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From science to service

From left, USC Davis School of Gerontology professors Kathleen Wilber, Susan Enguidanos and Edward Schneider
From left, USC Davis School of Gerontology professors Kathleen Wilber, Susan Enguidanos and Edward Schneider

USC is home to a vast array of aging-related research, as evidenced by the impressive speakers and scope of “What’s Hot in Aging Research at USC,” the USC Davis School of Gerontology’s third annual interdisciplinary symposium.

As experts from schools across campus gathered at the USC Davis auditorium on April 10, attendees were treated to a full day of panels, poster sessions and presentations.

“Complex human problems require complex study,” said USC Davis dean Gerald C. Davison. “The way we change over time and especially into old age represents great intellectual and social challenges, which require great interdisciplinary responses and solutions.”

USC Davis associate dean Bob Knight added: “The intention of [this] event is to show people the connection between basic science, its constituent disciplines and its practice. In different ways, all the speakers today are involved in both research, as well as real-world interventions for older adults.”

Subtitled “From Science to Service,” the conference followed the “bench science to bedside” arc, beginning with current geriatric medical research.

The first two speakers, Ihab Hajjar of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Kathleen Rodgers of the USC School of Pharmacy, discussed aging complications due to hypertension and diabetes, respectively, as well as their scientific causes and potential cures.

The morning finished with Roseann Mulligan of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC joining Knight for a transition from the research element to more functional applications.

Showing a picture of her 90-year-old mother-in-law as an example of healthy aging, Mulligan described the importance of oral health on older adults’ quality of life, examining how it impacts nutrition, communication, intimacy and self-esteem. Knight traced the complex interplay of emotion, cognition and aging, as well as explaining several studies that reflected changing professional attitudes toward older adults, depression and treatment.

After lunch, the conference concluded with two panel discussions. The first brought together the members of USC’s interdisciplinary Geriatric Assessment Program (GAP): Knight, Patricia Harris of the Keck School, Bradley Williams of the School of Pharmacy, Piedad Suarez ’06 of the Ostrow School and Anne Katz ’78, PhD ’92 of USC Davis. The groundbreaking GAP, a free clinic that streamlines multiple medical visits into a one-stop shop for older adults, inspired a flurry of spirited questions from the audience, many of whom were in the field themselves.

“Since I only see patients who are 65 or older, I wanted to get some feedback on how to care for them better,” said Sharon Jafari, a geriatric nurse practitioner with Kaiser Permanente. “I came on behalf of my team to bring back the information, and I absolutely loved today’s program.”

The final panel of the day, made up exclusively of USC Davis faculty, examined health care systems issues. Beginning with a discussion of fall prevention from Jon Pynoos, the panel went on to feature Edward Schneider on polypharmacy, Kathleen Wilber on older adults transitioning out of – and, unfortunately, back into – nursing facilities and Susan Enguidanos on end-of-life care.

As with its previous two installments, the third annual “What’s Hot in Aging Research” event showcased some of the most exciting gerontological developments at the university, as well as helping spark a desire in attendees to continue to bridge the gap between science and service.

“Translating research to practice especially interests me,” said George Caballero, a member of the advisory board at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging. “It was important for me to come to keep abreast of the latest research on working with older adults.”

Susan Rose, USC executive director of the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects, said: “The dedication of the speakers is always obvious, and the program is always put together in such a classy manner. Every year I come, there’s always at least one speaker who captures something new and vital that concerns all of us, no matter our age. I always leave inspired and in awe of the work being done at USC.”

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