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Justine Sefcik

Q&A with Justine S. Sefcik, PhD, RN, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

sefcikMeet Justine.

"The power of networking for emerging gerontologists cannot be stressed enough. Building relationships with peers that are members of GSA has numerous benefits. These relationships have, undoubtedly, supported me throughout my career as a nurse scientist and offered me opportunities for beneficial collaborations."

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: I am currently a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. My dissertation was a multi-methods study of nursing home residents with dementia and persistent vocalizations. I am currently building on my dissertation and working to design a person-centered, non-pharmacological intervention to reduce this behavioral symptom of dementia. Next steps will be to test the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention.

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments.
A: I have a paper currently in press at Research in Gerontological Nursing with my co-authors Drs. Pamela Cacchione and Christine Bradway titled “Transportation of Older Adults: Common Behaviors Interfering with Safety”. We are excited to see this paper come out as it is the first known report on the perspectives of van assistants and van drivers regarding common behaviors of older adults they observed on Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provided transportation. We also report on the preventative steps taken by the van assistants and drivers to keep everyone safe.

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: My dissertation chair, Dr. Pamela Cacchione, has been an important mentor to me. When all things dissertation-related would become difficult, she was always my cheerleader. Her support was instrumental in me obtaining funding for my dissertation and successfully completing my PhD. Her willingness to always make time for me, her thorough review and feedback, and our ability to laugh together has been so important to me in our mentee-mentor relationship.

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?
A: I had the opportunity to take a Licensed Practical Nursing Program during my junior and senior year of high school along with my high school courses. My first position as a Licensed Practical Nurse was in a nursing home. Over the 13 years working at the same facility I had worked my way up the ladder as a Registered Nurse to Assistant Director of Nursing. Simultaneously completing a Master’s degree in Nursing Administration and working on several quality improvement projects at my facility had me thinking about a career in research and pursing a PhD. As I entered a PhD program, I knew I wanted to focus on nursing home residents with behavioral symptoms of dementia. I knew firsthand how difficult it was to minimize those behaviors and how ineffective medications could be. I wanted to explore persistent vocalizations further as this behavior appeared to be distressing to the person exhibiting them and disturbing to others in the immediate nursing home environment. I observed nursing staff having a very difficult time providing comfort to the residents exhibiting persistent vocalizations. This has sparked my research interest.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA. Which Section do you belong to?
A: I have been part of the GSA Health Sciences section and a member of ESPO since 2011. I was first introduced to GSA during my research center meetings as a first year PhD student when fellow faculty and trainees spoke with excitement about attending an upcoming GSA conference. I attended the next meeting and have been to GSA each year since 2011. GSA annual scientific meetings have provided me with a great way to learn about innovative research in my area and to network with interdisciplinary colleagues.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: The power of networking for emerging gerontologists cannot be stressed enough. Building relationships with peers that are members of GSA has numerous benefits. These relationships have, undoubtedly, supported me throughout my career as a nurse scientist and offered me opportunities for beneficial collaborations.

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

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