Buddy Up: Drs. Shelley Bluethmann and Heidi Klepin

This month’s Buddy Up feature focuses on Dr. Heidi Klepin, Professor of Hematology and Oncology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Dr. Shelley Bluethmann, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Health Services and Behavioral Research at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Cancer Institute.

CARG Buddies since 2018, Klepin and Bluethmann’s relationship actually began prior to Bluethmann’s joining CARG, when the two researchers crossed paths at Wake Forest. There, they bonded over their common research interest in physical activity interventions for older adults with cancer.

Subsequently, Bluethmann invited Klepin to serve on her Scientific Advisory Committee for her new career development grant from the American Cancer Society. As part of her award, Dr. Bluethmann is seeking opportunities to publish and expand her training in cancer and aging. Dr. Bluethmann invited Dr. Klepin’s collaboration on a manuscript looking at mobility challenges in older cancer survivors. Dr. Klepin’s expertise helped inform clinical implications from Bluethmann’s analysis of National Health and Aging Trends data, and this helped get the manuscript accepted for publication by JAGS. Before the pandemic struck, Klepin invited Bluethmann to travel to Wake Forest University in North Carolina to present her work to Klepin’s colleagues as part of Bluethmann’s career development plan, an activity they hope to revisit in the future.

In their own telling, the pairing has been not only professionally but socially fulfilling. For Bluethmann, one of few researchers at Penn State Cancer Institute with a sole focus on cancer and aging, having a geriatric oncology mentor has been especially valuable. She notes, “CARG has been such a great resource, and Heidi has been a generous and fabulous mentor…. CARG and Heidi in particular have helped bridge the gap in my professional network to achieve my long-term goals in cancer and aging.” Though Bluethmann has worked with older adults for many years, including as the Director of Early Stage Dementia Initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association, she is not a clinician. Pairing a behavioral researcher with a geriatric oncologist provides great synergy in doing the important work in changing the lives of older survivors.

Reciprocally, Klepin has found considerable satisfaction in her role as a mentor. “It was an honor to be paired as a mentor through the CARG Buddy Program,” she says. “Shelley’s passion, poise, dedication and content expertise have led to research success and are an asset to the CARG community. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a ‘senior Buddy’ is the opportunity to develop new collaborative relationships to be enjoyed for years to come!”

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