By Danny Yarnall
Shana Stites, PsyD, MA, MS, recently was a part of the 2020 Butler Williams Scholar’s Conference gathering of rising aging and dementia scholars in early July.
Dr. Shana Sites is a PMC Clark Scholar, a clinical psychologist, and a researcher with the Penn Program on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB). Applications for the program opened in October 2019 and closed in February 2020. The pool of potential attending scholars had to hold a doctorate and either engage in aging research or actively consider working the field. The NIA announced the accepted scholars in April of this year.
The conference, which was held July 7-9, is an opportunity for academics and researchers with an interest in health disparities to further their knowledge through a mixture of lectures, seminars, and small-group discussions in research design. Attendees also meet and collaborate with each other and representatives from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
The conference is typically held in Bethesda, MD near NIA headquarters. However, the NIA chose to hold the conference in virtual spaces this year in accordance with COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Dr. Stites was concerned initially whether the virtual conference’s networking and programming would feel as robust as an in-person conference, but she said that concern quickly subsided.
“It was the best zoom call I ever had,” she said.
Dr. Stites appreciated the online environment, in which she and other attendees no only bridged the physical gap between themselves but the gap between the varying fields within aging research.
“Everyone came there with the desire to connect with one another,” she said.
Dr. Stites’ current project, the COGENT3 study, investigates how the changing perceptions of gender and sexuality over time could have impacted the measures of cognition and memory across three generations.