by Julie Cleveland
Dr. Susan Hedrick is a research career scientist and associate director of the Northwest Center for Outcomes Research in Older Adults for the Veterans Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System and professor in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington. She has been at the VA and University for 20 years, since she received her Ph.D. at Michigan State University.
Dr. Hedrick's current study is an evaluation of the VA's new assisted living pilot project, which is being conducted with seven medical centers in four Northwest states. She is beginning a new study looking at the overall process of long-term care referral in the VA. In September, she was co-chair of a national meeting of clinicians, managers, policy-makers and researchers designed to assess the state of long-term care and plan for the future. She spends a great deal of her time on administrative issues and mentoring, to ensure that her VA research colleagues have a good place to work. She also teaches a course on "Society, Chronic Illness, and Disability" in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the UW.
Dr. Hedrick became interested in looking at long term care for older adults while in graduate school. At that time, she had the fortunate opportunity to work with Dr. Sidney Katz, a charismatic pioneer in health services research in geriatrics. Dr. Katz performed the first clinical trials of home care for older adults. "It was a great start in this field, and I met colleagues through him that I still work with today," she says.
The aspect Hedrick enjoys most about her work is learning more about the wonderful programs that have been developed to help older persons live more independent lives. She especially gains satisfaction in helping new researchers learn how to conduct studies that make a difference. Hedrick notes, "Even in conversations with friends, I've noticed over time that caring for aging families has become a much more important topic." She continues, "Sometimes I can offer information or a different perspective that can help. I think growing awareness of the need for programs for older adults is a good sign of future support of these programs."
Outside of work, Hedrick enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with her husband, Ben and their two geriatric dogs, Alfa and Spike. One of Hedrick's passions is singing. She is a first soprano, and singing has been a part of her life since she was very young. One of the highlights of her year is going to the Midsummer Musical Retreat held at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. A music camp for adult amateur singers, the retreat has been around for over 20 years. "It has an incredible group of faculty and participants from every walk of life. I find it very inspirational!"