Tara Gruenewald

Meet Tara L. Gruenewald, PhD, MPH, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California

gruenewaldMeet Tara.

"I learned that not only is the success of individuals rooted in true mentorship, so is the vitality of our field."

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?  
A: I joined GSA in 2004 soon after getting my PhD in Psychology when I realized that I wanted to pursue additional training in aging.  I have attended the annual meeting almost every year since joining with the exception of the two years in which my daughters were newborns.  Over the last year, I have enhanced my involvement in the annual meeting as Co-Chair of the 2016 Program Committee.

Q: How does GSA assist with your professional development?
A: GSA is the premier organization for the scientific and professional integration of the pillars of the field of gerontology:  the biological, psychological, social, policy and applied branches of our field.  Given the interdisciplinary nature of my work, GSA always feels like a professional home to me.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I often say that as a health psychologist I naturally fell into the field of aging given that many of the physical health conditions of interest in my research are more prevalent in older populations. However, I fell in love with the science of aging as I came to better understand the fascinating changes in psychological and social development that occur in middle and later life and began to explore how these developmental changes might shape mental and physical well-being as we age.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: Through efforts to support and promote the diverse subdisciplines within the field of gerontology, GSA helps to create and maintain the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of our field.  

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: As a faculty member in a school of gerontology my key responsibilities are to advance aging science, provide students with diverse disciplinary interests with the foundational knowledge needed to address the challenges and promises of an aging society, and contribute to the development of the next generation of aging researchers and educators.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: I have had many rewarding experiences throughout my research career so it is difficult to pinpoint the most memorable.  I am always inspired by my research with intergenerational activity programs in which I often observe firsthand the transformational power of generative engagement.  These experiences fuel my ongoing efforts to use cutting-edge methods to empirically evaluate how in helping others we might help ourselves.  

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Just the trite advice to pursue what you are passionate about!  Also, the encouraging perception that I think this is a wonderful time to begin a career as a gerontologist.  I feel that there is slow, but increasing, support for the need to devote resources and attention to understanding the aging process and creating a better aging experience.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: I was thrilled to recently become a GSA Fellow.  It is an honor to join the company of other Fellows who have made seminal contributions in the field.  I have also been busy as the new President of the California Council on Gerontology and Geriatrics, which is an organization devoted to advancing gerontology and geriatrics education, workforce development and aging-related public policy in the State of California.  On the research front, I have been immersed in collaborative efforts with scientists from a dozen institutions across the US (USC, the American Institutes for Research, UCLA, UCSF, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, and Brown Universities, the University of Rochester and Maryland, and Colorado and Arizona State Universities) to support the development of a new cohort study of aging, The Project Talent Aging Study.    

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career?  If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I have been fortunate to have a number of important mentors who have made tremendous contributions to my professional development.  I am most thankful to my graduate school mentor who fostered my passion for interrogating theory.  I am forever indebted to my early career mentor who introduced me to the field of aging and the larger national and international family of gerontologists.  I have also been incredibly lucky to work with many senior investigators who have shared their wisdom and social capital in helping me grow and develop.  From all of these individuals, I learned that not only is the success of individuals rooted in true mentorship, so is the vitality of our field.

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

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