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Assistant Professor Kathy Lee Earns Early Success

Kathy Lee, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work
Kathy Lee, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work

Assistant Professor Kathy Lee just completed her first semester as a faculty member at the UTA School of Social Work, and has already received three awards this year from the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for her research on the physical and mental health of vulnerable older adults.

At the 2018 GSA annual scientific meeting in Boston, MA, Lee received the Junior Scholar Award for Research Related to Disadvantaged Older Adults.

“This award acknowledges outstanding basic and applied research that advances knowledge and understanding of the capabilities, contributions, challenges and concerns of older adults, especially those who are low-income, minority group members, and physically and cognitively impaired,” Lee said.

Adding to her achievement, Lee received two more awards – the Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization Poster Award from GSA and the Best Abstract in the Gero-Ed Track from CSWE. According to Lee, these awards are centered on her passion for helping older adults with cognitive impairment who are most disengaged from society.

“My research agenda focuses on better understanding the physical and mental health of vulnerable older adults through non-pharmacological interventions,” Lee said.

Lee’s research illustrates that it is important to continue in-depth research in the field of gerontology. In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 49.2 million people aged 65 and older accounted for about 15% of the total population. This demographic shift creates important opportunities as well as challenges in society with people living longer.

According to Lee, there are increasing demands for better programs, policy, and practices to care for vulnerable older adults. However, research for this population is underrepresented. Lee wants to change that through interdisciplinary research.

“I believe that my research, and gerontology in general, is interdisciplinary,” Lee said. “I have worked with scholars from nursing and veterinary medicine, and I am currently trying to build an interdisciplinary collaboration with scholars and students from UTA civil engineering and planning and landscape architecture.”

Lee attributes her early success at UTA to the support she continues to receive from her UTA colleagues in the School of Social Work.

“I can humbly say that I could not develop my research without all the support I have received from faculty and staff at UTA and in the School of Social Work,” Lee said. “Dr. Zhen Cong, Dr. Noelle Fields, and Dr. Ling Xu are great mentors and have helped me expand my research.”

Lee also says she already has plans for new research in 2019.

“My future research will center around two areas: animal-assisted therapy for older adults with cognitive impairment and disparities in health and health care access, “Lee said. “I am excited to work with my colleagues and community-based organizations. I hope my work can support vulnerable older adults to achieve optimal health.”

News Topics: Faculty, Awards