People

Faculty

Donna Benton, PhD

Donna Benton, PhD, is a Research Associate Professor of Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. She received her graduate training in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and was a Gero-psychological postdoctoral fellow at USC/Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center. Dr. Benton is the Director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center/ Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center. She has over 30 years of experience in working with families and the community, to help improve services and support to persons with dementia. She has served as a commissioner on the California Commission on Aging (CCOA) and served as chair of the legislative sub-committee for many years.

Zachary Gassoumis, PhD

Zach Gassoumis, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor of Gerontology and co-directs the Secure Old Age lab. He has been involved in gerontology research at the USC Leonard Davis School since 2006, earning his PhD in Gerontology from USC following a BSc in Natural Sciences (Psychology & Anthropology) from the University of Durham (England). His research in the Secure Old Age lab has focused on various aspects of quality of life for older adults, with specific concentration on the application of quantitative methodologies to large, population-based datasets.

Zach engages in two primary substantive areas of population-based research. The first involves the financial security of racial/ethnic minority and immigrant populations, with an emphasis on naturalization and the Latino baby boomer generational cohort. The second substantive area is elder abuse, with emphases including etiology, lifecourse patterns, and outcomes. Zach also participates in and advises on many other projects within and beyond the Secure Old Age lab, including: improving supports, services, and service delivery for family caregivers; predicting transitions from nursing facilities to the community; developing an HCBS assessment tool for use within the Medi-Cal program; assessing the impact of end-of-life care across healthcare settings; characterizing injuries among older adults and reported victims of elder abuse; and evaluating an elder abuse intervention, the elder abuse forensic center model.

Kathleen Wilber, PhD, LCSW

Kate Wilber is the director of the Secure Old Age lab and co-directs both the USC Family Caregiver Support Center and the National Center on Elder Abuse. Dr. Wilber’s research has focused on improving the quality of life of people with chronic physical and mental health conditions, by improving the formal health and long term care delivery system. Her work on collaborative relationships among providers has examined cost effectiveness and health outcomes of different service delivery structures. This research includes outcomes research for older adults in managed care, the development and evaluation of chronic care models that link acute and long-term care, and the testing and translation of evidence-based long-term care interventions into practice settings.

In addition to health care, Dr. Wilber’s research has focused on protective services including the identification and treatment of elder abuse, adult protective services, guardianship and conservatorship, and alternative supportive and surrogate decision-making approaches. She has authored over 100 articles, books, and book chapters. Dr. Wilber regularly teaches courses in public policy, administration, systems management, and long-term care.

Predoctoral Students

Elizabeth Avent, MSG

Elizabeth is a first year PhD student at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Georgia State University in 2012, and her Master of Arts in Gerontology at Georgia State University in 2016. Her research interests include elder abuse, particularly the experiences of victims of late-life intimate partner violence, and improving and developing appropriate services for victims through community and policy interventions.

Elizabeth has worked at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, assisting with research on improving care transitions of patients age 65 and older being discharged from the hospital. She has also worked at the Georgia Council on Aging, assisting with planning and executing the quarterly meeting of the Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly in which aging issues are selected to advocate to policymakers.

Gerson Galdamez, BSG

Gerson Galdamez is a second year doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology. He completed his undergraduate degree in Human Aging and Development at USC in 2016, during which his research focused on economic security in late life among Latino immigrant groups. This research primarily involved detecting income dynamics across the lifecourse, and how these dynamics vary by citizenship and ethnicity.

Gerson’s work in the Secure Old Age lab focuses on Latino economic security and elder abuse. He engages in projects focused on the effectiveness of elder abuse interventions, and hopes to develop further research on legal and criminological aspects of elder abuse.

Haley Gallo, BS

Haley Gallo is a doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology, with a minor in Gerontology, from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2017. Her research interests include long-term services and supports and developing policies that enable older adults to maintain independence and stay engaged with society. She is currently working on the Purposeful Aging Los Angeles Initiative, a project that seeks to create livable communities for all ages.

Haley’s previous experiences include working in the Drug Discovery Lab and the Memory and Lifespan Cognition Lab at UCLA. She also served as the Executive Secretary for the Task Force on Research and Development for Technology to Support Aging Adults (Tech4Aging) in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Laura Rath, MSG

Laura Rath is a doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology. She received her Bachelor of Science in Gerontology, with minors in Biology and Bioethics from the University of Southern California in 2000; and a Masters of Science in Gerontology from the University of Southern California in 2002. Her research interests include promoting a secure old age for all people, improving the overall health and quality of life for older adults, and family caregiving.

Since 2005, she has been a Program Officer at the Archstone Foundation, a private grantmaking organization, whose mission is to contribute towards the preparation of society in meeting the needs of an aging population. At the Foundation, her duties have included the management of the Elder Abuse and Neglect Initiative, the End-of-Life and Palliative Care Initiative, the Depression in Late-Life Initiative, Family Caregiving and other projects in the foundation’s responsive grantmaking portfolio. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was the Coordinator for the Orange County Elder Abuse Forensic Center, at the University of California, Irvine during its initial three-year development.

Currently, she is serving a three-year term on the Board of Directors for Grantmakers In Aging (GIA), a membership organization of funders that is a national catalyst for philanthropy, with a common dedication to improving the experience of aging. She lives in Seal Beach, California with her husband and two practically perfect daughters.

Julia Rowan, MSG

Julia Margaret Rowan (née Wysong) is a doctoral student at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Her research interests are evaluation of elder abuse interventions, focusing on multidisciplinary and person-centered approaches. Julia also coordinates the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) in Ventura County, a multidisciplinary team that provides guidance and support on difficult cases of elder and dependent adult financial exploitation and fraud.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2010, and a Master of Science in Gerontology in 2013. From 2013 to 2016, Julia worked as a research analyst for Ventura County Behavioral Health Quality Improvement. In 2016, she concluded an evaluation of Ventura County’s implementation of California’s mandated initiative to improve delivery of trauma-informed therapeutic services to children and families within Child Protective Services.

Julia’s goal is to contribute to innovative strategies for the prevention of elder abuse and neglect through applied evaluation, with emphasis on collaboration with service providers, advocates, and policy makers.

Graduate Students

Kelly Ford

Kelly Ford is a graduate student researcher at the Secure Old Age lab. Ford’s current area of study involves exploring ways to mitigate social disconnection among older adults, including through the use of technology and social media.

Mengzhao Yan

Mengzhao Yan (闫孟昭) is currently a research intern at the Secure Old Age lab. He is a graduate student of the aging services management program. Before coming to USC, he gained a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Beijing Foreign Studies University in China and then worked there for two years as a research affairs coordinator and an assistant researcher. Yan started to conduct research when he was an undergraduate student. He has authored and co-authored nine papers in academic journals or proceedings, presented in six national or international academic conferences, and received six academic grants either from the Ministry of Education of China or from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Yan also likes Chinese performance art, especially Peking opera, crosstalk (xiangsheng), and kuaiban, a traditional Chinese form of oral storytelling similar to rap. Apart from studying and conducting academic research, Yan hopes to introduce Chinese art overseas and play a positive role in promoting Chinese culture.

Kyle Otazu

Other Students and Volunteers

Danielle Kaiser

Danielle Kaiser is a second year undergraduate student studying Public Policy with an emphasis in Health Policy at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, and is also pursuing a minor in Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School. So far, she has done research with the Secure Old Age Lab regarding both family caregiving and elder abuse. She hopes to further research how the two correlate in order to help create legislation to make caregiving less of a burden.

Former Lab Members

  • Gretchen Alkema, PhD, LCSW (2002-2007): Vice President of Policy and Communications, The SCAN Foundation – link
  • Marguerite DeLiema, PhD (2010-2015): Postdoctoral Researcher, Stanford Center on Longevity – link
  • Katy Fike, PhD (2004-2009): Founder, Aging 2.0; Founding Partner, Generator Ventures – LinkedIn
  • Melanie Gironda, PhD, MSW (2011-2017): Director of Care Management, WISE & Healthy Aging – link
  • Brian Kuang, BS (2015-2016): Staff Consultant in Program Improvement, EY – LinkedIn
  • Adria E. Navarro, PhD, LCSW (2006-2011): Assistant Professor of Clinical Family Medicine, University of Southern California – link
  • Charlene M. Sullivan, MEd, MSc (2015-2016): Assistant Director of the Faculty at the Canada School of Public Service
  • Genevieve Waterman, MASM (2015-2017): Program Associate in Economic Security, National Council on Aging – LinkedIn
  • Tingjian “Jessie” Yan, PhD (2005-2009): Director of Health Services Research, Phar LLC – LinkedIn
  • Yongjie Yon, PhD (2013-2017): Technical Officer of Violence and Injury Prevention and Healthy Ageing, World Health Organization – LinkedIn
  • Natalie Kaiser, MSG (2014-2018): Risk Analyst, Keck Medicine of USC – LinkedIn

Other Collaborators

Diana C. Homeier, MD

Diana Homeier is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and has a joint appointment as Clinical Associate Professor of Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology. Dr. Homeier is the director of both the LAC+USC Adult Protection Team and the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center and is Principal Investigator of a National Institute of Justice-funded study to explore forensic markers of physical elder abuse. She is also a practicing geriatric physician.

Laura Mosqueda, MD

Laura Mosqueda, MD, is a professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. She also serves as Associate Dean of Primary Care and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine. She directs the National Center on Elder Abuse which provides information regarding policy, research, training and resources related to neglect and exploitation for policy makers, professional and the public. In 2003, Dr. Mosqueda founded the first Elder Abuse Forensic Center in the United States in an effort to build teams that collaborate across expertise to assist with the evaluation and interventions for complicated cases of suspected elder abuse. Throughout her professional career, she has been involved in extensive research in the field. She is also devoted to the care of older adults by bolstering interprofessional teamwork and enhancing the education of healthcare professional students. While teaching professionals in medicine, criminal justice and social services, she continues to see victims of abuse and neglect in her role as a physician. Dr. Mosqueda has written and lectured extensively on topics in the area of elder care and has been published in top scientific journals and textbooks. She likes cats.

Michael B. Nichol, PhD

Michael B. Nichol, PhD, holds an appointment as Professor of Health Policy at the USC Price School of Public Policy and joint appointments as Professor of Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and Professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy in the School of Pharmacy.  In addition, he directs the Graduate Health Programs at the USC Price School. Dr. Nichol maintains an active research program enabled by federal and corporate grants. This includes his role as Principal Investigator of a National Institute of Justice-funded project to assess the cost effectiveness of the Elder Abuse Forensic Center model. He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles and abstracts on a variety of health topics. He regularly consults for pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, as well as large physician groups within California.

Debra Saliba, MD, MPH, AGSF

Debra Saliba, MD, MPH, AGSF, is a physician with the VA GRECC and serves as the Associate Director for Education for the VA HSR&D Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy. Dr. Saliba also holds the Anna & Harry Borun Endowed Chair in Geriatrics at UCLA and directs the UCLA/Jewish Home Borun Center for Gerontological Research. She is also a senior natural scientist at RAND and a member of the American Geriatrics Society Board of Directors. A recognized leader in geriatrics research and quality, Dr. Saliba has served as an expert on multiple national advisory panels addressing quality of care for older adults across care settings. Her research has created tools and knowledge that can be applied to improving quality of care and quality of life for vulnerable elders across the care continuum. A major theme of this work has been giving voice to elders in assessments of their health and healthcare, as demonstrated in her development of the VES-13 survey and revision of the Minimum Data Set (MDS 3.0) for nursing homes.

Fernando M. Torres-Gil, PhD, MSW

Fernando Torres-Gil, PhD, MSW, is a Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy at UCLA, Director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, and an Adjunct Professor of Gerontology at USC. His research spans the important topics of health and long-term care, disability, entitlement reform, and the politics of aging. Since its inception in 2005, he has served as the Principal Investigator of the Ford Foundation-funded Latinos & Economic Security project. In addition to his academic pursuits, Professor Torres-Gil has an extensive portfolio of public service. He earned his first presidential appointment in 1978 when President Carter appointed him to the Federal Council on Aging, shortly after which he was selected as a White House Fellow and served as a Special Assistant to the then-Secretary of HEW, Patricia Harris. He was appointed (with Senate Confirmation) by President Clinton as the first-ever U.S. Assistant Secretary on Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2010, Professor Torres-Gil received his third presidential appointment (with Senate Confirmation) by President Obama as Vice Chair of the National Council on Disability. He has served in various leadership roles in state and local-level government and continues to provide important leadership in philanthropy and non-profit organizations, including as a board member for AARP.