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Making the Difference

On this page, students, trainees and faculty tell us why they have pursued educational opportunities and careers in aging. They also tell us why they have stayed day after day, year after year. Their decisions are MAKING THE DIFFERENCE in improved quality of life for older Californians.

It is estimated that in the next 20-30 years, older adults will number around 70 million individuals and constitute upwards of 20% of our total population. As the aging Baby Boomers place stress on an already fractured system, the demands for care will increase while the quality of care may not necessarily follow suit. I feel it is my duty and the obligation of like-minded students to ensure that our parents and grandparents receive the greatest care available so that they can retire into their golden years with dignity and a high value of life. Work in aging is not about caring for a demographic but preserving a part of our history and the wisdom of those that lived through it.

Brandon Kuiper
Universal Gerontology & Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Association at UCLA, Student Leader

My career in aging is about a commitment to helping people throughout their lifespan. Despite the idealization of youth in our society, I believe that each phase of a person's life is equally beautiful and profound. My appreciation for the aged developed from the recognition that they are survivors who continually adapt and cope with the challenges of living. Through my work I aim to advocate for the unique needs and concerns of the elderly. In my efforts I hope to help others identify with older people--simply as people.

Myha Ngo
UCLA MPH/MSW Candidate

When I completed my residency in general psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, psychiatry for older people was just getting started in the U.S., and I saw a real need for it. Few young psychiatrists were looking to work with seniors who were often confused, neglected, and complicated because of their multiple medical conditions. I found that age-related cognitive decline was one of the most fascinating aspects in geriatric psychiatry – where a tremendous amount of work was still needed. The challenge of attempting to address this public health crisis has kept me both busy and satisfied with my career choice.

Gary W. Small, M.D.
Director, UCLA Longevity Center (formerly Center on Aging)

At 18 I entered nursing school. At 19 I decided I had a different calling. Yes, I wanted to "help people" but I was most interested in helping older persons. I also wanted to know how age itself impacted their health needs. I was curious about what they thought and felt about their health in the context of their lifes. Maybe I did not think exactly in those terms then but I wanted to know their stories beyond the history and physical. So I became a geriatric social worker. The stories behind older persons health and the systems that care for them have continued to be of life long interest to me because they are complex. Of course I also loved my grandmothers, Bertha and Minnie as do most gerontologists!

JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez, LCSW, PhD
UCLA School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare

My interest in the challenges that accompany aging began when my elderly grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. My experience was given new meaning when I came to UCLA. As a student in the Freshman Gerontology Cluster, I learned that aging encompasses and affects so many aspects of our society than most people realize. After completing the Gerontology Minor at UCLA, I intend to be part of a health workforce that can approach issues of geriatric medicine in a competent and socially responsible way.

Charmaine Jamias
UCLA Alumni

As a medical student geriatrics is a particularly interesting field because of the breadth and depth of knowledge it covers. Challenging cases with overlapping complexities provide an endless source of intellectual stimulation. Becoming involved in geriatrics early means getting high-yield, first hand exposure to important clinical scenarios. In the end, however, the real draw of geriatrics is the people. For whatever reason, the practitioners within the field, and the patients themselves represent a diverse spectrum of individuals that are simply enjoyable to be around.

Thomas Blair
UCLA Medical Student

In geriatrics we don't have fancy procedures but we have an in-depth understanding of the challenges associated with aging, the sensitivity of a honed awareness of the nuances of geriatric specific presentations and the ability to translate this into what are often very simple interventions that can have "larger than life" consequences for patients and families. It is “The application of intellect, skillfulness, and heart is the essence of the ‘magic’ of doctoring and truly forms the basis of day to day geriatrics. Large impact with small interventions supports much of the joy of being a doctor for our oldest patients.

Joshua Chodosh, MD, MSHS
Associate Professor of Medicine/Geriatric Medicine, Health Services Research and Development,
VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, West Los Angeles

Studying older adults "clicked" with me when I was an undergraduate and an interviewer for a national cardiovascular health study. I spent many hours in the homes of active seniors who revealed to me the positive side of aging while telling me about their health status and lifestyles. Over the years, I have continued to pursue research on older adults and their caregivers because I am fascinated by how aging affects communication behaviors and, in turn, how communication affects aging. The long-term goal of my research is to improve both how older adults with dementia relate to their caregivers and their quality of life.

Lené Levy-Storms M.P.H., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Social Welfare, UCLA School of Public Affairs
Associate Director, Borun Center for Gerontological Research

I grew up in a family with many older relatives, whose wisdom and perspective on life I always enjoyed. In medical school, I found that not many people were interested specifically in caring for older adults. As a result, this seemed like a special need that I could fill.

David Ganz, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor in Residence, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA



Twenty-five years ago, when Geriatrics was still very young in the United States, I decided to enter a Geriatric Medicine fellowship program., hoping that someone would be able to teach me how to care for old people. I had learned a great deal about treating disease in my Internal Medicine residency, but it was very clear to me that treating disease and treating very old people are two different things. It was frustrating to cure pneumonia in an 85 year old woman only to discover that after her week in hospital she could not go back home because she could no longer walk. I also really like old people, which explains why I continue to do what I do.

Nancy Weintraub, MD
Director, VA/UCLA Multicampus Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine
Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
Greater Los Angeles GRECC