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Bob Knight, PhD

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

As experts from across campus, including from the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Social Work, united at the Davis School of Gerontology’s auditorium on April 10, attendees were treated to a full day of panels, poster sessions and presentations.

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

“Basically, the intention of today is to show people the connection between basic science, its constituent disciplines and its practice,” said Bob Knight, PhD, associate dean of the USC Leonard Davis School. “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 arc of “bench science to bedside,” beginning with current geriatric medical research.

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

The morning finished with Roseann Mulligan, DDS, Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC and Knight transitioning 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 towards 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, MD, Keck School of Medicine of USC; Bradley Williams, PharmD, USC School of Pharmacy; Piedad Suarez, DDS, Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC; and Anne Katz, PhD, LCSW, USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. The groundbreaking clinic, a free service 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.

L to R: Anne Katz, PhD, LCSW, Patricia Harris, MD, Bradley Williams, PharmD, Piedad Suarez, DDS, and Bob Knight, PhD

“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 Davis School faculty, examined health care systems issues in geriatric health care. Beginning with a discussion of fall prevention from Jon Pynoos, PhD, the panel went on to feature Edward Schneider, MD on polypharmacy, Kathleen Wilber, PhD, on older adults transitioning out of—and, unfortunately, back into—nursing facilities and Susan Enguídanos, PhD, on end-of-life care.

As with its previous two installments, the third annual “What’s Hot in Aging Research at USC” 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 USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging Advisory Board. “It was important for me to come to keep abreast of the latest research on working with older adults.”

“The dedication of the speakers is always obvious, and the program is always put together in such a classy manner,” said Susan Rose, USC’s Executive Director of the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects. “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 here at USC.”

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