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Dr. Melissa O’Connor – gerontology expert and big data researcher – named as Fellow in the Gerontological Society of America

Dr. Melissa O'Connor

Melissa O’Connor, PhD, MBA, RN, FGSA, associate professor at the Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, has been named a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) which will honor her at a November 15 reception at its 71st Annual Scientific Meeting, in Austin, Texas. GSA is the nation's largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging.

The status of fellow -- the highest class of membership within the international Society -- is an acknowledgment of outstanding and continuing work in gerontology. Dr. O’Connor was chosen for the honor in the health sciences membership section. Her selection recognizes her significant contributions to the area of aging across a spectrum of passions and programs – from conducting and disseminating rigorous research, expanding gerontological education at the College, mentoring students and fellow faculty in conducting and disseminating aging research, to effecting public policy related to home health care for older adults.

Dr. O’Connor’s work aims to aid health care providers in clinical decision-making and care management of older adults and, in parallel, helps older adults age in place in the community, thus avoiding hospitalization. She frequently uses large data sets in her studies and her work indicates the unique contributions of skilled nursing care in support of the goal of community-based care for older adults. She is an expert on gerontologic nursing, transitional care and home health care, including the need to create a systemic, evidence-based mechanism to identify patients who are ready for discharge from hospital care and home health services, a groundbreaking area of work.

“Dr. O’Connor is a dynamic, innovative nurse scientist and educator whose numerous contributions to gerontologic care will continue to have national impact,” notes Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean and Professor. “We are proud to claim her as our colleague and this induction as a fellow in the Gerontological Society of America is certainly a fitting tribute to her body of work.”

“I am honored to be inducted as a fellow in the GSA and remain focused on my commitment to rigorous and important interdisciplinary research to improve the lives and health outcomes of older adults,” says Dr. O’Connor of the accolade.  

Dr. O’Connor is a frequent chair and presenter at GSA symposia and a member of the GSA’s Nursing Care of Older Adults Interest Group. In 2016 she provided an invited presentation on leadership at the Emerging Scholars Professional Organization’s inaugural pre-conference workshop. In the prior year, she received the Springer Publishing Company Geriatric/ Gerontological Nursing Award for a distinguished published research manuscript “The Impact of Home Health Length of Stay and Number of Skilled Nursing Visits on Hospitalization among Medicare-Reimbursed Skilled Home Health Beneficiaries” in Research in Nursing and Health at the Nursing Care of Older Adults Interest Group meeting.

Dr. O’Connor was recently named a Distinguished Gerontological Nurse Educator by the National Hartford Center for Gerontological Nursing Excellence. She advocates for elders and shares her expertise as an elected member of the Board of Trustees of the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia. She was also an invited panelist for a November 2017 two-day think tank, convened by the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), resulting in the 2018 release of “No Place Like Home Report: Advancing the Safety of Care in the Home”.   She has received research funding from multiple sources and has had her aging research recognized through an array of research awards.