Phillip G. Clark

Q&A with Phillip G. Clark, ScD, FGSA, from the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island.

clarkMeet Phillip.

“A major recommendation I would make is to seek out interdisciplinary collaborations and create groups or teams of faculty colleagues and students to develop research or instructional programs and projects. Many funding sources are increasingly emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary research. By far the most rewarding aspects of my career have been related to collaborating with others from backgrounds different from my own.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I’ve been a GSA member since 1981, the year that GSA met jointly with the Canadian Association on Gerontology in Toronto. That was a very interesting and informative meeting that helped to launch me on many collaborations with Canadian colleagues and a subsequent sabbatical in Canada. I became a member as I was starting to work in the field of gerontology and realized that this association was the pre-eminent one for an interdisciplinary approach to the study of aging.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: For me, the real advantage of GSA is in building cross-discipline relationships and collaborations. You can meet colleagues from many different backgrounds and develop ideas for interdisciplinary programs and projects. An added benefit is staying current with national and increasingly international research on aging and older adults. Attending meetings has been an important opportunity to network with colleagues from across the country and around the world.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: Like a lot of people at that time, I happened upon gerontology almost by accident in the late 1970s. I was nearing the end of my public health doctoral program and was looking for a promising field for the future, and everyone said this would be it! At that same time, Jack Rowe was pulling together people at Harvard for a Division on Aging, and he was very gracious to include and support me at this critical time in my development.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: I realize that there is often a membership competition between GSA and more discipline-specific professional associations, with people sometimes having to choose between them. For me, the importance of interdisciplinary professional associations is becoming increasingly apparent, especially with regard to research and teaching on aging and older adults. I like to think that we are the quintessential interdisciplinary field for the future, and
GSA is the best organization to embody this approach.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I have a typical faculty position at the University of Rhode Island, which includes research, teaching, and outreach/service. Perhaps more importantly, I also am Director of both the Program in Gerontology and the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: I think that the most memorable experiences I have had relate to sabbaticals I have taken in other countries, including Canada, Norway, and the UK. Each experience has opened new doors to collaborating with wonderful colleagues in the fields of interprofessional education and gerontology. The opportunity to develop personal and professional relationships with colleagues from other cultures and countries has been one of the greatest rewards of my academic life.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: A major recommendation I would make is to seek out interdisciplinary collaborations and create groups or teams of faculty colleagues and students to develop research or instructional programs and projects. Many funding sources are increasingly emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary research. By far the most rewarding aspects of my career have been related to collaborating with others from backgrounds different from my own.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments?
A: Probably the recent accomplishment of which I am most proud is to have received the Hiram Friedsam Mentorship Award from the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) for my work in mentoring students, faculty colleagues, and administrators. This award has given me the opportunity to reflect on the many relationships I have developed with students and colleagues over the past several years, and how important they have been both to the field of gerontology and to me.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career?
A: I have had many mentors over the course of my career, but probably the most important one was Don Spence, my predecessor at the University of Rhode Island and President of AGHE in the early 1980s. Don provided gentle but sure and steady counsel, support, and advice at a critical time in my early career development. I am glad that I have been able to repay my debt to him by helping others in the ways he first mentored me. I think that effective mentoring of future gerontologists is the key to our field’s future!

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