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An Interdisciplinary Inquiry Grant Report by Cameron Ulmer, BSN, RN

I graduated from my accelerated Bachelor of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) in August 2022 and subsequently began my Clinical Fellowship year. I used this past year to gain in-patient bedside experience and prepare for my doctoral degree as much as possible.

One way I chose to prepare myself was by attending my first interest-specific national conference to familiarize myself with the event and to network with others in my field. My interest lies in the care of people living with dementia, so attending the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting was the obvious choice.

I planned out every day of the meeting to glean as much information as possible. I participated in a pre-conference seminar titled “Enhancing Early Detection of Dementia in Primary Care with the ‘GSA KAER Framework’” and attended numerous scientific presentations each day of the conference, with topics such as depression in people with dementia, behavioral symptoms of dementia, implementation science and assistive technologies, strategies to reduce racial and economic disparities in health care and health outcomes, career development for emerging scientists, and guidance for publishing findings from research. I attended numerous formal and informal networking events such as an event for nurses interested in the care of older adults, mixers for the Emerging Scholars and Professionals Organization (of which I am a member), and society-wide events.

Before the event, I reached out to nurse scientists that would be in attendance.  Three of the scientists were gracious enough to meet with me and discuss professional development and research feasibility.

Attending the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting deepened my understanding of racial and economic disparities in health care and health outcomes, challenges in access and participation in memory care for people with dementia, dementia interventions (focusing on non-pharmacologic interventions, implementation of health care interventions in settings with limited resources (e.g., assisted living and long-term care), and the complexities of caring for older adults in their late life or with incurable illness.

The meeting was very broad but my response to this training opportunity has been very specific.

First, I discovered an interest in implementation science for interventions, which motivated my application and subsequent acceptance in specialized training in implementation at UNC; I have begun the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate for Improvement Science and Implementation at UNC-CH.

Second, attending re-affirmed my interest in studying approaches to improving care for people with dementia and their care partners. Subsequent to the meeting, I joined the research team of Sheryl Zimmerman and, with support from Dr. Toles, my PhD mentor, have begun work to prepare for a dissertation that will focus on non-pharmacologic interventions for people with dementia in assisted living.

In summary, the GSA meeting advanced my Hillman training on many fronts, and I am so grateful to members of the foundation for selecting my application for funding.

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