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Q&A with Shannon Jarrott, PhD, FGSA, from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

jarrottMeet Shannon.

“Surround yourself with good people; go out and find them if they aren’t knocking on your door! It’s easy to get busy with our day-to-day tasks and a growth area for me continues to be connecting with others across disciplines and settings. A team approach characterized by honest communication is powerful as partners can push, pull, and encourage each other through challenging and mundane tasks.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member? What GSA member benefit do you like best and why?
A: I’ve been a member of GSA since 1994. I joined as a student at Penn State and continue to enjoy the quality learning and professional opportunities the conference affords me and the students with whom I work.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: I benefit from gaining access to the latest research and other researchers dedicated to aging issues at the annual conference and through other outlets like the Interest Groups. I just attended the Reframing Aging preconference workshop in Boston and cannot stop talking about the ideas conveyed there and the evidence behind it. The values conveyed align so well with my motivation to support intergenerational programs. Just this week I led a mini-workshop on the framework approach in a doctoral course on theory of behavior change, and I am inspired to “reframe” my approach to a master’s level survey course on aging that I teach.

Another thing I value about GSA is getting engaged by regularly attending the BSS business lunch and contributing to Society efforts, such as nominating colleagues for Fellow status, serving on a GSA journal editorial board, and reviewing abstract and award submissions. It has afforded me the opportunity to build some new skills, and it has helped me feel connected to this rather large organization.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I have been interested in the power of intergenerational relationships since I was in high school and enjoyed a close a relationship with my own grandmother. In college, I took an aging course with Carolyn Aldwin at UC Davis, and she mentored me in my search for a graduate program. I love that now I get to see Carolyn every year at the annual scientific meeting.

Q: Why is it important for other individuals to join GSA?
A: While almost all of us connected to university settings can access the top quality research published in GSA journals that are not open-access, membership builds a commitment to a home organization and conference. That’s what other gerontologists will likely find at GSA. In addition to the conference research presentations, resources like Mentor Match, Interest Group meetings and sponsored symposia, panels on NIH funding and the Health and Aging Policy Fellowship, and even the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program offer added reasons to join GSA and attend the annual meetings.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: I am a member of the Grandparents as Caregivers Interest Group. As AGHE builds a closer relationship as part of GSA, I also plan to join the Intergenerational Learning, Research, and Community Engagement Interest Group.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: As a Professor of Social Work at The Ohio State University, I have responsibilities for teaching and advising undergraduates through doctoral students and conducting research. Some of my service responsibilities are in the community, such as working with a shared site intergenerational center created through a community-university partnership. I also learn, serve, and build network ties through professional organizations such as the Ohio Association for Gerontology Education, Generations United, the National Adult Day Services Association, and, of course, GSA.

Q: What is your most memorable research/patient experience?
A: One of my most memorable experiences comes from challenges I faced when I realized that standard research training hadn’t prepared me to share ownership in a community-based research partnership. This experience pushed me to continue developing my community-based participatory research skills, which serve me well today as I continue to learn from and with my community research colleagues. Work with student research colleagues has been highly memorable and positive in my career.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Surround yourself with good people; go out and find them if they aren’t knocking on your door! It’s easy to get busy with our day-to-day tasks and a growth area for me continues to be connecting with others across disciplines and settings. A team approach characterized by honest communication is powerful as partners can push, pull, and encourage each other through challenging and mundane tasks.

Always speak to the implications of your work. First semester doctoral students in my theory of behavior change course are frequently frustrated to reach the conclusion of a research article only to see that the authors believe that the implications of their findings are that “more research is needed.”

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: After spending many years studying community capacity building and identifying evidence-based practices for non-familial intergenerational programs, I have funding to apply these strategies to a critical community need – healthy food access. So often, youth and elders are viewed through a deficit lens, and I relish the opportunity to apply theory and evidence to demonstrate that they can be a resource to each other and broader society using intergenerational strategies.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did s/he make a difference?
A: Steve Zarit introduced me to adult day services research and, perhaps more importantly, offered a great model of supporting students with professional development opportunities; I continue to value that relationship to this day.

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

Q&A with Darlingtina Atakere, MS, from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

atakereMeet Darlingtina.

“My basic strategy is to draw upon knowledge rooted in indigenous and minority settings as an epistemic foundation from which to ‘de-naturalize’ the ways of knowing and being considered as standard in hegemonic sciences. We need to know how shifts in the conceptualization of practices can affect the communities where we may live, work, and engage.”

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: Currently, I am an Instructor and a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Kansas, at the concluding stage of my Ph.D. research. While I specialize in Social Psychology and Gerontology, my work builds upon and contributes to a wide range of fields including Public Health. I also have Health Psychology and African Studies graduate certificates and broad training in Social Work and Community Development.

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments.
A: I attended the GSA annual conference in Boston, where I made three separate presentations. Also, I was one of the few people who received The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) Mentoring and Career Development Technical Assistance Workshop and Junior Investigator Diversity Fellow Travel Award. The workshop offered more than I hoped for. We had the rare privilege of learning first-hand from seasoned professionals in the field. It was a memorable experience for me.

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: Yes, I have an important mentor in the person of Dr. Tamara Baker. She has been with me every step of my Ph.D. career and has helped shape the researcher that I am now. She provides the appropriate level of push and motivation that I need to keep wanting to be a better version of myself. She is that person to have your corner because you cannot go wrong with her in your life.

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?
A: I study social determinants of health in older minority males, and I picked up that interest from my curiosity about the life of my father who died from a chronic illness. He checked every box of what we know in mainstream sciences as indicators of health outcomes (e.g., educated, good job). Yet, there existed something that caused poor health outcome in him and eventually led to fatal diagnosis (and death). I wanted to address the critical void as to what is known about the influence of SDoH on health outcomes among older minorities.

Q: Is there anything unique about yourself and experiences that you would like to share?
A: At the core of my research is the application of decolonial perspectives to psychological sciences. I consider the possibility that theory, practices, and research on aging in mainstream sciences do not reflect universal or “just natural” laws of human experience but instead reflect particular constructions of aging, as well as experiences of well-being among people in WEIRD (i.e., Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) settings. These settings disproportionately inform scientific understandings and clinical practice. My basic strategy is to draw upon knowledge rooted in indigenous and minority settings as an epistemic foundation from which to ‘de-naturalize’ the ways of knowing and being considered as standard in hegemonic sciences. We need to know how shifts in the conceptualization of practices can affect the communities where we may live, work, and engage.

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

Q&A with Lyn Meridew Holley, PhD, of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Department of Gerontology in Omaha, Nebraska.

holleyMeet Lyn.

“Work hard, don’t give up, be open to new thoughts and experience but always think for yourself. Be the kind of person you can respect. In order to do all those things, you will need to be good to yourself – love and care for yourself as well as for others. It is all necessary.”

Q: Why did you become a member and what type of involvement do you have?
A: I cannot imagine not being a member of GSA. I began teaching gerontology in 2004, and I joined GSA in 2004. In 2006, I attended my first AGHE conference and immediately joined AGHE, too. I have attended annual conferences of both organizations every year since I joined and contributed some type of presentation at all but one of them. To me, the annual meetings and the publications are the lifeblood of gerontology. Multidisciplinary and diverse as we are, our associations have managed to connect us and provide a framework for coherent “gerontology” progress. The more diverse and the more connected we are, the more we can advance our teaching, research, and advocacy. I recommend joining to anyone with a career interest in gerontology

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: At GSA and AGHE conferences all the conversations are about gerontology. I found “like minded” people who were much more advanced than I in types of teaching and research that appealed to me, and who were willing to answer my questions, and sometimes even explain the “back story” of a current theory or policy. I was excited and inspired by the ideas and experiments of colleagues. I was thrilled to actually see and hear “the great ones” who authored the books and theories that were central to my own teaching and development.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I was already nearing “retirement age” and had had a career in workforce policy development and evaluation before beginning doctoral study. When I received my Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1999 many influences converged in my life. I wanted to do research, however most jobs were almost exclusively teaching and were looking for younger people. With an introduction from an extraordinary friend and mentor, Dr. Karl Kosloski, I was hired as a Research Professor to work for Dr. Rhonda J.V. Montgomery, then Gerontology Center Director at the University of Kansas. For the next few years, I assisted Dr. Montgomery with a large, federally-funded multi-state study of state-funded interventions to support informal, in-home caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients. I travelled extensively and came in contact with many caregivers. The caregivers took me by surprise. They connected so strongly with my heart, I could not turn away; I was “hooked” on gerontology and have been ever since. I want to bear witness to the everyday nobility of “common” people who make uncommon sacrifices every day. I want my research and teaching to make life better for these heroes and for the people they love. The common thread of my research is a search for financially and circumstantially accessible interventions that can lessen age-related frailty and disease, and ease the burdens of caregivers, perhaps even increase everyone’s moments of joy.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: I am a Co-Convener of the GSA Interest Group on Rural Aging, and of the GSA/AGHE Intergenerational Learning, Research, and Community Engagement Interest Group.

My state has 93 counties and vast rural areas where caregivers face enormous obstacles to getting the services they need for their loved ones. The Rural Interest Group is a collection of brave people who care about veterans, farmers, and loneliness. The group sponsors a symposium at every GSA Conference. In 2016, Dr. Cassandra Ford (University of Alabama) and I convened a symposium that had five excellent papers about interventions to help caregivers and their charges from the swamps of Alabama to the grasslands of Saskatchewan. Based on these papers, Roger O’Sullivan (Island of Ireland, UK) and I developed a special issue of the journal, Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, which was published in December 2018. Symposia are a great way to see how our individual projects can fit together and create a “synergy” effect.

The GSA Intergenerational Learning, Research, and Community Interest Group has only just transitioned from being an AGHE committee. Our leadership and membership have remained stable, and our “best practices” are continuing. This is a very creative group. The intergenerational focus is directly connected with my personal goal of developing accessible, affordable interventions to improve aging – the “basic ingredients” for intergenerational interventions are almost universally available. Led by Co-convener Laura Donorfio (University of Connecticut), the ILRCE typically conducts a pre-conference International Teaching Institute that noticeably advances the field of teaching gerontology. The intense sharing of teaching innovations – both successful and not so successful – is almost visibly translated into individual practice.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I am a full professor responsible for teaching, research and service to our profession, university, community and students. I teach in a public university and feel an obligation to focus on the needs of people in my city and state. I teach gerontology to special populations (e.g., Honors Program students, “high risk” freshmen and sophomores, doctoral students). I teach in experimental formats, such as variants of community-engaged service learning, co-teaching with colleagues in other disciplines, e.g., three synergistically linked courses, World Geography – Gerontology-English Composition, or most recently, co-teaching with two professors at the University of Wroclaw in Poland in classrooms separated by thousands of miles and seven hours, but connected in real time with technology. All of my international connections have been made at GSA or AGHE conferences. The GSA and its Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education provide the perfect venue for service to profession and for development as teachers and researchers,

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: The privilege of working in Gerontology provides so many “moments of joy” that even the more memorable experiences are too many to recount.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Work hard, don’t give up, be open to new thoughts and experience but always think for yourself. Be the kind of person you can respect. In order to do all those things, you will need to be good to yourself – love and care for yourself as well as for others. It is all necessary.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: In 2016 I was awarded the inaugural Dr. Chuck Powell Professorship in Gerontology. I did not seek that honor, and I am still a little in awe of it. Dr. Powell was one of my heroes; I met him when I was a doctoral student. I am trying to be worthy in my own eyes – to live life and make contributions as “large” as this six-foot plus war hero turned gerontology professor has made. It is fun to see how close I can come.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did s/he make a difference?
A: It does “take a village.” I have a very well populated “Hall of Gerontology Fame” in my head and heart. Everyone in the Hall of Fame is or was kind, good hearted, generous, brilliant, and fun to be with. It is probable that most of the honorees do not know how very important their advice, recommendation, help, or example was to me. I guess I could add to my “Tips to New Gerontologists” a suggestion to see yourself as an influence on others, 24/7, and be or become that person in their Hall of Fame.

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

Q&A with Rajean Paul Moone, PhD, LHNA, FGSA, from Twin Cities, Minnesota.

mooneMeet Rajean.

“As a student and emerging scholar, GSA has been absolutely vital to my development. During my doctoral studies, I was a Hartford Pre-Dissertation Awardee and a Doctoral Fellow. Post-doctorate, I served as a Health and Aging Policy Fellow. These opportunities were a direct result of my involvement in GSA. Each year I actively participate in the annual scientific meeting to maintain connections and build new ones.”

Q: How long have you been a GSA member? What GSA member benefit do you like best and why?
A: I’m proud to say that 2019 is my 20th anniversary of being a GSA member! With the support of a mentor, I presented my undergraduate McNair Scholar research project as a poster at the 1999 GSA conference in San Francisco and have been to every conference since! The annual conference is, for me, an integral part of my membership. The quality of research and networking is unsurpassed.

Q: How does GSA assist with your professional development?
A: As a student and emerging scholar, GSA has been absolutely vital to my development. During my doctoral studies, I was a Hartford Pre-Dissertation Awardee and a Doctoral Fellow. Post-doctorate, I served as a Health and Aging Policy Fellow. These opportunities were a direct result of my involvement in GSA. Each year I actively participate in the annual scientific meeting to maintain connections and build new ones.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I get asked this question frequently. Looking back, I’m not sure there was any other field for me. As a young child living in the Twin Cities, I would go back to my birth hometown on the Canadian border, International Falls, and spend time with my grandmother. My grandmother was a vital, independent woman surrounded by retired friends who shaped my positive attitudes towards aging. In addition, during my undergraduate studies, I attended the College of Saint Scholastica. On this campus is a nursing home where I started to volunteer and work. All of these experiences shaped my interest in the field.

Q: Why is it important for other individuals to join GSA?
A: GSA leads the nation in supporting multidisciplinary scientific research in gerontology. Researchers in aging interested in collaboration and the most up-to-date information need to be members of GSA. If nothing else, the membership access to the journals is worth it!!

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: Yes, I was a co-convener of the Rainbow Research Group and served on the SRPP Committee as a representative to the Interest Group Committee.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I did not take a typical academic position after completing my PhD. Currently I have a consulting business and within that business I have key responsibilities for the following organizations:
• President & Executive Director, Minnesota Leadership Council on Aging
• Faculty Director, Long Term Care Administration, University of Minnesota
• Board Member, MN Association of Geriatrics Inspired Clinicians (AMDA affiliate)
• Board Member, Care Providers of MN Foundation (AHCA/NCAL affiliate)
• Executive Committee Member, UMN Robert Kane LTC Chair

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: While it’s difficult to select a most memorable research experience, what I can note is the satisfaction of seeing applied research impacting policy and practice. Researchers are often driven because of an interest to make lives better. Being able to translate research into policy and practice is always a memorable experience.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Network…network…network. Meeting new people can be tough for some, but GSA makes it easy through GSA Connect, ESPO, and the Interest Groups.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: Probably one of my favorite recent accomplishments is receiving Fellow status in GSA in 2017. Even more recent was acceptance of a presentation at IAGG-Europe Region which will occur over my birthday in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2019.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did s/he make a difference?
A: I have had several mentors in my career. My mentors have genuinely directly and indirectly shared their experience and knowledge in a way that has helped shape my professional work. Mentors have included faculty advisors and professional colleagues. I still call upon these individuals when I am faced with questions about my professional and personal lives.

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

Q&A with Brian Downer, PhD, from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.

downerMeet Brian.

"It is hard to put into words how much of a positive impact GSA has had on my career. I have benefited immensely from the opportunities to present research, to become involved with leadership, and to be mentored by renowned leaders in the field. I cannot imagine what my career would be like without the support of GSA."

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I became a member of GSA in 2010 when I was a first-year PhD student in gerontology at the University of Kentucky. I joined GSA so that I could be surrounded by others who share my passion for gerontology. I joined AGHE a few years later when I had the opportunity to be the chair of the AGHE student committee. This position opened many doors for me at GSA, and I have participated in other committees and leadership groups. I have also participated in the GSA Annual Meeting by presenting research and attending workshops.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: It is hard to put into words how much of a positive impact GSA has had on my career. I have benefited immensely from the opportunities to present research, to become involved with leadership, and to be mentored by renowned leaders in the field. I cannot imagine what my career would be like without the support of GSA.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: My interest in gerontology came from growing up with my grandparents in an intergenerational household. By my sophomore year of college, three of my grandparents had passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. This inspired me to pursue an academic career in gerontology studying Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. My family history of Alzheimer’s disease has always been a major influence in my research. My doctoral and post-doctoral research focused on identifying potentially modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment among high-risk older adult populations. This has included older adults with a genetic predisposition for dementia and older adults who are high-risk because of socioeconomic, health, and behavioral characteristics. My interests have expanded to include a focus on the healthcare utilization of older adults with dementia and cognitive impairment. I am especially interested in the quality and outcomes of post-acute care. I am excited to be involved in this area of research because it has the potential to directly benefit older adults living with dementia.

Q: Why is it important for other individuals to join GSA?
A: I think it is important for others to join GSA so that a wide range of scientific disciplines are represented and so that new perspectives are shared. I always enjoy talking with other gerontologists at the Annual Meeting because while we may both identify as gerontologists our research interests and scientific training can be dramatically different. My research interests include the epidemiology of dementia, Hispanic aging, and post-acute care. The GSA Annual Meeting is the only conference where I can present findings, attend sessions, and meet with collaborators for all areas of my research.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch. My primary responsibility is doing research, but I also enjoy teaching and mentoring students. One of the things I enjoy most about UTMB is the many opportunities to work one-on-one with doctoral students on research projects. I find this part of my job to be especially rewarding because it was not that long ago when I was a PhD student wanting to start a career in research.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: Major career milestones will always stand out in my mind, such as my first publication, defending my dissertation, starting a faculty position, and my first research grant. However, my most memorable experiences have been when I am interacting with older adults. I analyze large data sets for my research, and I sometimes take for granted that each row of numbers represents a person. I do not have any memorable experiences of crunching numbers in a data set but I can easily recall experiences as a PhD student giving presentations as part of an intervention to older adults and talking with older adults who were completing a survey. A recent memorable experience came when I was giving a presentation to middle-aged and older Hispanics on common myths and misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease. A woman shared with me her struggles of providing care to her mother who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the frustrating process of going to several doctors before getting a diagnosis.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: My first tip is to pursue an area of gerontology that you are genuinely passionate about whether it is research, teaching, clinical practice, government, advocacy, or any other area. My second tip is to find mentors and advisors who truly care about helping you reach your career goals.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: The Sealy Center on Aging and Division of Rehabilitation Sciences at UTMB has access to national Medicare data files. We have used these data files to conduct policy-relevant research on the post-acute care of older adults. Our research indicates that older adults with physical and cognitive limitations are at an increased risk of experiencing a rehospitalization that could be considered as potentially preventable within 30-days of discharge from a skilled nursing facility and home health care settings. We have also produced evidence that older adults with cognitive impairment have less improvement in self-care and mobility during a skilled nursing stay than older adults who are unimpaired.

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career?
A: I am fortunate to have several important mentors, but two stand out because they are also members of GSA. The first is Dr. Faika Zanjani who was my mentor at the University of Kentucky. I credit Faika with giving me my start in research. She also supported my research interests even when my interests did not exactly align with her current projects. The second is Dr. Kyriakos Markides who has been my mentor since 2016. Kokos has been instrumental in my career. In addition to giving me countless opportunities to advance my career, he has shown me through his actions of how to treat others.

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

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