2018 Tillman Scholar

Emily Balog

Air Force
The George Washington University
Ph.D., Translational Health Sciences

“America’s older adults, those who cared for and protected us, enrich our society. We must advocate for their meaningful participation in our communities.”

Emily developed an interest in the elderly, especially elderly veterans, at age 14, working at Jack’s Donuts. Proud displays of veterans’ hats and talk of younger days enlivened the shop. In high school, she was stunned with footage of 9/11 and came to a deeper understanding of the elderly veterans’ esprit de corps. She too wanted to make a meaningful contribution and enlisted in the Air Force. Inspired by the first responders of 9/11, she chose to work in Emergency Management. The call to duty also provided her the opportunity to pursue her passion of becoming an occupational therapist. Being able to fulfill both of her callings was empowering.

During her six years in the Air Force and her deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, she encountered a wide range of individuals in a variety of contexts. This afforded her the ability to confidently translate her military experiences to practical applications and prepared her for continued leadership.

After the death of her mother, and being a young mom herself, Emily saw her purpose with renewed perspective. She began volunteering with veteran organizations. She witnessed how enriching senior veterans are to younger veterans, as well as their challenges and the needs they experience. Upon graduating from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia as an occupational therapist specializing in geriatrics in 2007, she addressed similar barriers to meaningful participation and independence with her clients. Her interest lies in a concept called “aging in place” which allows older adults to successfully age in their homes and communities, preventing institutionalized care.

Armed with a Ph.D. in Translational Health Sciences from George Washington University, Emily plans to use new knowledge and past experiences on a new mission, one in which she will connect science and research to translate knowledge of aging in place and implement programs to impact the collective health and meaningful aging of older adults in our communities.