UMass Boston Gerontology PhD Alum Elizabeth Chen Named State Secretary of Elder Affairs

Elizabeth Chen came to the field of public health later in life. She’s been making up for lost time ever since.

Chen, who had been the chief executive of two companies and a leader in higher education, came to the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012 as a gerontology PhD student at the McCormack Graduate School. She received her degree in 2016, completing the program faster than any student in UMass Boston history.

Now Chen is about to lead the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker named Chen to succeed Alice Bonner as the next Elder Affairs secretary. She officially starts her new job June 3.

“We welcome the expertise and knowledge that Dr. Chen will bring to Elder Affairs as the new secretary and look forward to the hard work she will do to build on the progress achieved under [Bonner] that made Massachusetts an age friendly state,” Baker said. Continue reading

UMass Boston Gerontology Grad’s Journey From MAS Student to Assisted Living Executive

By Taryn Hojlo

After years working in management and hospitality, Catherine Williamson was confident she knew how to serve people. For a decade, she had overseen the care of hotel patrons and spa-goers at The Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. She had also held positions in financial and property management.

Williamson thought she had experienced every managerial role the field had to offer. But when she took an assistant executive director position at Emeritus in 2013, a senior living facility in South Windsor, Conn., Williamson realized her career was only beginning.

“I loved the feeling I got from comforting families throughout the process of this challenging journey,” she said. “But I realized I needed more competency in the field.”

That discovery led Williamson to enroll in a Management of Aging Services course at UMass Boston to get a better idea of what the program had to offer before she matriculated. Once the course had ended, she made the decision to enroll as a full-time student. Thanks to her professional experience and education, Williamson was recently named the new executive director of Orchard Valley, a Benchmark Senior Living assisted living and memory care community in Wilbraham. Continue reading

A Big Year for UMass Boston Gerontology

It’s been a year for the record books.

The Gerontology Institute Blog covered every major department and institute event of 2017. But few of those posts could match the impact of coverage of students and their accomplishments filed during commencement season.

Start with those UMass Boston gerontology students who were awarded PhD degrees this year – as a group of eight, the largest in department history. One of the students, Mai See Yang, was selected as the speaker for the year’s graduate commencement ceremony. Read about her extraordinary story and then take a look at her commencement address. Continue reading

UMass Boston Gerontology Alum Elizabeth Chen Named Senior State Public Health Official

 

Elizabeth Chen was a woman in a hurry when she arrived at UMass Boston’s Gerontology Department in 2012.

Chen had already lived through two highly successful but very different careers, as a biotech chief executive and the president of a college. After receiving a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, she came directly to UMass to pursue master’s and PhD degrees in gerontology, and prepare herself for a third act.

Chen’s latest career move, this time as a public health executive, took a big step forward in September. She was recently named assistant commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, to provide senior leadership and oversee the state’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, the Bureau of Health Professions Licensure and the state’s Determination of Need program. Continue reading

UMass Gerontology Alum Natalie Leland Receives $4.7M Contract for Dementia Care Research

A research team led by UMass Boston Gerontology alumna Dr. Natalie Leland has received a $4.7 million contract to compare the effectiveness of two care delivery models for nursing home residents living with dementia.

The contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute will fund a five-year study comparing care models at 80 nursing homes in 10 geographic regions across the United States. More than 700,000 Americans residing in nursing homes live with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Continue reading

Fabulous Idea: Reframing the Dissertation Experience

By Kristen E. Porter, PhD, MS, MAc, LAc, JP

Life happens.

I was the 67th graduate of the UMass Gerontology PhD program when I received my degree in 2015. I spent one year from proposal to successful defense with no revisions. At the time, I was the 11th fastest to graduate.

But it wasn’t the breeze it might appear to be on paper. While in the program, I was the president of a company, a foster parent to numerous children ranging in age from newborn to teen, and primary caregiver to my mother and grandmother. During this time my mother, grandmother, father, and business partner died and I underwent nine surgical procedures and survived sepsis. Continue reading