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Gerontology reaches 1,000 degree mark

The USF School of Aging Studies has something to celebrate. It finally reached its 1,000 confirmed degrees mark in the department of gerontology, the branch of medical science that deals with diseases and problems specific to older adults.

“Compared to departments like English and history it might seem small, but for something so specific as gerontology, which is not in every university, it is very exciting,” said Jennifer Salmon, an assistant professor in the School of Aging Studies and the director of the Center for Housing and Long-Term Care at the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging.

This achievement puts USF’s gerontology program, which started in 1967, among the top few schools in the nation in terms of confirmed degrees in gerontology. According to Salmon, the only other university to reach the 1,000 confirmed degrees mark in the department of gerontology was the University of Southern California.

“We are really gaining more exposure within the university and then also with our colleagues around the nation, and that’s important because the University of South Florida has a lot of aging education and research going on,” Salmon said.

Because USF has one of the oldest gerontology programs in the nation, as well as being one of the few universities to offer undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in aging, many other universities look to USF for ideas on how to expand or improve their own gerontology programs, said William Haley, chair of the USF School of Aging Studies.

“A lot of people are looking at us as a model, especially in Florida, because we have been the ones to do the most in this area in Florida,” Haley said.

USF is also in a unique position because 18 percent of Florida’s population is 65 years of age and older, more than any other state in the country. “There’s a real need for this program,” Haley said.

A Ph. D. student in the department of gerontology, Jung Kwak, said that the gerontology program is the main reason she came to USF.

“The reason I chose this program is because my previous mentors from other schools recommended (USF) strongly because of the great faculty members as well as the geographical location and the availability of research,” Kwak said. “I do really feel very strongly about this program in terms of research opportunities for me to get involved in, and it has been great.”

To celebrate the landmark and honor the new graduates, the School of Aging Studies will be hosting an event called “A Thousand Degrees of Gerontology.” The School of Aging Studies and the Gerontology and Aging Studies Alumni Society will sponsor the event that will be held on Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center.