By Lynn Maleh
Los Angeles may be the epicenter of plastic surgery, anti-aging campaigns, and a Peter-Pan mentality, but USC student, Marti DeLiema, is not afraid to face our fears. As the baby-boom generation reaches maturity and life-expectancy climbs, it’s comforting to know there are strong-willed scientists, like Marti, looking out for our older population.
A natural inquisitor, Marti excelled in sciences from a young age and chose to further her studies in Psychological Biology at UCLA. While completing her Bachelors of Science, Marti enrolled in Frontiers in Human Aging, a year-long course, which she admits “planted the seed” for her interest in gerontology.
Upon graduating, Marti began working as a research coordinator, in the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, at the UCLA Medical Center. Her work focused on the potential health benefits, of Tai Chi and Kundalini Yoga, on the depression and stress of caregivers, for patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
It was opportune for Marti, that USC’s Davis School of Gerontology offered her a nationally ranked doctoral program, with a generous Provost Scholarship, in her immediate location. But despite the geographic and financial convenience, Marti’s studies pit her against a new challenge – public policy.
Though she began her doctorate studies with a focus in psychological biology, Marti has become more concerned with public policy, particularly in the field of elder abuse. She is now learning to balance her time in the lab with political discourse and writing policy briefs.
Marti was recently featured on USC’s front page for her honors at the Gerontological Society of America’s 64th annual scientific meeting in Boston, where she was awarded The Task Force for Minority Issues in Gerontology Paper Award and an honorable mention for the Carroll E. Estes Student Paper Award, for her studies in elder abuse in low income Latino communities, led by her faculty mentor Kate Wilber. She credits Kate and the team, immeasurably, for her success.
Marti’s current research project, and a potential basis for her dissertation, involves organizing a multidisciplinary team in a case study of the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensics Center. Under the guidance of Kate Wilber, the team will investigate the effectiveness of the center’s interventions on elder abuse, on a case-by-case basis.
Marti’s primary goals are to raise awareness of elder abuse and improve the quality of life for older adults. She encourages increased government and media attention, examining the gap between gerontological theory and practice (i.e., between researchers, like Marti, and actual caregivers), and revisiting society’s perceptions of older adults/aging. Upon completing USC, Marti plans to continue towards a postdoctoral degree, with the intention of a career in academia and research – “where the work has a significant human impact.”
As for the anti-aging creams, Marti says to toss ‘em. Improved aging starts with regular cognitive and physical exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet, and keeping an open dialogue with loved ones, about end-of-life care preferences.