Vijeth Iyengar received his Ph.D. in Psychology in 2016 and began his current role as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF-STEM) at the Administration for Community Living (ACL), an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in September of that year. There, he works as an aging services program specialist, working with grantees who deploy evidence-based interventions that ease the burden on the aging populace with accessible programs and technology. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the NINDS Exceptional Summer Research Student Award, and the Duke Alumni Association’s 2016 Forever Duke Student Leadership Award. Dr. Iyengar also serves as a member of the Regional Board of Directors for DukeDC and as a mentor for College Bound, Inc. The opinions and views presented below solely reflect those of the subject of this post and not his federal government agency.
Can you tell me a little about what you do as a Presidential Management Fellow?
I work as an aging services program specialist, which more or less translates to being a Program Officer. Along with my colleagues, I help monitor and manage grants that are awarded to states and private organizations for evidence-based interventions that target individuals suffering from dementia and their family caregivers. The idea here is that we're an aging populace, and a heavy percentage of the care currently rests on family members. With this in mind, it becomes important to understand how we can deploy services and programs that are aimed at training and educating caregivers about how to manage the symptoms, behaviors, and negative outcomes of folks who are dealing with dementia. Operating within the framework of cooperative agreements, I work with grantees to determine that they have evidence-based interventions with clear outcomes, and that these interventions are being evaluated with well-validated psychometric instruments when applicable.
The other part of my portfolio that I've slowly started to develop revolves around the intersection of aging and technology. Many individuals want to age in their homes. This becomes potentially problematic if they live alone and have no family caregiver living in the home or nearby. However, there's an avenue by which technology can help in terms of remote caregiving or attempting to address some of the issues (e.g., falling at home or aimless wandering) that individuals with dementia may exhibit. Specifically, technological tools may have a role, via sensing and monitoring mechanisms. Were someone to fall, a technological tool could alert the first responder. If someone were to wander, maybe the tool pings the caregiver to help determine where the individual is. Ethical and other regulations need to be fleshed out, but I'm attempting to advance my understanding of this interaction as it relates to interventions, programs, and policy.
It's been an interesting and productive first year. Check back with me to see how I am doing after my second year!
Read more about Vijeth, including how he ended up working for the government, and what advice he'd give current Duke students, in his Alumni Profile, written by Psychology and Neuroscience Ph.D. student Christina Bejjani.