GSA Adds New Policy Internship in Memory of Dr. Kathryn Hyer

For Immediate Release
June 14, 2021

Contact: Todd Kluss
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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is expanding its summer policy internship program in 2021 — with the addition of a position named in memory of late GSA Board Chair Kathryn Hyer, MPP, PhD, FGSA, FAGHE, who passed away in January.

As established in 2019, this professional development opportunity for emerging scholars in the aging field also includes an internship named in memory of Greg O’Neill, PhD, a scholar himself and long-time GSA staff member who passed away in September 2018.

The program, which will be conducted virtually this year, is managed by GSA Vice President for Policy and Professional Affairs Patricia M. D’Antonio, BSPharm, MS, MBA, BCGP.

“As we honor the memory of Drs. Hyer and O’Neill, it is immensely gratifying to find two internship candidates with the passion and potential to carry on their legacy and make a meaningful difference in the advancement of aging policy and research,” said D’Antonio.

Lei Chen, MS, MSP, a doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, will serve as the inaugural Kathryn Hyer Student Policy Intern.

“As a doctoral student in social welfare specializing in aging and health policies, I am passionate about applying research to the real world and making evidence-based policies beneficial for people who need long-term services and supports, especially those in marginalized groups,” Chen said. “After attending my first GSA Annual Scientific Meeting in 2018, I see great collaborations and opportunities to connect research and policy in the GSA community. I am excited and feel honored to support GSA this summer while in memory of Dr. Kathryn Hyer’s contributions to the field.”

Chen’s research focuses primarily on health and aging policy, long-term care services and supports, older adults’ social support, cross-cultural studies, immigrants’ access to health care, and mixed methods.

Kaleigh Ligus, MA, has been selected as the Greg O’Neill Student Policy Intern. She is a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut and a clinical research assistant for the UConn Health Center on Aging.

“I am thrilled to serve as the second Greg O’Neill Student Policy Intern with GSA,” Ligus said. “Through my experience at the Center on Aging at UConn Health, I have been exposed to several policy evaluations on a state level and I look forward to addressing policies on a national scale. I am eager to contribute to aging-related policy development in this capacity in honor of Dr. O’Neill’s myriad contributions to the field of gerontology.”

Ligus’ research focuses on long term services and supports among rural older adults; she said her interests span the areas of health disparities, social determinants of health, and access to quality healthcare for older adults.

The six-week summer GSA program will enable the interns to be immersed in aging-related policy development and participate in this process at the national level.

Their duties and opportunities may include attending congressional hearings; researching and analyzing issues that impact older people; meeting with federal regulatory agencies and national coalitions; monitoring legislation and regulations; contributing to GSA’s Public Policy & Aging Report; developing policy sessions for the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting; drafting communications; and attending networking events with GSA staff.


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society.

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