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ARLINGTON, Texas - The Association of Gerontology Education in Social Work announced earlier this month, Rupal Parekh, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work, will be the recipient of the Doctoral Student Leadership Award for 2016.
In November, Parekh will officially receive the leadership award in New Orleans, La., during the association’s 69th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. Parekh, who is in her third year of doctoral studies, previously received a pre-dissertation cohort initiative award in 2014 from the same association.
“The recognition is very special to me on both a personal and academic level,” said Parekh. “I feel honored that my work in the field of aging is being recognized on a national level and that I am part of an impressive group of scholars in the field of aging and social work.”
Each year, the association selects the top doctoral student in the country who demonstrates outstanding service, education, research and leadership in the field of social work aging.
This is the third consecutive year a doctoral student from UTA School of Social Work has won the national student leadership award. Brandi Felderhoff, fourth year doctoral student and graduate research assistant, received the award in 2015 and Cara Wallace, a UTA Master of Social Work and Ph.D. graduate and now a faculty member at Saint Louis University School of Social Work, won the award in 2014.
“I am thrilled for Rupal and appreciative of the association’s recognition of her research and commitment to aging and social work education,” said Beverly Black, director of the Ph.D. program at UTA School of Social Work. “Rupal and our previous winners from 2015 and 2014 represent the best of our program and their success, along with our faculty members’ commitment to innovative research and quality teaching in the field of aging is why our Ph.D. program is recognized as a leader in social work education.”
With Assistant Professors Gail Adorno, Noelle Fields and Ling Xu, the school’s aging and Gerontological field of social work study has seen tremendous growth in popularity and the number of research initiatives. All three social work faculty members are conducting innovative research in the local community addressing transportation mobility issues and seeking ways to improve mental health for the aging and older adult populations.
“As a result of our faculty’s hard work, Rupal and other students are exposed to some of the most advanced research in the field of aging,” said Black. “Our social work program is one of only a few in the nation that provides the opportunity for graduate students to conduct extensive research in aging.”
Parekh said her experiences as a child growing up in Tulsa, Okla., watching older adult immigrants from south Asia who migrated to the U.S. to be with family members and often had difficulties assimilating into the communities is why she chose to focus her 15-year career and research in the field of social work aging.
“These individuals traveled far to be with their adult children and grandchildren, but were often linguistically, culturally and socially isolated,” said Parekh. “So, I decided to become a social worker and to learn how to better understand and serve this population and their caregivers through my research.”
Parekh plans to continue her research and advocacy for improvements in the services provided to the aging and mental health of older immigrant populations. Through her research she hopes to identify better ways social workers and caregivers can help minority and immigrant older adults who are incapacitated, hospitalized and suffering from diseases such as dementia.
Parekh received her undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 and completed a dual master’s degree in social work and public health from Columbia University in 2004. After completing her dual degree, and prior to arriving at UTA, Parekh worked at Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity in New York City and in 2009 published a research paper titled, “Senior Gambling: Risk or Reward?.”After receiving her doctor of philosophy degree in social work, Parekh plans to continue her research in aging and social work and wants to join the faculty, as an assistant professor, at a university with a strong Gerontological social work program.