WSU Social Work associate professor takes on new role as Training Director at the Institute of Gerontology

Tam Perry has been teaching at the Wayne State University School of Social Work since 2012 and is regarded as an expert in gerontology, so it seems natural that she transitioned to Training Director at the WSU Institute of Gerontology last fall.

Tam Perry smiling outside“I was co-director of the training program last academic year, and was mentored by the previous director, Gail Jensen Summers, who just retired from WSU,” Perry said.

In her new role, Perry is mentoring 12 doctoral students specializing in various aspects of gerontology and organizing the IOG research colloquia.

Perry’s work has significantly impacted older adults in the Detroit area.

“I also serve as co-director of the Community Liaison and Recruitment Core of the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research. Our program, the Healthier Black Elders Center, engages many older adults in Detroit and Flint, to support health education and offer opportunities for them to be involved in research,” Perry said.

The role has given her the opportunity to promote best practices in engaging community members in research, such as making sure Community Advisory Board (CAB) members are partners in key decisions and co-presenting with older adults in numerous academic and non-academic venues.

“I hope to mentor the doctoral students in some of these approaches where appropriate as Training Director,” she said.

As if those roles didn’t keep her busy enough, she recently finished serving her term as national president of the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work.

The organization was very active during the pandemic, supporting and reaching out to older community members who were affected.

“As we enter the endemic phase of Covid, I hope that older Detroiters and those in other communities will be recognized for their contributions to their kin networks and larger communities. I also hope that concerns such as housing affordability and home repairs stay on everyone’s practice and policy agendas,” she said. “In addition, we need to promote a holistic understanding of health for persons of all ages.”

Perry’s research and studies have earned her multiple awards. In 2021, she was the first non-physician investigator to win the National Hemophilia Foundation's (NHF) Innovative Investigator Research Award for her work with a multi-institutional team studying important aspects of aging for those with a bleeding disorder. In 2020, she was named a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) for her outstanding and continuing work in the field of gerontology. GSA is the world's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. 

“Most, if not all of my work advances long and productive lives. My work on older adults and their relationships to their homes has examined voluntary housing involuntary displacement. Stable housing is a core tent of stability and productivity. My work with the Healthier Black Elders Center promotes productivity by including the lived experiences of older Black Detroiters in research and in innovative leadership opportunities recently created,” Perry said.

Perry is inspired by many of her WSU colleagues. “Especially the SSW staff who support teaching and research. Across campus, I am inspired by interdisciplinarity as it resonates with my own training and interests.” 

"We are thrilled to have Tam as the director of our pre-doctoral interdisciplinary research training program at the Institute of Gerontology. She is an outstanding scholar and mentor herself, and her ability to relate to doctoral students across disciplines, and to provide leadership for our program is quite evident to us all,” said Peter Lichtenberg, director of both the Institute of Gerontology and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute.

“I am looking forward to mentoring students going into gerontology in my new role,” Perry said.

Author: Laura Hipshire

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