Profiles in Gerontology: A Biographical Dictionary By W. Andrew Achenbaum and Daniel M. Albert, 1 995, hardcover
This textbook was developed as The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) approached the 50th Anniversary of its founding. Individuals involved with GSA found it appropriate to produce some historical records that would celebrate the occasion. Jeanne Bader was identified as deserving the credit for conceiving of this biographical dictionary and for designing the original questionnaire used to construct the sketches contained in the textbook.
The selection criteria were developed by Jeanne Bader and W. Andrew Achenbaum who drew from a list of all GSA presidents, editors, and Kleemeir and Kent award winners. They then added names of people in various GSA membership directories that they believed should be included in the volume of their longstanding contributions as gerontologists to the field of aging.
Although the textbook contains 300 listings of individuals and biographical profiles, not everyone who is involved in the field of gerontology is listed. For example, Bader and Achenbaum believed that William Graebner should not be added to the textbook, as he never did extensive research on aging and he considers himself a historian, not a gerontologist. The elimination of his biography may be a surprise as William Graebner is the author of A History of Retirement (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1980). This text is often recognized as the best available description of the evolution of retirement in the United States.
After sending a questionnaire out to approximately 650 gerontologists, 200 surveys were returned. As identified by the authors of this text, some forms reached their intended recipients. Other prominent gerontologists informed the authors that they did not wish to participate. One individual at the national Institute on Aging identified this textbook as narcissistic. The forms that were returned were then reviewed and some individuals were recruited after the initial questionnaire was distributed. In the end, most of the 300 people profiled lived in the United States with a few from Canada. Only Europeans who have interacted extensively with the United States gerontologists are included in this volume.
The profiles in gerontology are sometimes short, sweet and interesting, and at other times, a little too long and dry. The majority of profiles serve as a professional life chronology for many of the gerontologists identified in this textbook.
Whenever a venture of this type takes place those in the industry can quickly identify the profiles of gerontologists such as Ken Dychtward, Lois Evans and Maggie Kühn as being appropriately listed in this textbook. (I do not believe that Maggie Kühn ever did research in gerontology like William Graebner who was eliminated.) However, many notable individuals who this author would assume would be identified in this textbook were absent. Most notably, Mathy Mezey, RN, EdD, FAAN is not listed and she should be! Why? In an abbreviated format, Mathy Mezey is Independence Foundation professor of the nursing education at New York University. She is past Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Teaching Home Program, a national initiative which sought to improve care to nursing home patients and to entice nurses to work in long-term care by linking schools of nursing and nursing homes. While a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, she was Associate EHrector of an ambulatory care facility for the elderly where she established interdisciplinary geriatric programs, including a nurse-managed urinary continence program. She has written widely on the role of nurse practitioners in improving health care to the elderly, on assessment and, more recently, on ethical decision-making concerning life-sustaining treatments. She is the co-author of Health Assessment of the Older Individual which is in its second edition, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners: The Evolution of Primary Care, and Nursing Homes and Nursing Care.
I don't know if Mathy Mezey was an individual who saw this venture as narcissistic or was not selected to participate, however, she and her profile should be listed as she has had a profound influence on gerontological nursing practice as well as developing nursing facilities to practice as teaching organizations. In addition, Irene Burnside, Elma Holder, Paul R. Katz, MD, Doris Schwartz and even "un-gerontologists" like Stewart Bainum (the founder of Manor Care, Inc., the third largest nursing facility provider in the United States) should also be identified in a textbook that profiles leaders in the industry... they are not!
Since this textbook does not contain a complete listing of all individuals in gerontology, geriatrics, gerontological health care and business, its usefulness is limited to individuals who are involved primarily with gerontological research and education. Since mis tends to be a very small cirde of individuals, one would expect that everybody in the field would already know the profiles of their colleagues contained in this textbook. Therefore, its "real life" usefulness is even more limited. It reminds me of the firms that call you at home late at night and ask you to provide your biography to be listed in your high school's Who's Who textbook..... free of charge. Of course, in order to obtain a copy of the textbook, in order to impress friends and family of your listing, it costs $49.99 (for the non-leather bound edition).
The individuals listed in this biography deserve to be recognized in print and I hope that they do not have to pay $49.99 (nonleather bound edition) to obtain a copy of this textbook in order to keep it to pass down in the family as a tribute to their contributions in gerontology. However, the names that are absent are as notable as the ones listed and it leaves the reader with a feeling of disappointment that not every "great gerontologist" could have been included.