Professor Amber Gum- June 2020 Alumna of the Month

Amber

My Fulbright experience in Israel broadened my perspective professionally by providing exposure to the psycho-social issues facing older adults and their caregivers across cultures. Personally, my husband and I gained confidence in our abilities to travel and live in a different country with young children, who were three and one at the time.”

My life before Fulbright: I was a busy professor at the University of South Florida, balancing work and a young family.

Why Fulbright? My husband and I were ready for an adventure and a new challenge, after several years establishing careers. My university was providing encouragement and technical support to faculty and students who wanted to apply for Fulbright fellowships. Years before, as a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, I had become very good friends with another postdoc who returned to her home of Israel (Professor Liat Ayalon of Bar-Ilan University). We continued to work together and remain close friends, so we proposed a project that integrated our areas of expertise related to older adults and caregivers.

One highlight from your Fulbright experience: It’s so hard to choose just one! My professional highlights all have to do with the wonderful people I worked with, Liat, other faculty and students at Bar-Ilan, collaborators at other universities, and our research participants.

A source of inspiration: Our research participants were home care workers who had moved from other countries to live with and care for older Israelis; this arrangement benefits everyone, although it can be difficult for the home care workers who are often leaving behind family members in their home countries. They were inspiring – for their hard work, dedication, caring, and grace during adversity.  They were very dedicated to the older adults they cared for, they sent money to their family in their home country, and they supported each other in Israel.

An insight from my research/work: Caring for older adults with chronic health problems requires caring for their families and other care providers as well.

What’s on your horizon? Our research participants recommended that we develop online support for home care workers who migrate to different countries. One colleague from Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Ohad Green, later came to the University of South Florida (USF) on his own Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship to continue this work, developing and pilot testing an online version of our intervention to support home care workers. He is continuing this work now at the University of Oxford, and I continue to collaborate with Liat and him on research to benefit older adults and their caregivers. Liat and I plan to present a symposium this fall at a conference.

Amber