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URI College of Health Sciences professor wins national award in gerontology

Phillip Clark honored for mentorship in, promotion of geriatric education

Phillip Clark

A local expert on gerontology at the University of Rhode Island has been named the recipient of a prestigious award from a national association on aging.

Phillip Clark, professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and director of both the gerontology program and the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center at URI, has been awarded the 2018 Hiram J. Friedsam Mentorship Award from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). The award recognizes excellence in mentorship to students, faculty or administrators working in geriatric education.

Clark specializes in aging and disability, health promotion with older adults, and ethical issues in geriatric care. A faculty member at URI since 1981, he is also co-author of “Health Care Teamwork: Interprofessional Practice and Education,” and his work on older adults has been published in such journals as “The Gerontologist,” the “Canadian Journal on Aging,” “Ageing and Society,” “Educational Gerontology,” “Gerontology and Geriatrics Education,” and the “Journal of Interprofessional Care.”

He has been the lead on projects that have generated $17 million in grants, including support from the National Institutes of Health, Bureau of Health Professions, Administration on Aging, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education and the Rhode Island Foundation.

Clark has also specialized in narrative gerontology, which focuses on a patient’s entire life — not just his or her health — and health care policy and ethics. Like any educator, however, teaching and mentoring are among his top priorities, and he teaches multiple courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Much of his instruction focuses on interprofessional education.

“Everyone comes to a project with a different lens. We’re educating students to be a team of different lenses,” Clark said. “The only way to provide care is to communicate and share with each other.”

URI’s Academic Health Collaborative, which includes the College of Health Sciences of which gerontology is a part, aims to promote just that type of collaborative care to impact the overall health system and promote better health care for patients of all ages.

“Health care education and health care systems haven’t always been focused on collaboration,” Clark said. “The Academic Health Collaborative is a great example of where the university has stepped up to try and restructure that health care education. It provides a framework to do more collaborative teaching and more collaborative research, specifically in health care.”

Clark doesn’t just talk about collaborative mentorship, he embraces it, according to College of Health Sciences Assistant Professors Skye Leedahl and Melanie Brasher, who nominated him for the award.

“He not only mentors many individuals personally, but he also creates networks of teams designed to support one another,” the pair wrote in their nomination letter, noting Clark routinely mentors not just students but colleagues, as well. “Dr. Clark is the epitome of excellence in mentorship. His vision of mentorship and leadership is incredibly systemic and focused, and he works tirelessly to mentor and support individuals and groups across the university and the state of Rhode Island to advocate for gerontology and geriatric education.”

URI College of Health Sciences Dean Gary Ligouri echoed their sentiments.

“Receiving the Friedsam Mentorship Award is a tremendous honor for Dr. Clark, and builds upon his legacy as a national leader in the areas of mentorship, team building and gerontology,” Dean Ligouri said.

Clark will receive his award in March at the association’s national conference in Atlanta, where he will make a presentation on mentorship in gerontology. The award is named for Hiram Friedsam, who was co-founder and director of the Center for Studies in Aging and dean of the School of Community Service at the University of North Texas. He was and “outstanding teacher, researcher, colleague and mentor to students, faculty and administrators, and a past-president of AGHE,” the association’s website reads. “The purpose of this award is to recognize those who emulate Dr. Friedsam’s excellence in mentorship.”

The Colleges of Health Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy, as well as the Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation, form the core of URI’s Academic Health Collaborative.

Copyright © 2017 University of Rhode Island.

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