Greetings from the new deputy director!
I am delighted to be here at the nation’s top agency for the science of aging. As a practicing geriatrician, palliative care physician, and researcher, NIA has long been at the intersection of all my career interests — and many of my personal ones. I’ve worked for decades to improve the lives of older people with serious illness and assist their families and caregivers. I see my new position as the logical next step in my efforts to advance innovation and equity in patient care and research.
In my career, I’ve studied how multiple factors affect treatment intensity in people with dementia and other serious illnesses. I’ve partnered with the NIA IMPACT Collaboratory to improve care and health outcomes for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and to support their caregivers. I’m also dedicated to improving access to (and public awareness of) the comfort and compassion of palliative care, which can be an important addition to disease-focused treatment throughout the entire course of a serious illness.
As a former NIA grantee, and having had support from an NIH R01 grant, the NIA Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers program, a K24 mid-career mentoring award, and training funding, I’m humbled to now be serving alongside so many exemplary and dedicated colleagues. I’ve also served as a study section chair for NIH grant reviews, so I’m well aware of the hard work required on that side of grants management.
Diversity matters for aging research
Many of my top goals as deputy director will revolve around improving health equity and understanding and mitigating the lifelong health impact of differences in social experiences and personal backgrounds. Despite so many advances in medicine, too often health outcomes and the quality of patient care are affected by structural inequities related to a person’s race, ethnicity, or ZIP code, among other factors.
I’ll also be focused on increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) for the extramural and intramural workforce. Supporting different voices and perspectives not only makes for stronger teams, but also fortifies our interdisciplinary science. This applies to underrepresented racial and ethnic populations and gender identities and other groups historically excluded from careers in science.
In the two years prior to joining NIA, I was part of an NIH Common Fund Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) Program Cohort U54 grant, which, as part of the NIH UNITE initiative, is committed to building a culture of DEIA by supporting talented early-career investigators. As deputy director, I will continue strengthening NIA’s work with NIH UNITE, which is leading broad efforts to reduce barriers to DEIA throughout the biomedical workforce.
Training the next generation of aging researchers
I was also fortunate to receive a Paul B. Beeson Emerging Leaders Career Development Award in Aging at a crucial point in my career growth. I understand the vital importance of training grants and mentorship for early-career scientists. Studies have shown that scientists who are parents of young children — mothers, in particular — and investigators from minoritized populations, are more likely to have their careers derailed at crucial stages.
Recruiting a broad array of talented new investigators from all disciplines into the field of aging research and providing better support for promising early career scientists will be other areas of emphasis for me. I hope to sharpen our long-term strategy through a DEIA lens to further stimulate interest in science and public health careers among middle, high school, and college students; and to encourage established investigators from other fields to join our efforts to improve the health and well-being of all older adults.
Please reach out
Above all, I just feel lucky to be here doing what I love as part of such a talented team. I look forward to meeting more of you as we build upon the already impressive achievements of NIA. If you have comments or suggestions, please leave a note below!