GVSU nursing dean awarded prestigious new fellowship to GSA

By Madison Miazek | 7/9/17 9:41pm

GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu

Sandra Spoelstra, a Grand Valley State University faculty member, was recently awarded a fellowship to the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Spoelstra is the associate dean for research and scholarship at the Kirkhof College of Nursing.

Spoelstra has been a member of the GSA for more than 10 years, but her coworkers Rebecca Davies and Cynthia Beel-Bates thought it was time for some recognition. Davies and Beel-Bates, who are members and fellows of the GSA, nominated Spoelstra. 

Davies said there were many reasons why she was nominated.

“She has been a member of the GSA for a long time, and she has many accomplishments as far as her research goes,” Davies said. “She has an impressive record of research in the area of gerontology. She has many, many publications and peer review journals.”

The GSA helps develop and lead research in the field of gerontology. The organization's mission, stated on its website, is “to promote interdisciplinary research; disseminate knowledge to researchers; and support, promote and advocate education.” The GSA is the largest and oldest national interdisciplinary organization dedicated to the aging of older adults. Holding a fellowship for the GSA is the highest level of membership for the society.

“It’s a big honor in the world of gerontology because it comes from the organization where over 5,000 gerontology scientists are members, so it’s like people recognizing your accomplishments, and so it’s a really significant and deep honor,” Spoelstra said on her recent fellowship.

Spoelstra is working on a few projects currently that will help her research and the quality of life for older adults.

One program she co-leads is called the Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders, or the MiCAPABLE. It helps disabled and aging adults remain in the community as opposed to living in a nursing home. As part of the program, more than 600 registered nurses, social workers and occupational therapists are trained in improving one’s quality of life through areas such as reduction in depression and falls and pain, all while trying to improve physical function.

Another thing Spoelstra is working on is trying to obtain more funding in the Michigan Medicaid program. Spoelstra said that right now in the state of Michigan, the Medicaid program is underfunded.

This fellowship to the GSA does not come with any grant money, but Spoelstra said, “These type of awards help build your CV (curriculum vitae) so that you can obtain more funding to improve a program like the Medicaid waiver.”

The annual GSA conference will be held in San Francisco at the end of this month.

“This is the largest interprofessional gerontology conference in the world, and so it covers everything to do with this field, including genetic medicine, social work, nursing, every aspect of care, ... how to help people aging, the mental, emotional, social effects,” Davies said. “It's a very, very large conference.”

The conference will have many grant funders. Spoelstra said that is one thing she is looking forward to—having the opportunity to receive grants to improve care. She is also looking forward to hearing the latest and greatest research in the field of gerontology. Spoelstra is hoping the conference will improve their model of care and training.

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