Student Profile: Megan Frank, PAU SAGE President Has Passion for Serving Older Adults

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Megan Frank was attending high school in Berkeley, CA when she learned that her grandmother, who was raising her, had Alzheimer’s (AD). With limited knowledge of the disease, Megan began to research its causes and treatments and in so doing learned about other neurodegenerative diseases like frontotemporal dementia and atypical Parkinson’s disease which sparked her interest in an academic career in neuropsychology.

After graduating with a B.A. in psychology from University of California Merced, she pursued a master’s degree in counseling and joined the clinical trials team at the University of California-San Francisco where she ran studies exploring the efficacy of anti-amyloid and ani-tau drugs, both disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer’s. She is now in the third-year of PAU’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program. “I chose PAU because it was one of the few schools in the region with a neuropsychology tract,” says Megan. 

Sadly, Megan’s grandmother passed away within the first year of her Ph.D. studies. But her passion for neuropsychology and conducting research with older adults lives on. She currently serves as president of the PAU Student Association of Gerontological Enrichment (SAGE) where she manages programs that provide mental health services to older adults in senior living homes in Palo Alto and Daly City.

“The Covid-19 pandemic erased so many of the plans I had for this academic year,” says Megan. "However, serving as the President of SAGE has presented me with new opportunities to work with older adults and to provide clinical counseling and make a difference in their lives as they face the challenges of isolation.”

Tom Barrett, the services coordinator at Hillcrest Garden senior living home in Daly City said that he was delighted when Megan Frank contacted him this past spring to explore how SAGE could provide residents with essential counseling services. Megan and her team of students, under the advisement of faculty-member Rowena Gomez, Ph.D., developed a survey for the residents to learn about areas they could help with. Together, Barrett and the student team created a plan that includes offering residents services from PAU’s E-Clinic (five have already been referred). Other seniors have participated in group sessions to learn tactics on coping with the isolation and loneliness of COVID-19. 

Megan’s plans still include becoming a neuropsychologist and working on a multidisciplinary team in a hospital. “I hope to work with diagnosing individuals in addition to conducting research with older adults on cognition and the brain,” said Megan.

When asked if she has any advice to prospective students interested in neuropsychology, Megan suggests exploring which populations they’d like to work with and finding a mentor with a similar interest because they know what steps must be taken to pursue your desired career. “Follow your interests,” advises Megan. “Pursuing a doctoral degree is difficult and it’s important to make sure you are interested in what you are learning.”

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