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A Field in Need of New Recruits

By Jim Duffy

Are students and young researchers reluctant to enter the field of aging research? As chair of the MPH program at the Bloomberg School, biostatistician Ron Brookmeyer sees evidence for this in each new crop of arriving students. They sign on in droves to study international health and AIDS, but Brookmeyer, PhD, puts average enrollment in the aging curriculum at all of "a couple of students."

"We don't have the workforce we need right now," says Linda Fried, director of the Center on Aging and Health. "I think it has to do with a sense of futility that people have when they think about aging. It probably has to do a little bit with ageism, too. That combination makes this a field that's just not seen as sexy, if you will."

Researchers already at work in aging insist that such reluctance is misplaced. They see it as a field full of opportunities with potential to advance the science and practice of public health in ways that will make a difference for the future not just of older adults, but of the broader population as well.

"This is an untouched frontier in many ways," Fried says. "People who really want to make a contribution have a wide-open opportunity to do that on a whole range of different levels."

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