The Global Gateway to Aging: An Interview with Dr. Alden Gross

The Global Gateway to Aging is “A platform for population survey data on aging around the world.” COAH collaborator Dr. Alden Gross from the Bloomberg School of Public Health is one of three principle investigators with the Global Gateway to Aging (GGA), which was recently renewed for an additional five years of funding. I had the pleasure of meeting with Alden to ask a few questions and learn more about the interesting and valuable work the Global Gateway to Aging contributes to scientists’ understanding of aging around the world.

Tony: What is the Global Gateway to Aging all about?

Alden: Our NIA [National Institute on Aging] and other countries have funded aging studies around the world that are similar to the Health & Retirement Study (HRS) in the US. These are partner studies to the HRS. To access those data, you have to go to individual study websites and apply for permissions to use the data, which for academics is pretty easy. The Gateway makes it more convenient by telling you in one place where to find each study. Additionally, they create harmonizable variables you use to link across studies. Let’s take wealth/expenditures for instance; how you ask about these things is different across countries (e.g., housing and mortgages), but the Gateway figured out how to make it comparable for anybody who wants to conduct cross-national research. The Global Gateway to Aging’s goal is to create a platform where researchers can conduct cross-national research and use these data that has been collected by governments and supported by their taxpayers. We want researchers to use this data. The Gateway is one way to facilitate that goal.

Tony: Why would someone want to conduct cross-national research?

Alden: Let’s say you want to examine the effects of some exposure on an outcome. The association you find with your sample might vary by the prevalence, background protective and risk factors, and even government policies. If an outcome can be replicated cross-nationally, it lends additional credence to an association that may be causal across multiple settings and not due to a background variable responsible for the association.

Tony: What excites you about the Global Gateway to Aging?

Alden: The quality of the data and detailed documentation. Do you need to know whether a word list was repeated in the same order or different order across trials, or whether words were presented verbally or visually? It’s documented. There are high-quality efforts that go in to collecting the data.

Tony: What Gateway studies in particular interest you?

Alden: Cognitive aging research. In the future, about 2/3’s of dementia cases will be in third-world countries, but only 10% of research dollars are spent outside of European countries and the US.  I work with the Gateway’s Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocols (HCAP).

Tony: Tell me more!

Alden: Pretty well. I am part of a Multiple PI team focusing on harmonization of cognitive data in HCAPs as well as derivation of dementia— common ways of measuring dementia across several countries. We’re getting down into the really nitty-gritty stuff… item-level details. Here’s a great example from the Congo, although the Congo study isn’t part of HCAP: one of the most common cognitive tests out there is the Animal Fluency Test, and it only takes about 60 seconds to conduct; the test administrator asks the subject to name as many animals as the can, and it assesses language recall as well as executive function. Typically, a person produces about 30 to 40 words. But let’s say you grew up in a culture where kids aren’t familiar with a lot of animals, and they don’t have access to a zoo. They may not actually know of a lot of different types of animals. Instead, it may be more appropriate to ask them for the kinds of fruits they can name. If we asked about different fruits in the US, we’d get a highly-gendered result… we don’t want to measure sex, we want to measure language production. Identifying the correct set of common tests and making sure that the meaning of the variable is the same across these different contexts is tantamount to harmonizing research data.  The Gateway is producing in-depth documentation these data sets for cross-country comparability. Internally, the Gateway is having a mini-conference for HCAPs at the end of May where we are going to look at relationships and risk factors and outcomes among different countries endeavoring to find commonalities and data sets across different settings.

Tony: What else is on the horizon for the Gateway to Global Aging in which you are particularly involved?

Alden:  There’s lots of workshops all the time! Soon, the PI teams are going to plan out details in science and operations in next 5 years, and also organize user workshops annually for Gateway data.  In 2022 and 2024, we will focus on pollution data, and we will focus on HCAP data in 2023 and 2025—those are our big themes over the next 5 years.

By Anthony L. Teano, MLA, COAH Communications

Frailty in People Living with HIV: An Accelerated Phenotype

Todd T. Brown, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine will present “Frailty in People Living with HIV: An Accelerated Phenotype” at the May 2nd Scientific Seminar Series.  In person attendance is encouraged.  Light refreshments will be served.  To attend via Zoom, registration is required at https://bit.ly/37aHdyD .

Seeking Outstanding Director Candidates to Lead COAH

Outstanding candidates are invited to apply for the position of the Director of the Johns Hopkins University Center on Aging and Health.

The Center is a vibrant multidisciplinary center approaching its 25th anniversary. It is primarily housed in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology within the Department of Medicine but is a cross-disciplinary center that includes diverse faculty and trainees across the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing. The Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine, Public Health and Nursing are world-leading centers of academic excellence. Aging is an affirmed priority for each. For more details, please visit Fact sheet about JHU COAH to review COAH’s rich environment and related resources.

COAH currently has 42 faculty members from 19 different departments or divisions across three schools. The COAH core faculty bring over $28,000,000 per year in grant funding for aging-related research and training. Historically, the COAH research focus has highlighted population aging topics. While maintaining this focus, COAH is proud of a diverse and innovative research portfolio which spans family caregiving, cognitive and sensory functioning, physical mobility, social engagement, health equity, and frailty and resiliency. COAH is also home to active predoctoral and postdoctoral training programs; education and mentoring are an important facet of its mission.

The Director of COAH will be the spokesperson and advocate for the Center across the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing and the University as a whole. The Director will oversee the Center’s research and educational activities with the goal to refine and enhance the Center’s mission through innovative and collaborative research programs and active mentorship. The Director will build upon the Center’s rich foundation to effectively guide the growth of the Center as a national leader with expertise in population-based aging research and as a model of multidisciplinary collaboration.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Grow existing and create novel research programs and projects
  • Lead collaborations and projects that can compete successfully for center grants (e.g. P30, U01)
  • Maintain forums for interdisciplinary academic partnership with other schools, departments, and other centers conducting aging-related research with the intent to grow research partnerships and interdisciplinary visibility
  • Foster synergy for training on aging at Johns Hopkins
  • Provide active mentorship to trainees and faculty to promote and safeguard their success
  • Work directly with division director, administrator, and other divisional leaders to ensure that appropriate financial support is in place for long-term success of Center/Division sponsored funding profile
  • Attract new trainees and investigators to the Center on Aging and Health to further enhance center, divisional, departmental, and institutional efforts

Successful candidates must have:

  • Expertise in aging research and population health, demonstrated experience leading multidisciplinary teams, a strong track record in mentorship, and strong commitment to health equity
  • A record of innovative and effective administrative and fiscal leadership, national stature in his or her field, and demonstrated dedication to promoting the health and well-being of older adults
  • An MD, PhD, or equivalent degree, and an academic record consistent with the rank of Associate or Full Professor at Johns Hopkins University
  • Demonstrated capacity to foster an environment in which excellence in research, scholarship, teaching, and clinical programs can simultaneously flourish
  • A commitment to promoting a diverse, inclusive academic environment is required

The search committee will accept nominations and applications until the position is filled. However, the committee strongly encourages applicants to submit their materials by the priority deadline of June 1, 2022.

To apply for this position:

Please submit your CV and cover letter to Jonathan Leer at jleer1@jhmi.edu.

Disclosures:

Johns Hopkins University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer committed to recruiting, supporting, and fostering a diverse community of outstanding faculty, staff, and students. All applicants who share this goal are encouraged to apply.

Johns Hopkins University is committed to recruiting, supporting, and fostering a diverse community of outstanding faculty, staff, and students. As such, Johns Hopkins does not discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, or other legally protected characteristic in any student program or activity administered by the university or with regard to admission or employment.

 

Dr. David L. Roth Announces Plans to Step Down As Director of COAH

Dr. David L. Roth has announced plans to step down as the Director of the Center on Aging and Health (COAH) in the months ahead, and he will continue to work with the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and his COAH colleagues as a valued member of our faculty as a researcher, mentor, and leader in applied gerontology. This was a personal decision of Dr. Roth’s as he strives to discover a new kind of work/life balance.  He will remain involved in research with Johns Hopkins colleagues and help to bring in new leadership for COAH, while also creating more space for his family and favorite hobbies and activities that renew him.

Dr. Roth became the Director of COAH in January of 2012 and has served in this position for over 10 years.  His colleagues in the Center are grateful for his decade of steadfast leadership and commitment to the Center’s mission: to discover new and more effective ways to promote the health and well-being of older adults, and to help them continue to make valuable contributions to our communities. Empowering innovative colleagues, collaborating with interdisciplinary research teams, and mentoring students and trainees are all hallmarks of his leadership style. One of Dr. Roth’s favorite quotes on leadership is from the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, Lao-Tsu:

“To lead people, walk beside them…  As for the best leaders, people do not notice their existence.  The next best, people honor and praise.  The next, people fear; and the next, people hate….  When the best leader’s work is done, people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’”

Dr. Roth created a climate in which members from Johns Hopkins University’s schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing collaborate with partners around the world on shared goals in population health and applied gerontology in the areas of research, training, clinical care, and public service.

The search for the Center’s new Director will be led by Dr. Nancy Schoenborn of the School of Medicine and Dr. Karen Bandeen-Roche of the School of Public Health.  Dr. Roth will remain as the Center Director until a new Director is found to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. Want to nominate someone for the job?  Are you considering it for yourself?  The application priority deadline is June 1st; see the job description and application process here.