All posts by Global Health Aging

Five Questions With Implementation Scientist Beth Prusaczyk

Name: Beth Prusaczyk
Job: Instructor of Medicine and Health Informatics
Country: United States
Age: 34

Beth Prusaczyk is an Instructor at the Institute for Informatics and in General Medical Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She is an implementation scientist who specializes in improving healthcare for older adults and other vulnerable populations by understanding how to better implement existing research findings into real-world practice and policy through the use of healthcare data and systems and team science. Dr. Prusaczyk completed her postdoctoral training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She received her PhD and MSW from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. She also received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Webster University. As a 2018-2019 Health and Aging Policy Fellow and American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, Dr. Prusaczyk worked with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Find her on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website

On bridging policy, research, and practice:

“My work is focused on taking research findings and getting them used by practitioners and policymakers. I study that process and find ways to make it happen faster and better, and with better success. It’s the science of dissemination and implementation. And I do this all with a focus on older adults’ healthcare! I’m absolutely thrilled because my research interests include broadly what are the strategies to improve the implementation of evidence-based practices for older adults in the healthcare system, including the effect of interpersonal team dynamics on the implementation process and the use of existing healthcare data and system science methods such as social network analysis to inform and speed the implementation process. I currently serve as Secretary of the Society for Implementation Research Collaboration (SIRC). ”

Dr. Prusaczyk’s areas of research




On how health systems can support patients with dementia and their caregivers:

“One thing we found in our work is that hospital providers weren’t prioritizing education to patients with dementia or their caregivers. And this wasn’t exactly because the patients had dementia but more because patients with dementia were more often discharging to a skilled nursing facility, rehabilitation hospital, nursing home, etc. They weren’t as likely to go back home by themselves or with their caregiver. So the hospital providers felt like because the patient was going straight into the care of another healthcare professional, educating the patient or their caregiver about their diagnoses, symptoms to watch out for, medication side effects, etc. were not a priority. But, because we know older adults with dementia are at a higher risk for readmission and adverse events after hospital discharge, our research suggests that maybe hospital providers should consider prioritizing education for these patients and their caregivers so that they can advocate for themselves when they are at the nursing home, rehab hospital, etc.”

On her experience as a fellow in the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging:

“I was extremely lucky to be chosen as a 2018-2019 Health and Aging Policy Fellow, where I worked with the Senate Special Committee on Aging with Ranking Member Senator Bob Casey. This was an incredible experience to learn how policymakers use research findings when creating and negotiating policies for older adults. The training we receive as fellows and the network we become a part of are – as they tell you when you begin and it’s true – life-changing!”

As founder of Implementation Science & Aging Research (ISAR) Special Interest Group, Dr. Prusaczyk plans to bring together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners interested in using dissemination and implementation science to improve the health and lives of older adults and their caregivers.

On how her journalism experience informs her research:

“I think one thing that helps me be that bridge is my former career as a journalist. I loved being a journalist but newspapers (outside of the few major ones in the US) aren’t read as much today as they were 50 years ago, which means there aren’t many journalism jobs out there. While I wouldn’t trade my journalism experience for anything (it has been immensely helpful in my research career), when I decided to leave the field because of the poor job opportunities, it really was a pivotal moment because that’s when I found research and started on the path that has led me to where I am today. I didn’t take the traditional path to academia but as I get older and further along in my career I realize how much this unique path actually helps me!”

On her future goals:

“My goals are to become a successful researcher but also to become a bridge between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. I think each has their own perspectives and expertise but we still operate in silos when, in fact, we need to all work together if we are going to improve healthcare. I think because I have seen all three positions I can help bridge those silos.”

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I didn’t take the traditional path to academia but as I get older and further along in my career I realize how much this unique path actually helps me!

Beth Prucazyk, PhD, MSW

Five Questions With Data Scientist Crystal Grant

Name: Crystal Grant
Job: Genetics PhD Researcher and Science Advocate
Country: United States and the Netherlands
Age: 27

Crystal Grant is a PhD candidate in Genetics at Emory University. As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, she uses bioinformatics tools to characterize the molecular changes in humans with age. Originally from NYC, Crystal completed her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, where she earned a BA in Biological Sciences with a minor in Anthropology. Throughout her graduate studies, Crystal has advocated for graduate students as President of Emory’s Graduate Student Council, volunteered with K-12 science outreach and education initiatives around Atlanta, and mentored underrepresented students. In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga, exploring museums, and traveling. In her future career, Crystal aims to combine her interest in crafting evidence-based science and technology policies with her doctoral experience working with big data. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and her website.

On why she chose to the biology of aging:

“My decision to study aging was a result of the lab I chose at Emory University. PhD students enter the university before choosing a lab and then do three 3-month rotations through different labs before choosing one. I had just come from working in a mouse lab on a leukemia-like disease as part of my gap year. While I liked getting to work on a human disease, I disliked having to sacrifice mice, so I went into graduate school hoping to find a lab that studied a human condition using bioinformatics tools–meaning I’d just be working on the computer, not with any animal models. And I found just that in the Conneely Lab!

I spoke early in my first year to Dr. Karen Conneely (my now advisor) so she could tell me more about her lab. She studied epigenetics (which is the field that looks at how the environment interacts with our genetics) and had a student in her lab who was using this approach to study evolutionary theories of aging. It was a fascinating conversation that got me excited about her research and the prospect of joining her lab. She then told me more about what would become my first paper—that the environment around our DNA changes in a way that is so predictable and linear that these changes can be used to predict the age of the person with very high accuracy across several different tissues! Because of this accuracy and the correlation of someone’s predicted age based on their DNA marks with their actual time to mortality, it was suggested that looking at this mark on DNA (called DNA methylation) could be a biomarker of aging–essentially meaning that it was a better predictor of someone’s health than their actual chronological age. I was sold and luckily, she let me join her lab.

Since joining Karen’s lab, I’ve learned a lot more about this field and I’m always excited to see the new things we’re able to learn about the process of aging. Before I began studying aging, I thought, like many people, that we understood it well–but the more I learn about it, the more I realize how little we understand this process that we are all going through! But I think the promise of biomarkers of aging could help revolutionize medical treatment. It has the potential to allow us to know exactly what environmental factors and behaviors age us faster in addition to who is more at risk of disease development and early mortality.

Crystal won the Poster Prize (and 500 EUR) at the Ageing, Health & Rejuvenation conference.

On her yearlong research fellowship in the Netherlands:

“It was a cool experience. I was able to go because I am an NSF Graduate Research Fellow; fellows can apply for this additional program, Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW). The goal of GROW is to get more American scientists collaborating internationally. I’m super grateful to have been given that opportunity by the NSF. And finding my lab in the Netherlands resulted from me attending an international conference and having dinner with Dr. Eline Slagboom who put me in touch with Dr. Bas Heijmans. Through GROW, I worked in the Heijmans Lab in Leiden for a year on an interesting aging project. Others in the field seemed to agree, I attended an aging conference and many people at my poster were excited about our approach to developing a new biomarker of aging. However, the marker I developed in my 12 months of work did not appear an improvement over existing ones, but I’m hopeful that, once another graduate student picks up the project, they may make more headway on this project given more time.

Something else I learned was just how similar the process of doing science is in Europe compared to the US–the main differences were work life balance (which I think they are much better at there) and that graduate students are recognized and employees and treated as such. I thought it was amazing that everyone was entitled to 5 weeks of vacation each year and that grads were given a raise every few years to acknowledge how much more proficient they had gotten at their craft. However, I was surprised to learn that many of their contracts run out before they are finished writing their thesis, so they end up having to write it while at their new job–something that seemed very stressful to me. Another difference seemed to be the scale of biobanks (these are tissue samples from people volunteering to be part of research projects) in Europe compared to the US. Because of historical factors and mistreatment by US scientists of minorities in research studies of the past, it’s much harder to get Americans to participate in research in the US compared to Europeans, which is unfortunate and something scientists and policy makers in the US need to address.”

On becoming a science activist in graduate school:

“In graduate school, I’ve been very active both at Emory and on a larger scale at Capitol Hill in DC. More locally, I’ve been passionate about empowering graduate students at Emory. Especially now that I’ve seen how the PhD is so different in other parts of the world, I’m more well versed in ways American universities could improve the graduate experience. At Emory, I’m on a task force with the goal of improving the graduate experience for biology PhD students. Additionally, I’ve been part of a graduate organization that works to educate students on how they can have an impact on policy-makers, specifically in communicating the importance of the federal government funding for science research. This organization, the Emory Science Advocacy Network (EScAN), has given me experience in science policy and knowledge of careers that marry my interests in science research with my desire to maintain my civic engagement.

Through the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other professional societies, I’ve gotten to travel to DC to talk to Georgia legislators about the importance of funding science research at the federal level—which was a great experience. I think more scientists need to work on being advocates for what we do and practice talking about it with non-scientists. If the public and law-makers can better understand why what we do is so important, they’ll feel more comfortable trusting both us as researchers and the scientific findings that we publish.”

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Crystal was profiled as part of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Member Spotlight. In the interview, she talked about on her experiences in both genetics research and activism during graduate school. Read more.

On her future goals:

“This January, I’ll be starting a 3-month science policy fellowship at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine through the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program. I’m SUPER excited about this opportunity since working in policy has been a goal of mine since starting my PhD. I’m also really interested in careers in Data Science since this is essentially what I’ve done these last 5 years in my PhD. I find I really enjoyed working with data to uncover trends and draw conclusions and then communicating these findings, especially to non-technical audiences.

For now, my main goal is to finish my PhD sometime in early 2020 and find a job that I really love. My ideal career would allow me to combine my interests in analyzing data and contributing to crafting evidence-based policies (and hopefully let me still travel).”

On her love of travel and favorite places:

“I love to travel, I get stir crazy if I’m in one place too long. My year of research in the Netherlands was a great experience in part because Europe is so easy to travel on a budget–I went to as many places as I could staying in cheap hostels and bargain hunting for cheap flights. I went to: Dublin, Ireland for St Patrick’s Day; Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest; Paris, France for AfroPunk; London, England for the Notting Hill Carnival; and many more. While, I still think Amsterdam is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, I found the sights in Vietnam (specially Ha Long Bay and the rice fields of Sa Pa) to be the most beautiful to visit. But my hands down favorite place to visit is Venice, Italy.”

Crystal talks about aging research to her department.

Before I began studying aging, I thought, like many people, that we understood it well–but the more I learn about it, the more I realize how little we understand this process that we are all going through!

Crystal Grant, PhD Candidate

Five Questions With Public Health Registrar Rory McGill

Name: Rory McGill
Job: Public Health Specialty Registrar
Country: Ireland and England
Age: 33

Rory McGill is currently training as a Public Health Specialty Registrar in the North West of England. He is a health and social psychologist by background and worked as a Postdoc in academia upon completing his PhD in psychology from Queen’s University Belfast. Dr. McGill was born and raised in Derry, Ireland but is currently based in Liverpool, England. His research interests include the wider determinants of health and the practical application of the social sciences. His hobbies include all things horror and video game related, which can be explained partly by being a Derry native which is the global capital of Halloween! He is passionate about using his platform to engage with wide audiences about the causes of health and the importance of well being and connecting with others that goes beyond academic journal articles.  Find him on Twitter and Instagram.  

On his training as a public health consultant:

“Training to be a Public Health consultant is a very exciting opportunity! The training programme began specifically for clinicians to develop their specialty in public health and become consultants. However, this was then opened to health professionals with non-medical backgrounds as public health is more than just the treatment of illness or management of communicable diseases. It includes everything that can impact upon health, which if you think about it is almost everything from the food we eat to where we spend our time and how we feel. Having such a diverse curriculum means two days are never the same, which I love! I completed my PhD in psychology back in 2011 and had no idea what public health was. I worked as a postdoc within the field of psychology before taking an academic position in public health as it dovetailed nicely with my own research on eating behaviours. This experience made me certain that this was the field I wanted to be a part of. Being able to apply the academic theory in practice and see population health improve is so fulfilling!”

Dr. McGill was a guest on Homo Sapiens podcast with hosts Chris and Will. He talked about why our LGB elders are missing out on vital healthcare services. Listen here.




On one surprising fact about older LGB in your research:

“I am passionate about the health of our ageing population, particularly our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) elders. I am a gay man who is very grateful for the work our older LGBT generation have done in fighting for our rights to live as normalised and accepted members of society. However, there is a disproportionate focus on youth culture when considering the LGBT community. While this is a vital consideration, older generations can become forgotten about. My research examined the care experiences of older LGB people in Merseyside (UK) and their thoughts on the future. There is a lack of academic research and UK policy consideration involving older LGB people. The Office for National Statistics estimate that 2 percent of the UK population identify as LGB. Older LGB people experience multiple disadvantage living in a hetero-normative society, with poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts. This is worsened by a long-standing oppression which has shaped the interactions of older LGB people with informal (care from family and friends/social interactions) and formal care (medical care from a professional). The implication of this is widened health inequalities arising from sub-optimum care, yet little research focusses specifically on older LGB health. My research found that older people did not want to be defined by their sexual orientation. They wanted to be valued as a whole person when receiving any form of care or support, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it! What was surprising for me was the differences in viewpoint by gender. The older women I spoke to were not as accepted as gay men into the “gay scene” of the 1960’s and 1970’s, forcing them to develop their own close support networks. This resulted in a preference for care exclusively from female carers and in contexts predominantly female. This highlights that older LGB people are not a homogenous group and should not be considered as such!”

On making health systems inclusive for older LGBT:

“It is important to note that I did not include older trans people in my research as there are very important biological considerations necessary when serving our trans elders, such as training for healthcare professionals to carry out the appropriate screening checks, e.g. carrying out prostate examinations in older trans women. This is an area which needs to be explored more in depth! From my research, it was shocking to hear some of the care experiences had by older LGB people. Some older gay men were tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) despite not having had a sexual partner in decades, and older women having had pregnancy tests despite never having had sexual contact with a man. Their clinicians failed to hear them and tested them based on stereotypical assumptions which made them feel isolated, stigmatised and alone. This is completely avoidable and does not require huge investment for our overstretched healthcare services. Front line staff should treat anyone coming through the door as an individual and not with preconceived and outdated assumptions. Older people are vulnerable, and when you add any other minority status to ageing, it makes them doubly vulnerable and this should be a consideration within induction training for care staff, no matter what minority group it may be.”

On whether or not older LGBT care homes are needed:

“The idea of older LGBT care homes is a very interesting and contested concept. It has come about due the examples of older LGBT people having very negative experiences while being cared for. I read one case study about an older lady who was with her female partner for decades and who since passed away. She then wasn’t well enough to live independently and needed to move into a care facility. Her carer was reportedly homophobic and as a result, the older lady hid all evidence of her lifetime spent with her partner until she herself passed away. She essentially went back into the closet in the twilight of her life. It really stuck with me and got me involved in this research in the beginning. I was initially surprised to hear from my participants that a strong majority were very much averse to the idea of an older LGBT exclusive carer home. They wanted to be cared for alongside members of their local community and not “ghettoised” and isolated among only other LGBT people. They reported this would only magnify the “othering” they have felt throughout their lives. Considerable more research needs to be carried out exploring this before large financial investment is provided in establishing such facilities. In my own opinion, having a more inclusive care home environment with a kitemark signifying the space being a safe one for LGBT people, coupled with more sensitivity training would be an ideal scenario.”

On his future goals:

“My current goal for the future is to complete my training and qualify as a public health consultant. I then would love to be able to influence policy at a national level to help shape how we consider LGBT ageing in terms of both prevention of ill health and the inclusive treatment of illness. I would also like to highlight and showcase the diversity in STEM by being an openly gay man who can hopefully inspire others like me to pursue their own goals!”

Having a more inclusive care home environment with a kitemark signifying the space being a safe one for LGBT people, coupled with more sensitivity training would be an ideal scenario.

Dr. Rory McGill, PhD, MPH, MFPH

Five Questions With Medical Scientist Aisha Bassett

Name: Aisha Bassett
Job: Pediatric Clinical Researcher
Country: United States, England, Bermuda
Age: 33

Aisha Bassett is a Senior Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working in clinical research in Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She was born and raised on the island of Bermuda. She obtained a BSc. Psychology at McGill University in Canada and her medical degree from Norwich Medical School in England. Her research interests include maternal-infant immunityvaccine efficacy and the maternal-infant microbiome. Her hobbies include singing, song-writing, composing on the piano and art. Dr. Bassett has had a vegan diet for over three years. She enjoys cooking and curating new plant-based recipes which combine her knowledge of nutrition and its role in disease prevention and health. She is passionate about using her knowledge and experience to help people live healthy and full lives by incorporating tasty and nutritional recipes into their diets. Find her on Instagram, and LinkedIn.

On why she chose to study medicine:    

“I remember being fascinated at a young age by this magical place called the hospital where my mom, who was a nurse, would disappear and then emerge with interesting stories about the people she met. After loosing my grandfather to a preventable disease, I became interested in how diseases develop, their complications and how they could be prevented. At age 13, I started volunteering at a hospital in Bermuda and did so until I graduated high school. I enjoyed getting to know the patients and felt natural compassion towards them, several of whom had become resident in the hospital due to chronic diseases. The stories they would tell me made each patient and their condition memorable and fueled my desire to understand the underlying mechanisms of the diseases I was seeing.

Seeing first-hand preventative disease such as diabetes, that particularly affected Blacks and minorities, and the plethora of complications that developed further fueled my desire to study medicine. As a medical student, I began to learn that most deaths in the western world were due to preventable diseases. I became interested not only in how to treat the disease but how to stop or reverse the disease process and how we develop protection from diseases starting in infancy, the topic of my current research.

The research I am performing in the Pannaraj Lab at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is investigating how to make vaccines work better. One such vaccine that we are researching is the Rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus is a leading cause of diarrhea in children and results in roughly 130,000 deaths in children worldwide every year. While the vaccine is very effective in high-income countries, it is much less effective in low- and middle-income countries. We are looking at the role of breast milk and the infant microbiome, the trillions of organisms that live in us, in how the vaccine works in different parts of the world.”

On her experience in medicine across countries: 

“The clinical experience I have has come from working in various healthcare settings, namely in Bermuda, Canada, Belize, England and the US. Each healthcare system had similarities in terms of leading causes of mortality and morbidity that were preventable through diet and lifestyle factors such as Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes and certain cancers. Across all countries, differences in access to the resources, socioeconomic status, and patient education play a role in access to health resources. In some countries, the cost of healthcare is a deterrent to seeking medical attention, in others, the understanding of when and where to seek healthcare impacts utilization of resources. Working in various settings has taught me the importance of the cultural and socioeconomic factors involved in the health of individuals and communities. These experiences solidified my desire to work to reduce global health outcome disparities.”

A couple of plant-based meals that Dr. Bassett cooks and curates on her Instagram.

On the role our diet plays in disease prevention:    

“When thinking of disease prevention, I adopt a holistic approach. There are several factors that play a role in prevention including diet, daily exercise, dental hygiene and attending regular checkups with your doctor. Many of the top causes of deaths such as heart disease, stroke and cancers are due to lifestyle factors including diet, that include consumption of processed food, refined sugars, and animal products such as meat and dairy as a main source of nutrition.”

Scientists are discovering more about the role of the microbiome in disease prevention and development. The hygiene hypothesis explains the role of the microbiome in eczema and allergies and explains why there has been an increase over the last few decades in allergic diseases, such as respiratory, skin, and food allergy. It explains that modern living conditions are very clean and so there is less microbe exposure early in life. This results in the immune system not being taught to be able to recognize and fight foreign organisms. In addition, an imbalance of the microbiome is known to affect the skins immune response in a way that predisposes to immune conditions, such as eczema. On the other hand, a healthy microbiome is reported to have a protective influence on the immune system. The development of the infant microbiome has been found to be influenced by early life exposure such as delivery method, breast milk ingestion, infant nutrition, and antibiotic use.

On the science behind the benefits of plant-based meals:

“Plant-based meals focus on foods primarily from plants. It means proportionally choosing more foods from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, beans and more. Plant-based meals are beneficial for many reasons. Some vegetables and fruits can reduce inflammation in our bodies. This is important for our health because inflammation, when it goes on for a long time, can lead to certain diseases. Eating foods that reduce inflammation or avoiding foods that cause inflammation, can promote health in the body. There are also substances in fruits and vegetables called phytonutrients. These phytonutrients have different roles. Some can actually ‘turn off’ gene that lead to cancer, which is simply an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Other phytonutrients can repair damage in our cells that would usually lead to disease states.

I have met so many people who have said to me, “I want to eat healthier, but I don’t know where to start.” People who want to make that change can often have a lot of information to sort through before they feel comfortable adding new foods to their diet. I started curating plant-based meals on Instagram to help people make food choices that would help them live a healthy life. As a doctor and researcher who has had a plant-based diet for over 2 decades, I enjoy sharing the meals I have created while also sharing nutritional facts about the foods I eat.

Regarding meal prepping and recipe development, the foundation of each meal is first ensuring it is balanced – that it has good portion of protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fat as well as vitamins and minerals. Then I consider what flavors, spices and textures would complement the meal. Next, I create something new or put a healthy spin on a well-known recipe by replacing certain ingredients with healthier ones. Lastly, I also consider how to make the meal colorful and appealing. This is important because so much of what we choose to eat is influenced by our senses, that is, how food is presented and how it tastes. Making nutritional meals that people want to eat is my goal, so that their bodies can have the fuel it needs for them to function at their best.”

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Diagram from a journal article showing factors that influence maternal breast milk microbiome and proposed mechanism of how breast milk may alter the infant gut microbiome and health outcome. The article was co-authored by Dr. Bassett and her colleagues. Learn more.

On her best advice to new mothers: 

“Motherhood can be an exciting time, but it can also come with navigating all the surprises that come with being a new mother. Many moms have concerns about what is normal for their baby from how much their baby is feeding to the changing colors of their stool. The best advice I have given to new moms is that I encourage them to use the resources around them to navigate challenges as they come so that concerns don’t build up. This includes talking with breastfeeding consultants, doctors, more experienced mothers as well as making use of their support systems so that they can engage in self-care while caring for their baby. Some moms just need to be reminded that every mother’s journey is different because every baby is unique and has its own special personality. I remind them that they are doing a good job even when they hit speed bumps on the road of motherhood.

For example, it is especially helpful for mothers to learn how breastfeeding and the microbiome are linked to health and longevity. Breast milk is a specialized secretion that provides many nutrients, antibodies, and microbes. Breast milk helps establish the gut microbiome. This microbiome plays a role in our metabolism, that is how well we can get the nutrients we need from the food we eat. It is also vital to educating the body’s natural defense system, the immune system. Breastfeeding also provides protection against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and is associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity. Having a healthy gut microbiome and immune system is a key part of health and longevity.”

I started curating plant-based meals on Instagram to help people make food choices that would help them live a healthy life.

Aisha Bassett, MBBS

Five Questions With Engineer Kayse Lee Maass

Name: Kayse Lee Maass
Job: Industrial Engineer
Country: United States
Age: 29

Kayse Lee Maass is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and leads the Operations Research and Social Justice lab at Northeastern University. She also currently holds a research appointment with the Information and Decision Engineering Program at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Maass’s research focuses on the application of operations research methodology to social justice, access, and equity issues within human trafficking, mental health, housing, and supply chain contexts. Her work is supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, centers interdisciplinary survivor-informed expertise, and has been used to inform policy and operational decisions at the local, national, and international levels. A recipient of multiple awards, she currently serves as the INFORMS Section on Location Analysis Secretary and is a member of the H.E.A.L. Trafficking Research Committee. Find her on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website

On why she chose to study engineering:

“When I was growing up, I was interested in a lot of social justice types of topics, but I also really loved math. I knew I wanted to do something with applied math. In college, I studied math and physics [I had some physics in high school and liked it], but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I wanted to tie in social justice with math, but I didn’t know how to do that until I took an operations research course in my senior year. That’s when I learned about the field that I’m in, which is industrial engineering.

I like to explain Industrial Engineering as the mathematics of decision making where we can look at things from a systems perspective. It’s nice because anything—any application or any topic that you think of—involves decision making. However, it wasn’t until I was pursuing a PhD in Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) from the University of Michigan that my mentors provided me with space and encouragement to explore how industrial engineering and social justice applications, like human trafficking, intertwined.”

On her self-care practices for a healthy lifestyle:

“I’ve been thinking about this [self-care] a lot lately. I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care. There are things I personally need to do for self-care, but we also need to make sure we design our systems and communities around making sure people have space to have healthy lifestyles.

As a professor, I work with a lot of students interested in pursuing a PhD or a career as a professor. I know that academia gives this idea that everyone’s always working, rarely has time for fun, and it’s very intense [which it is]. But, that’s not true for everyone in academia, and the assumption that it is true is one of the major barriers to creating an inclusive, diverse academy. I want students interested in academia to know that the field can be welcoming to people with diverse family needs or diverse health needs with different accessibility levels – but to do this I have to help create an academic environment where people know that flexibility and accessibility are the norm. For example, I try to be intentional about encouraging students to step away from their work to take time for their own self-care and relaxation, to be with family, and to generally just not work when they need to not work. This involves setting boundaries between work and other areas of your life and creating an environment where stepping away and having other interests is normal. The workplace can do a better job at normalizing healthy living. In fact, stepping away from your work to focus on other parts of your life is healthy and can lead to you being more engaged and productive once you are back at work!

In my personal life, I try to exercise as much as I can with realistic expectations. If I don’t reach my goal on a day, then self-care for me means I have to avoid being hard on myself for missing the goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to my body a lot more, including understanding when I’m starting to get stressed or anxious, and when what my body really needs is to rest rather than move.

Learn more on her website.

On how engineers can help fix healthcare:

“A lot of people in our field also look at healthcare applications. Sometimes it’s looking at telehealth options for people who either cannot drive anymore or live in rural populations. Industrial engineering can help answer questions such as: How can these populations have better access to a healthy lifestyle and check-ins? There are also people in our field who use industrial engineering to determine how often people should get screened for different conditions as they get older. If people were screened all the time, that would put a lot of time and financial burden on patients and they probably would not go to their screening. But if patients are not screened frequently enough, then they might have an undetected medical condition that can progress or get worse over time with limited treatment options available in the future.”

On how she uses data to fight human trafficking:

“There are researchers in other fields that use quantitative data to get insights into what human trafficking. Statisticians are working on better ways to determine the prevalence of human trafficking; economists create economic models to understand ways to reduce the profitability of exploiting people by using trafficked labor; there are quantitative social scientists researching, among other things, ways in which systems of poverty, racism, and homelessness intersect with human trafficking.  But, in industrial engineering, there really hasn’t been much prior work focused on data and mathematical, systems-based models to provide decision support to anti-human trafficking stakeholders. For example, there’s often not enough of a budget for anti-human trafficking agencies or non-profits to adequately address the needs of trafficking victims and survivors. They don’t have enough resources. They already have a lot of things they need to do. Industrial engineering is great for those kinds of applications because we can help figure out, “How do I make the most efficient use of my resources?” For example, in some of our current work, we focus on how to increase access to shelters and other services for human trafficking survivors. After people come out of their trafficking experience, they need safe and stable housing options, they need access to food and medical care and many additional things, but those supports currently are not adequately available throughout the world, including the United States.

Some of our work is focusing on determining how to best increase access to shelter and other services if an organization/government has a limited budget to spend. We work with human trafficking survivors to determine what they want and need after they leave their trafficking experience. From this we can answer questions such as: Where should you build these additional shelters? What types of services should each shelter offer? How can the shelters best coordinate with other community support partners? In short, one of the things we as industrial engineers can do is help determine how to most efficiently use your resources to meet your goals.

This a similar problem to something like what any other company would do when they are going to create a new warehouse or storefront. They use these kinds of models to say, “Where am I going to open my next warehouse?” or “Where am I going to open my new store?” And we’re just doing it in a different application while also considering things that aren’t focused primarily on demand and profit. Instead we incorporate more human components as well.”

On her tips for combining engineering and social justice passions:

“It’s important to understand both the technical aspects of industrial engineering and the nuances of social justice issues. Sometimes what can happen is a prospective engineer who has a math/engineering background can get so excited about a social justice topic that they just jump into it without understanding all the nuances and all the complexities of that social justice topic. And while it’s good to have interest and passion in all these topics, it can also be harmful if we don’t understand how there are many different complexities and overlapping systems involved. For example, creating a new decision model that looks at stopping trafficking within a city might just push the traffickers outside of the city and into the suburbs or rural areas, causing problems for other populations or marginalized groups.

So, I think it’s important that industrial engineers come with a passion, and start working on these topics, but also come with the willingness to really get connected with people that have expertise in human trafficking.

It’s important that if you’re making decisions about trafficking-whether through industrial engineering models or policy-, you need to have trafficking victims and trafficking survivors centered at the decision table with you; they understand what the complexities of the system are, and are crucial to making sure that we aren’t having any unintended consequences.” There’s that saying, “Nothing for us without us” that is particularly helpful for us as industrial engineers to remember as we work on problems that have very real impacts on people’s lives.

I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care.

Kayse Lee Maass, PhD

Five Questions With Development Practitioner Sachi Shah

Name: Sachi Shah
Job: International Development Practitioner
Country: Malawi and India
Age: 28

Sachi Shah serves as founder/director of Truss Group, a multi-faceted social enterprise that works towards environmental sustainability and human health improvement in low-income urban areas in Malawi. She has worked as a Global Health Corps fellow and Communications and Programs Associate at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark. Previously, Sachi wrote and edited for Global Health Aging and has interned with The Rockefeller Foundation among other organizations. Find Shah on LinkedIn and Truss Group on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  

On her job description:
“I run a social enterprise in Blantyre, Malawi that focuses on waste management, and plastic recycling. We create cement substitutes from recycled plastic and focus on high-impact building projects such as disaster-resistant housing and pit latrines.

We are aiming to come up with a model for disaster resistant housing before the end of the year. We are also looking at how we can move into exploring other infrastructure that can support better health and environments beyond waste management. Outside of work, I like to watch spend time in nature and with friends, watch movies, and read.”

On why she started the Truss Group
“Truss is an extension of a project I started with high-school students four years ago in Blantyre. I believe that if spaces are freed of waste, and more sustainable construction is encouraged in urban areas, then human and environmental health will benefit exponentially. I wanted to return to do more than just volunteer work for a couple of months.”

Truss Group is 1 of the 11 ventures that will go through the first cohort of the Grow Malawi Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge. Truss Group will grow and scale their venture through technical assistance, mentorship and funding provided by MHub, GrowthAfrica – Growth Frontiers, Accesserator and Kweza, with support from UNDP Malawi and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

On how environmental sustainability affects human health:
“Mismanaged waste is known to breed diseases and negatively affect both human and environmental health and productivity. A healthy environment benefits everyone, especially children and vulnerable older adults who live at risk in the community.

On her experience as a fellow with Global Health Corps:
“I did communications, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and health program development for the Boys & Girls Club of Newark in the USA during my fellowship year. Global Health Corps is a wonderful world-wide community of dedicated professionals working to develop better health care for all. It is also a very supportive community invested in peer learning.”

On her proudest moment(s):
“I think my ability to be resilient and resourceful. Entrepreneurship requires you to learn this and quickly. I serve on the board of Renew’N’Able Malawi (RENAMA), a Malawian non-governmental organization (NGO) for sustainable energy and manages the Blantyre Farmer’s Market. I have also pursued research and fieldwork in various subjects including, water, sanitation, and hygiene 9(WASH), sustainable energy, child development, urban design 10 and policy, environmental policy, and movement building.”

Plastic waste is a growing and increasingly detrimental problem in Malawi. Learn more.

Better health infrastructure, decreased corruption, and waste management are top three needs in Malawi.

Sachi Shah

Five Questions With Dietitian Vanessa Rissetto

Making Kale and Lentil salad – Recipe

Name: Vanessa Rissetto
Job: Dietitian Entrepreneur
Country: United States
Age: 40

Vanessa Rissetto is on a mission to promote healthy eating. She is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who specializes in Weight Loss, Weight Management, and Medical Nutrition Therapy as it relates to Diabetes, Cardiac Disease, and Gastrointestinal Issues. Her media appearances include Hallmark Channel, Refinery29, Men’s Health, and Chicago Tribune, among others. A chocolate lover, Rissetto lives in the USA with her husband, daughter, son, and four-legged friend Marley! Find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her website

On why she chose to study nutrition:

“I was always interested in science, medicine, nutrition, so I decided to take a few classes at New York University to see if it would be something I would want to pursue  – it was!”

On what she has learned about the science behind nutrition:

“That it is science-based, and not just all these gimmicks that people are putting out there. Just because you hear of one study doesn’t mean it’s gospel.  We have to find the reasons why and do a deeper dive.” 

Vanessa discusses nutrition, fad diets, exercise, and maintenance with Marci Hopkins, host of the national talk show, “Wake Up with Marci,” airing on the CBS-owned WLNY-TV New York.

On how to make healthy eating affordable:

“It can be with proper planning. Just going to the supermarket without anything in mind can cause you to overspend. Having a handle on your schedule and the things you like to eat will ensure you don’t waste.” 

On her favorite meal to make:

“I like to roast a chicken at the beginning of the week and use the remainder for a chicken salad or fajitas. It’s pretty versatile and easy to do.”

On her future goals:

“Honestly, I think if I can help people understand the science behind nutrition and get them to have a better relationship with food, then I can consider myself successful.”

Hearty meals from Vanessa’s kitchen

It isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about feeling great, re-energizing, and finding a new lust for life.

Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN

Aging in America: The Latinx Perspective

On episode nine of the LatinX Point of View Podcast hosts Gina Esquivel and Leo Scarpati discuss “Aging in America.” Gina and Leo discuss the overall issue of getting older in the United States and some of the challenges that come with aging. They share a LatinX Point of View on demographic shifts, living longer, cultural values, and quality of life choices. Common themes that emerged during the episode include social security, working class, diversity gap, health care, wealth gap, poverty, and livable community.

America is aging. The average U.S. life expectancy increased from 68 years in 1950 to 79 years in 2013. The older population is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Between 2014 and 2060, non-Hispanic white older adults are projected to drop by 24 percentage points, from 78.3 percent to 54.6 percent. This changing demographic creates an interesting question because America has many different cultures that have specific views on longevity and healthy aging.

American culture is youth-obsessed and considers older adults irrelevant. On the other hand, older adults are treasured in Latino culture and are likely to stay with the family as they get older. Americans create their housing options and may live in an institution and see family eventually. Given the population shift, how do we age properly in America? How can we improve the quality of life as we age?

LatinX Point of View Podcast

Listen to the episode on the following platforms. (iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker, Play Music, SoundCloud) LatinX Point of View Podcast covers relevant topics through a cultural lens. Topics include entertainment, culture, business, government, and social justice. Subscribe to the podcast, follow the podcast on Twitter, and contact the hosts via email.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.
  • Wealth inequality or wealth gap is the unequal distribution of assets among residents of the United states.
  • The changing racial/ethnic composition of the population under 18, compared with those ages 65 and older, has created a “diversity gap” between generations.
  • By 2014, 23 percent of men and about 15 percent of women ages 65 and older were in the labor force, and these levels are projected to rise further by 2022, to 27 percent for men and 20 percent for women.
facts

Interview with Medical Gerontologist Fatma Nur Mozoğlu

Fatma Nur Mozoğlu is a fifth-year student of Antalya Akdeniz University Health Sciences, Faculty Department of Gerontology and Eskişehir Anadolu University Social Work, The nation’s first Gerontology department was founded in 2006 at Antalya Akdeniz University. In 2018, Fatma was published in the Scholar Journal of Applied Sciences and Research. Her paper titled Gerontology and Aging in Turkey focused on healthy tourism, medications, and older adults, and university for older adults. She also works on a university initiative to encourage lifelong learning for students over 60. We are excited to interview Fatma about her research thesis and making intergenerational connections. Follow her on Twitter @fatmanurmozoglu

Can you tell us about your journey in Gerontology?

I started my journey in the Department of Gerontology at Turkey Antalya Akdeniz University Faculty of Health Sciences, this was in the 2014–2015 academic year. It has been a fun run and I’m excited to be writing my thesis with my adviser Dr. İkuko Murakami on the use of medicines for older adults.

Can you tell us about your work on intergenerational connections?

Since 2014, I have been working with Prof. Dr. Ismail Tufan and his team from the Gerontology department. Dr. Tufan is the gerontology chief of the department, he and his team published Turkey Gerontology Atlas (Gero Atlas) using data from the past 15 years. Gero Atlas was launched in 2000 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

60+ Tazelenme University is Turkey’s first Senior University. The university is specific to Turkey and aims to develop a model that will set an example in the world. It was founded by Akdeniz University as part of Dr. Tufan’s project on Gero Atlas. Open and free for students over 60, training lasts for four years and students can enroll in a variety of classes from archeology to agriculture. While all the courses have proven beneficial, a new knitting course offered only to men has given a special boost for those experiencing memory loss. Between classes, male students pass time knitting sweaters, berets, scarves and socks in the campus garden.

This initiative has created a new way of perceiving older adults in Turkey. On the 60+ Tazelenme University campus, it is ensured that lifelong learning is realized through theoretical courses, while on the other hand, practical lessons allow students to discover their talents. The aim of the training is to connect with younger generations studying on campus in a similar environment, older adults and gerontology students can benefit from their knowledge and experiences as they work together on projects. The main purpose of these studies is to encourage lifelong learning and I’m excited to contribute to the management of this project.

In your opinion what three words describe the characteristics of older adults in Turkey? 

Active, Knowledgeable, Healthy

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am a volunteer for environmental carbon offset and nature projects. I am glad to have Erasmus experience in the capital of Croatia. Additionally, I am an educator for disadvantaged groups, our topics are social entrepreneurship, safe internet, and innovation. Public and private services provided by the Internet makes life easier for people in the world. Use of the internet is growing rapidly in Turkey but everyone is not able to equally benefit from this technology.

I am a member of Crossing Paths, an organization running education and social responsibility programs mainly targeting the youth in Turkey. Crossing Paths believes that “most of our problems can be resolved through education, a kind of education that promotes empathy, tolerance, social responsibility and respect for differences. We trust that we can meet on common ground with anyone who shares this belief independent of their ethnic background, religion, political views, gender, sexual orientation, and age.” Crossing Paths was founded in Turkey.

What are your future career goals?

I would like to be an international researcher and academician. I am going to graduate in June 2019 and hope to start a masters degree next year. I am currently exploring internships with nursing homes, hospitals, and Alzheimer’s centers among others.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m interested in tango, salsa, theater, painting, extreme sports, yoga, scuba diving etc. I play tennis as well as flute. I’ve also taken part in fun projects about stray animals and environmental pollution ecology in Croatia and Turkey.

Is there any other information that you would like to add?

I have many startup and project experience, I believe that social relations contribute to my academic career. I would like to reach more audiences by setting up a gerontology news channel on YouTube. I would also like to work with older adults and their families. Thanks to the Global Health Aging team for this lovely interview!