Dean David Cash announces retirement of Institute Director Len Fishman

I write to announce that Len Fishman, after serving seven years as director of the Gerontology Institute at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, will be retiring on August 31.

Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman

A nationally recognized leader in health care and aging, Len’s priorities as director were guided by two goals. First, increasing the institute’s relevance, reputation and influence through its research and policy work. Second, boosting external funding.

He achieved both. Thanks to the Institute’s enterprising faculty and fellows, external funding from grants nearly tripled during Fishman’s tenure, and private donations soared. Financial support for students increased two and a half times, opening doors for future scholars and policymakers.

Fishman also helped the Institute become even more prominent in its signature areas of research on older people, including economic insecurity, race- and ethnicity-related health disparities, healthy aging, and age-friendly communities, while striving to bring that work to the attention of policymakers and the general public through robust communication.

The Gerontology Institute also deepened its expertise in long-term services and supports (LTSS) under Fishman by adding a fourth center — the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston. This three-way partnership among Community Catalyst, LeadingAge and UMass Boston unites researchers and policy analysts in academic and applied settings, an innovative collaboration illustrative of Len’s knack for building strategic alliances whose whole is greater than the sum of their parts.

Fishman and Gerontology Department Chair Jeff Burr treated their respective units as a united enterprise, resulting in increased productivity of faculty and more opportunities for students to conduct research, be mentored, and earn money for their education. Fishman and Burr led the recent effort to establish the Frank Caro Scholarship for Social Justice in Aging. Named after one of the UMass Boston Gerontology program’s founders, the fund has raised approximately $370,000 thus far. The funds will be used to recruit and support doctoral students from under-served communities.

“The last seven years have been the best years for gerontology at UMass Boston and a lot, a lot, a lot of the credit goes to Len,” Burr said.

Len came to UMass Boston after serving for 12 years as CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, New England’s largest nonprofit provider of senior housing and health care. Prior to joining HSL, Len was president and CEO of LeadingAge, in Washington, D.C., which represents 6,000 non-profit senior housing and health care providers in the U.S. and Canada, serving over two million older people. Before that, he served in the cabinet of Governor Christine Todd Whitman as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, where he led the governor’s initiative to unite programs serving older people into one cabinet-level department. He previously practiced law as a health-care lawyer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“We are on the cusp of the greatest demographic transformation in history,” said Fishman. “The human lifespan has increased by more than a third, and very soon, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. Yet we are nowhere near ready to meet the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities presented by these changes. Our gerontology program is a beacon of learning and hope.”

“I will, of course, remain involved in the field of aging. As our chancellor, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco recently observed, population aging is one of the three greatest challenges facing humanity. My generation (me included) has not covered itself in glory in dealing with the other two: climate change and racialized inequity. My retirement will allow me to spend more time on both. It’s been an honor to work with the Gerontology program’s talented faculty, fellows, staff and students, and a privilege to work at the nation’s third most diverse university during this most recent racial reckoning. The demographics of UMass Boston’s students are a preview of what our nation is becoming – they are my greatest source of hope for the future.”

Listening to Consumers and Advocates Who Helped Shape a Health Plan

 By Erin McGaffigan

In 2013, Massachusetts developed the One Care Implementation Council so consumers could have an active role in a new health care program serving people with disabilities who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.  I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with consumers, advocates and state employees to talk about their experience on the One Care Implementation Council, and these interviews did not disappoint. You can find the full report on the Council’s engagement process and lessons learned here. This case study was jointly produced by the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation and the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston.

As I reflect on the interview experience, I realize how much one can learn just by listening. Without question, Massachusetts’ disability advocates have pushed aggressively for meaningful engagement in long-term services and supports (LTSS) program design for years, and this really influenced how advocates and state leaders approached One Care’s engagement strategy. This was not the advocates’ “first rodeo,” and they came ready with ideas for making the Council an active body. This meant ditching the term, “advisory” and replacing it with “implementation” to mirror advocates’ intention to be deeply involved and “part of the action.” State partners, who also have administered their fair share of engagement strategies, spelled out Council expectations, including its purpose and desired representation, through a formalized Request for Response process after meeting with community leaders so that unnecessary process challenges were avoided. Continue reading

LTSS Center Co-Director Marc Cohen Presents at Symposium Honoring Joshua Wiener

Marc Cohen appearing at a symposium to honor the late Joshua Wiener.

Marc Cohen went back a long way with Josh Wiener.

For decades, they debated the substance and detail of one of the most pressing social and economic challenges of our times – how to pay for the long-term services and supports increasing numbers of older Americans depend upon. Cohen, now co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, was one of more than a dozen experts speaking last week at a Washington symposium to honor Wiener, a leading figure in the field who died in January. Cohen’s comments begin about 48 minutes into a video of the entire event. Continue reading

UMass Boston Gerontology PhD Student Molly Evans Joins LTSS Center’s Washington Office

When LeadingAge and the University of Massachusetts Boston established the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston last spring, researchers in Washington eagerly anticipated one partnership benefit: incorporating UMass Boston graduate students into their applied research projects.

That anticipation ended in November, when PhD Candidate Molly Evans arrived at LeadingAge for a 6-week fellowship. Evans, who is pursuing her doctorate in gerontology, has been working part-time in the LTSS Center’s Washington office ever since. Continue reading

Bureau of Sages Project Brings Elder Voices to Research Development

Erin McGaffigan

Erin McGaffigan will lead the LTSS Center’s contribution to the Bureau of Sages project.

Amy Eisenstein had a powerful idea. She wanted to see what would happen if researchers made a point of reaching out to nursing home residents and stay-at-home older adults, people who were typically not consulted during projects.

Eisenstein, director of the Leonard Schanfield Research Institute, tried to do exactly that at the Chicago campus of CJE’s Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation. Her plan was an immediate hit and soon led to the creation of the Bureau of Sages, a research advisory group that brings the voices of older adults to the process of developing research studies.

Now the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston will help CJE spread the Bureau of Sages concept across the country in a new two-year project. Continue reading