Kathryn Hyer, PhD

Dr. Kathryn Hyer

On January 1, 2021 we lost our dear colleague and friend, Dr. Kathryn Hyer. Dr. Hyer was Professor and Associate Director in the School of Aging Studies, Director of the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging, and former President of the Gerontological Society of America, the largest organization centered around the study of aging in the world.  Dr. Hyer’s work was defined by passion and commitment to bettering the lives of older adults, especially vulnerable older adults. Throughout her career, she showed unwavering commitment to improving long-term care, whether in terms of quality of care, staffing levels, or patient culture; she was one of the most recognized advocates in the world with respect to disaster preparedness in long-term facilities. She worked tirelessly to promote geriatric education across health care disciplines such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy.

Dr. Hyer’s scientific work resulted in more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and was supported by millions of dollars in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies. In 2006, she was recognized as the “USF Million Dollar Researcher”.. In 2019, her many scientific accomplishments helped her receive the prestigious Outstanding Research Achievement Award from USF.

Dr. Hyer’s advocacy regarding quality of long-term care disaster preparedness led to crucial testimonies to change policies surrounding the delivery of long-term care and the ways to prepare long-term care facilities for natural disasters, including a testimony in front of the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Florida House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness.  At the time of her death, Dr. Hyer was working on an NIH funded grant called SAFEHAVEN to study disaster preparedness in long-term care facilities. This work has already uncovered crucial information about how to reduce morbidity and mortality of residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Dr. Hyer’s work has established a solid platform on which this research can continue.

Dr. Hyer was a tremendous mentor and a passionate supporter of many students within and outside the USF School of Aging Studies. Through her effort and approach, she helped countless students reach their potential. Many of the Ph.D. in Aging Studies students have Dr. Hyer to thank for finishing their degree on time or obtaining prestigious jobs. She also became a tremendous mentor to junior researchers, helping them walk in her footsteps to develop their own outstanding careers. Dr. Hyer’s impact on long-term care policies will be sustained for decades through the work of her many mentees. 

Donations in Dr. Hyer’s name can be made to KATHRYN HYER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP IN PUBLIC POLICY AND AGING Fund at: https://giving.usf.edu/online/gift/f/536022