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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Aug 13 / Carrie Leach

IOG Insider: Dr. Lisa Ficker

ficker 2014Our IOG Insider blog posts provide a glimpse into the IOG and the people inside to learn more about what led them to the field of aging and to the Institute of Gerontology. This month showcases the warm and talented Dr. Lisa Ficker currently a postdoctoral fellow who works closely with Dr. Peter Lichtenberg on a variety of projects. Read on to learn more about how she got her start in aging and the journey that led her here.

Can you tell us about yourself and the work you do at the IOG?

I first came to the IOG as a student volunteer while taking undergraduate classes in psychology in Fall, 1998. Peter Lichtenberg had just been made the interim director. So, I feel like I’ve been at the IOG since the beginning! I helped interview seniors in a data collection for a graduate student’s dissertation. After I was accepted to graduate school, I studied at the IOG and the department of psychology and eventually, I had other students help me on my dissertation. After graduating in 2010 with a PhD in clinical psychology, I was hired to help manage various research projects at both the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and the Institute of Gerontology: a study of Detroit grandparents caring for grandchildren, an evaluation of a substance abuse prevention program in 200 Michigan high schools, and I’m currently helping Peter on his financial decision making study. The goal of this study is to develop a tool to identify seniors who are vulnerable to financial exploitation. I also have a private practice in Macomb County that focuses on issues that senior face: adjustment to widowhood, family issues and marital therapy, depression and anxiety, particularly among caregivers. During all of these years, I have raised three children and I enjoy Jazzercise, ballroom dancing, and attending any cultural event involving live theater. Alvin Ailey dance company is my favorite!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in New York City and moved to San Francisco at the age of 12. I feel like I got to experience the best of both coasts! My parents were theater, ballet, and opera fans and we always had subscription seats as well as being frequent visitors to museums of all sorts. I trained to be a professional ballet dancer and my first job was dancing in the Nutcracker at the San Francisco Opera House every Christmas.

Why did you choose to study at Wayne State University?

I chose WSU for graduate school because their clinical psychology program has such an excellent reputation as well as its urban mission and outreach. I had a friend on the faculty of University of Michigan who urged me to apply there but I preferred WSU because of its diversity. After living in the Detroit area for the past 22 years, I feel committed to helping to make Detroit’s renaissance a reality. This is a wonderful city!

What led you to psychology?

I decided to become a psychologist when I was 13 years old and I read “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” but as a young woman, I balked at the many years of graduate training required. I worked in technical writing and technical support in Silicon Valley when I lived in California. The 80s were a big boon time in the computer industry and jobs were so plentiful. After my husband accepted a transfer to Michigan, our lifestyle changed and I felt that I had more room to choose what I wanted to do rather than focus on the financial needs of the family. I was able to finally begin my graduate studies in psychology when I was almost forty years old and all of my children were in school.

How did you end up in aging?

A desire to work with older folks and understand the aging process through research and clinical training led me to the IOG. I am here to contribute in any way I can to the seniors of Detroit. I love interacting with the volunteers and workers of the Healthier Black Elders Center, doing analyses of research data to learn about aging, giving presentations to enhance the health of body and mind to Detroit seniors and professionals who work with them, and engaging seniors one-on-one in memory exercises and interviews for data collection. What I love most about my job is the variety of opportunities!

To learn  more about Lisa click here.

To learn more about the IOG click here.