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Alum First to Receive New Fellowship

Alum First to Receive New Fellowship
Gretchen Alkema thanked faculty members who provided guidance at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

USC Davis School of Gerontology graduate Gretchen Alkema PhD ’07 has been named the first 2008-09 John Heinz/Health and Aging Policy Fellow.

After receiving the Washington D.C.-based John Heinz Senate Fellowship in Issues of the Aging, which is awarded to one person each year, as well as the Health and Aging Policy Fellowship, which is awarded to up to eight people across the nation, the two independently funded programs collaborated to create the joint John Heinz/Health and Aging Policy Fellowship for Alkema.

Beginning Oct. 1, Alkema will build upon her innovative research of improving the long-term care services for the chronically ill by serving as a staff member in the United States Senate. She also will participate in the prestigious American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellowship Program Orientation and receive mentorship from leaders in health and aging policy issues.

At the USC Davis School, Alkema excelled at translational research serving older adults, which integrated findings into community-based programs. Her dissertation analyzed a medication management program that served functionally impaired elders.

“In a doctoral program known for rigor and excellence, Gretchen Alkema was a star,” said her dissertation chair Kathleen Wilber, the Mary Pickford Foundation Professor of Gerontology.

Dean Gerald C. Davison called her “a credit to the school and the university.”

As a John A. Hartford Doctoral Fellow in Geriatric Social Work, Alkema also holds a master’s degree in social work and a specialist in aging certificate from the University of Michigan. As a licensed clinical social worker, she has professional experience in community-based care delivery programs in both government agencies and the nonprofit sector.

“The John Heinz and Health and Aging Policy fellowships have picked one of our most outstanding graduates, skilled in policy analysis, teaching and research,” said Jon Pynoos, UPS Foundation Professor of Gerontology, Policy, Planning and Development, who will serve as Alkema’s university-based mentor.

“She is one of a new cadre of researchers and teachers in gerontology who understand the multifaceted and interdisciplinary nature of the field and is able to both integrate knowledge and come up with innovative solutions to the public policy problems that we face as an aging society.”

Known for her humility and constant smile, Alkema thanked many of the faculty members she worked with at the USC Davis School for their guidance and support, calling them, “the giants upon whose shoulders I stand.”

The John Heinz Senate Fellowship in Issues of the Aging, which is funded by the U.S. Senate and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation, is administered by the Heinz Family Foundation. The Health and Aging Policy Fellows program is funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and administered by the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University.

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