at Washington University in St Louis, and she also served as a director for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. It was a pleasure to learn from her, and her influence on my professional development was unmistakable, largely because Martha was the kind of mentor who was just as quick to call out sloppy work as she was able to recognize unique ideas. She pulled and pushed; and I found that working with her was like playing chess all day-and rarely gaining any sort of advantage. Anyway, as a new student in the field, she provided the skills needed to design and execute a good scientific experiment. She also offered ample opportunity to engage in the emerging science of separating Alzheimer’s and other dementias from normal aging, and then staging individual disease progression. It truly was a time of “scientific discovery.”

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

Q&A with Christopher Steven Marcum, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

marcumMeet Christopher.

“Take someone under your wing and be a good mentor; you’ll learn as much from your trainees as they learn from you.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I’ve been a member since I was a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine. My membership card says I joined on April 7th, 2009. The greatest benefit that GSA brings to me is a sense of professional identity as a gerontologist in an interdisciplinary community of scholars and policymakers. I’ve not been involved in service directly for GSA, but I am an associate editor of JGSS (and formerly I was a guest editor of the special issue on aging and networks with Ben Cornwell and Merril Silverstein). I strongly advocate for the widespread dissemination of research on aging published in GSA journals.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: As I mentioned, GSA has brought me a sense of professional identity as a gerontologist. Moreover, the annual meeting is one of the finest scientific arenas for sharing research across all of science, in my opinion.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents on my mother’s side were “young” when I was growing up. So, I had the distinct privilege of growing up in a richly intergenerational family. My interests in aging and gerontology, especially in intergenerational relations and social networks, are a direct result of my personal experience witnessing my own family life course.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA and its members are the primary agents in translating research on aging to the public. Through its partnerships and civic action, GSA is also, even more than other organizations like AARP and Grantmakers in Aging, the principal institutional actor involved in establishing precedents for scientifically-informed aging policy in the USA (and in some cases across the world).

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: Ha! I am a member of a few interest groups. I mainly use the interest groups to stay informed of research and events that I would not normally see as they lie outside of my wheelhouse. I’m on the listservs of “Aging, Alcohol, and Addictions,” “Epidemiology of Aging,” and “Transportation and Aging.”

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I’m a scientist and so I’m responsible for all of the primary research, teaching, and publication expectations that any tenure-track or tenured academic in a university would have. In addition, I perform service to the NIH: specifically, I sit on the National Human Genome Research Institute's Intramural Research Program Scientific Review Committee (which reviews scientific and clinical protocols prior to going before the full IRB), and I organize the Social and Behavioral Research Branch Works-in-Progress colloquium.  

Q: What is your most memorable research/patient experience?
A: This is going to sound a bit self-effacing but my most memorable experience was the manner in which I failed my initial dissertation proposal defense. Drs. Judith Treas and Karen Rook, both well-known gerontologists, were on my committee and they both raised the issue that I hadn’t pushed hard enough in terms of situating my research interests on age differences in daily social interaction into the broader gerontological literature. As a result of their feedback, I’ve adopted a very deep appreciation for social and psychological theories, and I try very hard to map my methodological work to precise aspects of theoretical import in this field.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Apply for grants! Apply early, and apply often. It’s a great way to build a collaboration and, even you do not get funded right away, your experience with grantwriting will improve (as will your chances for future success). Moreover, take someone under your wing and be a good mentor; you’ll learn as much from your trainees as they learn from you.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: There’s been a lot going on in my lab at NHGRI in terms of accomplishments over the last couple of years. In 2016, I was honored by the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research as a Matilda White Riley Early Stage Investigator (in part, for my work on network approaches to understanding intergenerational contact). That same year, my students successfully nominated me for an NIH mentorship award. But recently I’m most proud of the fact that two of my students have gone on to become outstanding award winning scholars: Mr. Jeffrey Lienert (my doctoral candidate) and Dr. Jielu Lin (my postdoc and fellow GSA member) both won the Intramural Research Award from the NHGRI in 2017, which is the highest and most competitive honor given to our fellows. Few things make one feel more accomplished than seeing the success of others you’ve supervised fly high.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I’ve had many. Good mentorship has helped me be successful as an academic, particularly, in how to model being a good mentor to my own trainees. I’m especially grateful to Drs. Carter Butts, Judith Treas (GSA fellow), and Laura Koehly in this regard.

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

Q&A with Abraham "Ab" Brody, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA, froom New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing in New York, New York

brodyMeet Ab.

“Speaking with centenarians has taught me that older adulthood is a life stage that should be celebrated rather than feared. I would love to play a role in helping people to remain healthy as they age so that they can continue their favorite activities, foster their social connections, and have time to reflect and appreciate a life well-lived.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I joined GSA as an ESPO member in 2003 while a PhD student at the UCSF School of Nursing. Pretty much all of our students in the area of geriatrics and gerontology joined, as the faculty saw it as a benefit to us to gain national exposure and forge relationships. GSA was thus my first professional society home and I am always excited to return to the annual meeting to further my existing relationships and forge new ones across disciplines as well as learn the state of the science!   

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: GSA membership has benefited me in so many ways, from having the opportunity to serve on and lead committees and learn how to further our field and run an organization, to creating networks both within geriatric nursing and outside in the greater aging field, to collaborations that have turned into grants, publications and improved quality of care for older adults locally, nationally and internationally.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I was lucky to fall into aging research and practice. I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist, and as a pre-med undergraduate, found a position at the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at NYU where I worked for its incredibly inspirational Director Dr. Mathy Mezey, and Co-Director Dr. Terry Fulmer. The inspiration I gained from them and personal experiences in seeing my grandparents age combined to move me towards this career path as a geriatric nurse, and I have never looked back; this is the right career for me!

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA provides such an incredible environment for both early career and established scholars to publicize their research in aging as well as to create and sustain interdisciplinary collaborations that can help improve the quality of life for older adults.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: I am a proud member of the Nursing and Hospice, Palliative and End of Life Interest Groups.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I am the Associate Director of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, and in that role involved in all aspects of our mission to ensure older adults achieve optimal health and quality of life. I particularly focus on developing and implementing extramurally funded research, training the healthcare and paraprofessional workforce and mentoring students, post-doctoral fellows and early career faculty in aging and palliative care research and practice.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: It was the day in 2012 I received a call from Dr. Sean Morrison at the National Palliative Care Research Center telling me my Career Development Award was being funded. I had tried for the past 4 years to move into a new line of research based on my clinical experience, focused on implementing dementia friendly care in existing care delivery models in the community (home health and hospice) but had tried multiple times without success to receive funding for it until then. That moment was a turning point in my research career, and has led to my ability to improve care for thousands of persons with dementia and their caregivers in the community.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Put yourself out there. Everyone fails, and it’s these failures that make you and your science stronger, and will lead you eventually to succeed, not only on a personal level, but on improving the lives of the millions upon millions of seniors nationally and globally. Email the senior researcher who’s paper you find inspiring to meet them at GSA, put in a grant that is pushing the envelope, be a paradigm changer. When you’re changing a paradigm, you have to be bold, take risks, and know that it takes a while to succeed, but our seniors deserve as much.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments?
A: One of my most recent accomplishments was getting my first R01 (thank you NIA) as Principle Investigator off the ground. There were a lot of bumps in the road to operationalizing this multi-site trial, but with a lot of hard work, a good staff, and dedicated partners, we are now up and running and seeing if the Dementia Symptom Management at Home Program truly improves the quality of care and quality of life for persons with dementia and their caregivers receiving home health.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I’ve been fortunate to have multiple talented mentors in my career, including Drs. Mezey, Fulmer and Morrison, and also Dr. Charlene Harrington, Dr. Tara Cortes, and Dr. James Galvin to name just a few. Each has provided me with something different, whether a perspective, an expertise, moral support, or leadership and career guidance. I would not have had the success I have had in my career without each of their contributions to my continued growth as an individual and  researcher.

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

Q&A with Martin Hyde, PhD, FGSA, from Swansea University in Swansea, U.K.

hydeMeet Martin.

“... Develop your networks. As I have said, ageing touches on so many different aspects of our lives and society that it is impossible to approach it from just one (disciplinary or national) perspective. Being part of a wider network of researchers from different disciplines and in different countries has enabled me to develop new ideas, new skills, travel the world and make some really good friends.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I have been a member of the GSA for over a decade. My first GSA conference was Dallas in 2006. I was encouraged to join and to start going to the conferences by my PhD supervisor Prof Paul Higgs to get a more global view of what was going on in gerontological research. To date I have only missed one conference since Dallas and always look forward to going.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: Being a member of the GSA has benefitted me and my career immeasurably. The conferences are of the highest quality and I always come away having learnt something new or with new ideas for my own research. But more than that, being a member of the Society provides a way to connect with a wider network of scholars in the field, either through GSA Connect, social media, or networking with colleagues at various events. It also provides insights into how gerontology is progressing in the US and, for me, has been crucial in ensuring that I position my research within a wider, global scale.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I got into research on ageing by a happy accident. Throughout my undergraduate and Master’s degrees I knew I wanted to stay in academia. But I wasn’t ready to start a PhD straight away. I wanted to start working and applied for a job as a researcher on a project to develop a questionnaire on Quality of Life. Although my initial interest was in the methodology, I quickly got interested in the wider topic itself. After that I could see the importance of ageing for so many aspects of our lives that I wanted to continue working in the field, to learn more and to do more.

Q: Why is it important for other individuals to join GSA?
A: I would definitely recommend that people join the GSA. It provides an excellent forum to share ideas, learn about upcoming research and to be part of a wide-ranging community of scholars. I have been lucky enough to meet so many interesting people through the GSA, particularly at the annual conference, both from within my research area and beyond. Through GSA Connect, the newsletter Gerontology News, and the Society’s social media activities, I feel that I am continually engaged with that community and what is going on in the USA even though I am thousands of miles away. Population ageing is a global phenomenon and, as such, it is important that gerontology becomes a global discipline.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: I am a member of the Aging Workforce Interest Group. Being part of this group has motivated me to set up a similar group, the Work and Retirement Special Interest Group, at the British Society of Gerontology. I was also lucky enough to be invited to speak at the International Aging and Migration Interest group in 2016 about my work on globalization and ageing – and joined after that. This is also a really exciting group to be part of.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: At the moment, my main responsibilities are writing research and (trying) to get research funding. The Centre for Innovative Ageing is a great place to work for this. We have a really dynamic, multidisciplinary team so there are always people around to bounce ideas off. Working in Wales has also been a game changer for me. Academics, policy makers, employers and third-sector organisations work closely together here and there is a real understanding of the importance of ageing at both the population and individual level. Aside from this, I have also done a bit of teaching on our MA in Gerontology and will run a module on Global Ageing in the coming academic year.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: I think everyone remembers the first paper that they get published. That was a really great moment, and I am really happy that I continue to get requests from around the world, most recently from Viet Nam, to translate and use the measure of quality of life that we published in that paper.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: My main piece of advice for emerging (possibly, all) gerontologists is to develop your networks. As I have said, ageing touches on so many different aspects of our lives and society that it is impossible to approach it from just one (disciplinary or national) perspective. Being part of a wider network of researchers from different disciplines and in different countries has enabled me to develop new ideas, new skills, travel the world and make some really good friends. Nowadays this also means being active on social media. I really enjoy using Twitter (@HydeM1976) and have had some really good exchanges and made some invaluable contacts from around the world.   

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: Last year my first, first-authored book (Ageing and Globalization, with Paul Higgs) was published. I am currently working on developing a program of work based on the arguments we advanced in the book. Alongside this, I am increasingly involved in a number of projects looking at issues around work and retirement. I am working with colleagues on a couple of projects with the Centre for Ageing Better on retirement planning and retirement adjustment. I am also working with partners from across Welsh Government and Ageing Well in Wales to look at a range of issues around work and retirement in later life.

Q:Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I have been lucky enough to work with many great people in my career who have guided me and given me great advice. However, although I am indebted to all those who have helped me, I owe a special debt to Prof Paul Higgs. We have worked together on a number of projects (most recently co-authoring a book) and he was my PhD supervisor. Without his guidance, support, and insights I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today.

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

Q&A with Stacy L. Andersen, PhD, from Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

andersenMeet Stacy.

“Speaking with centenarians has taught me that older adulthood is a life stage that should be celebrated rather than feared. I would love to play a role in helping people to remain healthy as they age so that they can continue their favorite activities, foster their social connections, and have time to reflect and appreciate a life well-lived.”

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: I am an Assistant Professor at Boston University and the project manager of the New England Centenarian Study and the Boston field center of the Long Life Family Study. In these two studies we are trying to identify the genetic and environmental contributions to healthy aging. In the New England Centenarian Study we study individuals who reach extreme ages (i.e., 105+ years) because we have found that they markedly delay the onset of disability and morbidity until the very end of their lives whereas in the Long Life Family Study we are studying families who have had multiple siblings reach old ages (e.g., their 90s). As a behavioral neuroscientist my research interests involve understanding how exceptionally long-lived individuals are able to stave off neurodegenerative diseases. I am also interested in identifying ways of detecting cognitive impairment with greater sensitivity and much earlier in the disease course.

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments.
A: Having recently obtained my PhD I am currently applying for a career development award from the National Institute on Aging (i.e., a K award). I am hoping to gain additional training in psycholinguistics, neuroimaging, and biostatistics and to complete a research project aimed at identifying early indicators of cognitive impairment from traditional neuropsychological testing and digital technologies. While I am waiting for the funding decision on my career development application, I have been moving forward with submitting manuscripts to publish my recent research findings. Most recently, I was the senior author on a paper published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences showing that centenarian offspring report higher feelings of purpose in life than their peers which may be a sign of healthy aging.

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I have been very fortunate to have multiple mentors during my career, most notably Dr. Thomas Perls, the Principal Investigator of the New England Centenarian Study. My most influential mentors have been people who are excited about the work that I am doing and who also challenge me to reach new levels in my career development. Mentors have also been vital to expanding my research network, giving me valuable critiques on manuscripts and grant applications, guiding my research path, and keeping me motivated in the face of negative results or rejection!

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?
A: Speaking with centenarians has taught me that older adulthood is a life stage that should be celebrated rather than feared. I would love to play a role in helping people to remain healthy as they age so that they can continue their favorite activities, foster their social connections, and have time to reflect and appreciate a life well-lived.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?  
A: My most memorable experience in aging research so far was implementing my dissertation research study. This was my first opportunity to design a study to answer some of the questions that intrigue me and move me forward on my path toward understanding how some individuals avoid dementia. Also since the testing was done in-home, it was a unique opportunity to make personal connections with our study participants!

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA. Which Section do you belong to?
A: In addition to being a member of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section, I am currently the Senior ESPO representative to the Interest Groups committee and am serving as an Interim Co-Convener of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Interest Group. I am also a member of the Brain, Epidemiology of Aging, GeroScience, and Technology and Aging Interest Groups. Needless to say, GSA has been a wonderful opportunity to strengthen my leadership and cooperative skills and expand my scientific networks. I have also been attending GSA Annual Scientific Meetings since 2004 which has been instrumental in providing a platform for presenting my research in poster and paper presentations and getting feedback from respected colleagues. I have met so many wonderful researchers with similar interests that I was able to arrange a symposium consisting of three longevity studies for the IAGG meeting last year.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA is instrumental in connecting people with similar interests within the aging fields from policy to research to practice during the annual scientific meetings and through GSA’s online community, GSA Connect. These forums allow for timely discussion of hot topics and sharing of research ideas and findings. I find that my own research ideas grow by learning how other researchers approach a topic or how research findings might have important implications for policy. In this same way, GSA enables my research to have a greater impact in the field of aging as well.

Q: Is there anything unique about yourself and experiences that you would like to share?
A: Interestingly, when I joined the New England Centenarian Study staff I didn’t think I had any long-lived relatives but several years ago I found out that my great-aunt was still living in Rome. I was able to visit her when she was 106 years and again when she reached the age of 114 years!

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Share your interests! In talking about what excites you about aging you’ll organically meet mentors and collaborators and gain valuable feedback on your research and career development.

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

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