Taeyoung Park, 2022 HEAA Outstanding Senior Awardee

portrait of a young person

Drawn by the mission of the College of Human Ecology to “advance and improve the human experience” through a multidisciplinary approach, Taeyoung Park ’22 transferred from Georgetown University to start at Cornell as a sophomore. Taeyoung found a passion for gerontology through Dr. Corinna Loeckenhoff’s class on Adulthood and Aging and decided to pursue a double minor in Gerontology and Human Development along with a major in human biology, health and society. Throughout the past three years at Cornell, Taeyoung has dedicated her career to translational research, medicine, and service.

Taeyoung’s longstanding commitment to caring for older adults stems from her personal experiences at her family’s pain & anesthesiology clinic in Korea, where the overwhelming majority of the patients were older adults. In addition, she witnessed her grandfather be the primary caregiver for her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. From these experiences, she started to recognize the importance of medical encounters and caregiving in later life. She has been able to develop her interest in this field at Cornell through her honors thesis under the combined mentorship of Drs. Catherine Riffin and Corinna Loeckenhoff. Her project identifies experiential similarity as a major factor in motivating primary care physicians to address caregiver needs and risks in healthcare settings. With the financial support from the Alan D. Mathios Research and Service Grant and the College of Human Ecology’s Summer Research Stipend for Undergraduates, Taeyoung was able to complete her honors thesis and gain a deeper understanding of physicians’ behavior by analyzing their motivations and interactions with patients.

Her dedication to the field of geriatrics is further evidenced by her involvement in research on gerontology and caregiving. In Dr. Corinna Loeckenhoff’s Healthy Aging Lab, Taeyoung administered Balloon Analog Risk Tasks (BART) to investigate the cognitive and physiological differences between older and younger adults when faced with decision-making situations. Taeyoung also served as a research assistant for Dr. Catherine Riffin’s lab at Weill Cornell Medicine, where she helped pilot a randomized control trial of the Pain Identification and Communication Toolkit (PICT), an intervention designed to help family caregivers of persons with dementia recognize and communicate about pain. Through her research experiences, Taeyoung acquired foundational knowledge in translational research and developed an intuition to independently lead research projects. Her passion for gerontology and geriatrics has led her to receive the Kendal at Ithaca Scholarship, an award established by an anonymous donor wishing to support students pursuing a career in gerontology.

As a Cornell Traditions Fellow, Taeyoung has also worked to serve her community. As an Emergency Medical Technician, she volunteers at the Ithaca Free Clinic to care for underserved patients and works for the Cornell COVID-19 Testing Team to help keep the community safe. She has also demonstrated leadership by serving as the president of the Kappa Omicron Nu honors society at the College of Human Ecology, with the guidance of chapter advisor Amanda Gonzalez, and as the president of the Golden Key International Honors Society.

Taeyoung plans to take a gap year after graduation, during which she will continue her research in caregiving for older adults at Dr. Veerawat Phongtankuel’s lab in Weill Cornell Medicine and work as an emergency medical technician. Afterward, she hopes to matriculate into medical school and learn more about geriatrics and primary care.

Taeyoung would like to thank the Human Ecology Alumni Association, Dr. Corinna Loeckenhoff, Dr. Catherine Riffin, Dr. Karl Pillemer, Dr. Julia Felice, Dr. John Michael, and Amanda Gonzalez for their leadership, support, and mentorship. She would also like to acknowledge her friends and family, especially her grandmother and her cat Foxy, for their compassion and inspiration that allowed Taeyoung to flourish at Cornell and receive this honor.

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