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After graduating from medical school in Indonesia in 2020, Janice Emmanuella spent three months caring for COVID-19 patients. A shortage of hospital beds and oxygen left people without the care they needed. She comforted many patients as they passed away.

In Indonesia, students go to medical school directly from high school. For a young doctor, caring for COVID-19 patients without resources was overwhelming. But during a visit to the U.S., she discovered the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology — and a new path.

Emmanuella enjoys working with older adults. This affinity originated with her grandmother, who passed away during Emmanuella’s second year of medical school. In August of 2021, she carried thoughts of her grandmother with her as she enrolled at USC Leonard Davis.

To Emmanuella, the Master of Arts in Medical Gerontology program seemed like an excellent option. It would allow her to deepen her knowledge while pursuing her U.S. medical license.

A perfect complement to medical school

The MA in Medical Gerontology (MAMG) focuses on the health needs of older people. USC Leonard Davis faculty designed the program for health professionals who rarely receive in-depth gerontology training.

“In Indonesia, we didn’t receive any special education in caring for older adults,” Emmanuella says. “I saw that older adults tended to be neglected by the health care system. Things are improving, but it will take time before older adults receive as much attention as children and pregnant women.” She sees a need for physicians who can treat older patients with empathy and respect in the U.S. and Indonesia.

The MAMG gives students a multidisciplinary perspective of aging. It dives into the diseases of aging and chronic disease prevention. It also explores geropsychology, technology and age-friendly environments.

For current health professionals or those pursuing a career in health care, the MAMG is a valuable complement to their medical training.

Professors with deep, real-world experience

Emmanuella, in her first semester at USC, takes two classes. One centers around the diseases of aging with an emphasis on cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The other focuses on older adults with multiple chronic conditions.

The highlights of her courses so far are her professors — both practicing physicians — and the experience they share with the students. Having trained in a foreign country, Emmanuella is soaking up the details they provide about the medical system in the U.S.

For example, Karlton Wong is a hematologist-oncologist. His class focuses on clinical practices for examining older adults. Roberto Vicinanza is a geriatrician who teaches about the biochemical theories of aging. In class, he also shares his experience working with the geriatric population in Italy.  Emmanuella says, “The professors can answer all my deep questions regarding the medical field. I can also ask for extra time to have a discussion with them.”

Emmanuella enjoys the interactive nature of her classes, both of which involve student presentations throughout the semester. Presentations enable her to understand the subject so she can present clearly and be ready for questions.

A future in medical gerontology

For now, Emmanuella is in a happy place. In addition to school, she works part-time as a medical assistant at an outpatient vascular center. There, she helps out in the front office scheduling appointments. She also performs physical exams under the supervision of the physician.

Emmanuella also volunteers for the I Did Something Good Today Foundation. This Los Angeles-based nonprofit helps fight social isolation among older adults. “We have warm, personal conversations with older adults and place referrals if they are in crisis,” she says.

Long term, Emmanuella’s goal is to practice medicine in the U.S. as a geriatrician. She says, “Maybe it’s because of my close relationship with my grandma, but I understand what older adults want. I know how to communicate with them and treat them respectfully. Like some of my peers who love working with children, I love working with older adults.”

To learn more about the Master of Arts in Medical Gerontology degree program at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, call us at (213) 740-5156.

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