Louanne Bakk, one of the latest additions to the UBSSW faculty, joined the School as an assistant professor in Fall, 2013. After receiving her Bachelor of Social Work from Arizona State University West, she was admitted to the University of Michigan’s MSW program, earning alongside her degree a Certificate of Specialization in Aging. The recipient of several academic and research awards and scholarships, including the Hartford Doctoral Fellowship in Geriatric Social Work from John A. Hartford Foundation and Pearl Aldrich Graduate Student Research Award, Bakk earned her PhD from Michigan State University in 2012. She also served at the Area Agency on Aging 1-B in Southfield, MI for nine years, first as Director of Access and Benefits Assistance, then as a Research specialist. Her research is in aging, with an emphasis on Medicare and Medicaid policy, disparities in later life, and community-based intervention programs and services. Bakk’s interest was heavily influenced by her practice experience as agency director. She had the opportunity to directly observe the impact of public policy initiatives designed to assist older individuals.
“Individuals should have equal access to services and benefits, particularly as they enter later life and a time when resources can become even more limited and health increasingly declines,” says Bakk. “Because of disadvantages throughout the life course, inequities exist. My research focuses on racial, ethnic, and gender disparities under policy initiatives designed to assist older adults. I’m dedicated to increasing our understanding of how programs differentially impact the aging population.” By building an understanding about racial, gender, and ethnic disparities in policy initiatives and influencing factors, she aims to affect the design of interventions at both the individual and policy levels that promote more equitable access and avoid disparate outcomes in order to reduce inequities. She is also part of a research team investigating the impact of the Town Square for Aging, an integrative model of care providing frail, community-based older adults living with an array of services designed to maintain their health, independence, and quality of life. As the director of the new Institute on Innovative Aging Policy and Practice, Bakk will not only have to opportunity to expand and continue this research, but will also provide the opportunity for other SSW faculty and students to create new and innovative projects in gerontology.