Preparing Students to Become Leaders in the Field of Gerontological Social Work

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February 25th, 2013

Boston University’s Lowy-GEM Program in Aging

The Lowy-GEM Program in Aging at Boston University School of Social Work is an innovative, field education-based program, designed to prepare MSW students to become leaders and skilled practitioners in the field of Gerontological Social Work. This program honors the contributions of the late Emeritus Professor Louis Lowy, who inspired a generation of social work students to enter the field of Aging. It also expands upon our earlier GEM (Geriatric Education Model) Program, which began in 2001 and was funded through a series of grants, including the Hartford Partnership Program in Aging Education (HPPAE). In 2009, Boston University incorporated the program into its MSW Program, as a permanent option, under the name of the Lowy-GEM Program in Aging. Since its inception in 2001, the program has grown steadily from four students in the inaugural year to 24 students in the current academic year, and a total of 113 students who have participated overall.  Almost all have gone on to careers in Gerontological Social Work and many have moved into supervisory and other leadership positions, including serving as field instructors for our current students.

The Lowy-GEM Program is based on a collaborative partnership between Boston University School of Social Work and 20 health and social service organizations serving older adults. Both clinical and macro students participate in the program and have the option of a one- or two-year model. Participating students receive small stipends through the Louis Lowy Fund in Gerontology and Social Welfare and can earn the Louis Lowy Certificate in Gerontological Social Work.

The Lowy-GEM Program model consists of a primary field placement in one of our participating agencies and a concurrent enrichment experience, for a few hours a week, in a second setting. In addition, there is a monthly seminar taught by experts in the field of Aging, which is attended by all students and to which field instructors are invited. This serves the dual purpose of educating students about important topics related to Gerontological Social Work, while forming a community of students and field instructors interested in the field. Students electing the two-year model undertake leadership projects in their second year. Examples include presenting programs on Aging for the whole BUSSW community and creating a LinkedIn page for participating students and field instructors to share interesting programs and particular areas of expertise within Aging.

Underlying this program is the belief that MSW students trained in this model will develop a sophisticated understanding of the needs of older adults and their families and the skills to provide expert clinical and macro services within the complex health and service systems.

Reeve Goldhaber, LICSW
Director, The Lowy-GEM Program in Aging, Boston University School of Social Work