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Christopher M. Kelly, a graduate of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and an associate professor in gerontology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), was recently named the Leo Missinne Professor of Gerontology.

The newly established professorship is given to a UNO faculty member at the associate professor level who excels in the areas of teaching, research, and service. The professorship was created by a gift from Leo Missinne, an emeritus professor in gerontology at UNO.

Kelly received his PhD from the USC Leonard Davis School in 2004. He completed his dissertation, “The Extent and Effectiveness of Nursing Home Regulation in the 50 States,” under the mentorship of Phoebe Liebig, now a USC Leonard Davis emerita professor. Following his PhD program and prior to his faculty position at UNO, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina Institute on Aging.

Kelly expressed his gratitude both for Leo Missinne’s support and for the training he received as a USC Leonard Davis School PhD student.

“I’m very grateful that I had the kind of education that I did. As a researcher, the rigorous training I received at USC prepared me well to be an independent scientist and to write and publish on public policy,” Kelly said.

As a faculty member at UNO, Kelly has continued to study national trends in nursing home regulation. His current research also explores predictors of quality in long-term care facilities, such as retention of direct care workers, as well as innovative alternatives to long-term care facilities, such as home health and personal care services.

Kelly said Davis School faculty members, including Liebig and UPS Foundation Professor of Gerontology, Policy and Planning Jon Pynoos, were not just exemplary role models for how he teaches his own students. They also showed him how state policymaking is “where the action is” and where gerontologists can make real differences for older adults.

“It’s the state agencies that really determine policies,” Kelly said. “Since I’ve been back in Nebraska, forging those relationships has been a big part of what I’ve been able to achieve, due in large part to how I was trained at USC.”

Liebig, who said she has stayed in touch with all of her former students and continues to talk with them about their careers, congratulated Kelly on his new professorship and his influence on policies affecting older adults.

“He’s never going to be just a hard-nosed researcher; he’s interested in the impact,” Liebig said. “He’s engaged with legislators and community groups, and he’s really concerned with making a difference in the real world.”

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