Chances are you’ve seen Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller in action.
It could have been as a community speaker, a grief educator, a student mentor, a teacher, or a member of one of several local organizations benefiting the geriatric population.
Kopp Miller, who has been honored with May’s monthly Jefferson Award, is blessed with endless energy and a sharp, “can-do” attitude. Since she’s a sought-after speaker on a number of topics, including women’s issues, grief and bereavement, sexuality, grant writing, gerontology and caregivers, these attributes allow her to juggle her positions of associate professor of occupational therapy and public health and homeland security, and administrative director of the Center for Successful Aging with a generous amount of community service added to the mix.
Kopp Miller doesn’t complain about her hectic schedule. “We do things on Sundays,” she said good-naturedly. “We do things in the evenings. It’s just a lot of fun to go out and talk with people. With every bit of education we do, someone leaves with knowledge they didn’t have. It’s knowledge that can improve their lives.”
As a contributor to several organizations, including the Lutheran Homes Society Community Services Board, Ohio Research Council on Aging, WBGU/PBS, Northwest Ohio Journal productions, YWCA, Northwest Ohio Gerontological Association, Zonta International of Toledo and several more at UT, Kopp Miller has focused on geriatrics and women’s and children’s issues. According to Dr. Patricia Hogue, associate professor and assistant dean for diversity recruitment and retention, Kopp Miller is a firm believer in getting things done.
“If Barb is on your committee, you know you’re getting a person who will be there and give it all she has,” Hogue said. “Barb gets things done. She is always engaged and thinking of ‘What’s next?’”
Kopp Miller is a leader and participant in community health fairs, conferences and grant initiatives that provide screenings and information. Many of her contacts have been garnered through her 18 years at UT, but her dedication to geriatric affairs stretches into her personal life as well.
“She gives a lot of herself,” Hogue said, “well over and beyond the duties needed to fulfill her position as a professor. She’s just a quality individual who cares about other people.”
As a young graduate student, Kopp Miller said she realized that the geriatric population had many health needs and too few providers who understood them.
“We need to educate health-care professionals and communities regarding the difference between normal age-related changes and disease-related changes,” she said. “As people get older, their needs change in many ways, but they still basically want the same things most of us want: to have enjoyable lives and live as independently as possible.”
Today, she added, one in 12 people is 65 years or older. By 2030, one in five people will fit into this category of “older adults.”
“The majority of older adults live within our communities,” Kopp Miller said. “They’re our neighbors and our family members. If we educate ourselves about their needs and provide access to the resources they need, the entire community benefits.”