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First-of-its-Kind Study Offers New Clues About Racial Health Disparities

By Diversity, Featured
A study by USC Davis School Assistant Professor Cleopatra Abdou and LMU Associate Professor Adam Fingerhut suggests that the persistent health disparities between different races may partially result from anxiety regarding negative racial stereotypes while receiving healthcare. It was recently published in the "American Psychological Association journal Cultural Diversity and…
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USC Leonard Davis MSG Student, Alexander Woodman, receives Academic Support Peer Achievement Award

By Diversity, Featured, Honors and Awards, Student Profile

Alex Woodman's Picture

Alexander Woodman, a student in the Master of Science in Gerontology program was recently awarded an Academic Support Peer Achievement Award for significant contributions advising and tutoring students who craved the opportunity to transfer to USC from other colleges and universities around the world. As a former Bruin who has flourished at USC, Alexander enjoys opening the door of opportunity for ambitious people who want to join the Trojan family.

Prior to coming to USC, Alexander built his career developing and facilitating culturally and socially-diverse intercultural discussions among academics studying social justices and cultural diversity. He worked closely with scholars from Thailand, Cambodia, France, and the United Arab Emirates to develop research papers studying public health and social issues facing local populations and migrants to these countries now facing minority status. He gained a passion for Autopathography, an experience where older adults explore how their health issues affect their daily lives. This experience opened his eyes to the reality of aging, and inspired his interest in research on aging.

Alexander is writing a research paper now, in collaboration with Dr. Aaron Hagedorn, analyzing data he collected in Thailand using surveys that investigate the health and social needs of migrants in Thailand accessing local health care resources. He plans to eventually become a scholar focused on issues of gerontology, global health, and life –span development. Alexander will spend his summer at Harvard University working collaboratively with faculty at Harvard School of Public Health on a research project. He enjoys mentoring and advising students as part of their and his professional development and interest in academic leadership.

Alexander is grateful to the scholarship donors who have made his dream of learning from the best and brightest in the field of Aging possible.

USC Davis Postdoc Links Air Pollutants to Diminished Senior Brain Function

By Diversity, Featured, Student Profile


At first, USC’s large, interdisciplinary series of studies into air pollution and brain health seemed outside the wheelhouse of USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology postdoc Jennifer Ailshire, a sociologist and demographer.

After leading researcher Caleb E. Finch tapped her to contribute to the massive project, however, she found an unexpected and extremely valuable niche. By conducting the first study to show how exposure to air pollution influences cognitive function in a national sample of older men and women, Ailshire found that living in areas of high air pollution is indeed an environmental risk to seniors’ brain health.

“The Ailshire study shows the unexpectedly adverse effects of air pollutants on brain function in US elderly,” said Finch, a University Professor and holder of the ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging at the USC Leonard Davis School. “Her multidisciplinary approach is a model for analyzing the complex interactions of location and outcomes of aging.”

“This is a new area of research for me, so having a group of scholars with such diversity of expertise to learn from has been tremendously helpful,” Ailshire said. “I credit Dr. Finch for his vision in creating such a vibrant and diverse community of scholars organized around an issue that is of great interest not only to researchers but also to policy makers and the public.”

Along with additional papers on longevity factors and financial health, Ailshire presented her findings at a poster session at the 65th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in San Diego, noting that her findings are especially pertinent to Southern California.

“I hope this research draws more attention to the adverse effects of air pollution on population health, and particularly the health of older adults,” she said. “This issue is especially relevant for the Los Angeles area where pollution levels are so high, far above national levels and EPA standards, and the population of older adults is growing so rapidly.”

Besides providing a valuable public health service, Ailshire’s study also highlights how gerontological research encompasses many fields and impacts every living—and therefore aging—person.

“Jennifer is very wise to have broadened her scope and to draw on the multidisciplinary resources here at USC,” said Eileen Crimmins, the USC Leonard Davis School AARP Chair holder and Ailshire’s preceptor. “What she has found has important implications for all of us.”

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