At #AGS21, UCSF Expert Will Offer “Confessions of Unfocused Researcher” on Road to Better Care as We Age

  • At #AGS21, UCSF Expert Will Offer “Confessions of Unfocused Researcher” on Road to Better Care as We Age #geriatrics #aging #AGS20

New York (May 8, 2020)—The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and AGS Health in Aging Foundation today announced that Alexander K. Smith, MD, MPH, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF and one of geriatrics’ most influential rising researchers and advocates, will be honored with the 2020/2021 Thomas and Catherine Yoshikawa Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Clinical Investigation. Following the cancellation of the AGS 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting due to COVID-19, the AGS shared that Dr. Smith would deliver his marquee presentation, “Confessions of an unfocused researcher,” at the AGS 2021 Annual Scientific Meeting (#AGS21) in Chicago, Ill. (May 13-15; pre-conference day: May 12).

“Research is the power pushing geriatrics expertise forward, and we need to chart as broad a course as possible, since age affects all aspects of life”, said Sunny Linnebur, PharmD, FCCP, FASCP, BCPS, BCGP, AGS board chair. “Dr. Smith’s career is a prime example of casting as wide a net as possible to yield promising approaches to the challenges we know, the opportunities we don’t, and the work that can yield solutions for both.”

In his presentation at #AGS21, Dr. Smith will describe the benefits and challenges of different approaches to a research focus, particularly one that maintains a broad array of interests. The value of a diversity of avenues for scientific inquiry remains key, not only for maintaining intellectual interest and scholarship in multiple areas, but also for mentoring the current and future generations of clinicians, educators, and scientists.

“Researchers have long been taught to have a narrow focus,” explains Dr. Smith. “But throughout my academic career, I’ve been drawn to holistic disciplines with central principles that run counter to this reductionist perspective: Primary care, geriatrics, and palliative care.  My academic success, such as it’s been, reflects this pull towards complexity, diversity of interests, and nurturing fresh ideas. I’m excited to share that approach with my colleagues.”

That vagabond spirit developed early for Dr. Smith, who was born in Hilo, H.I., before his family moved to Michigan. After completing undergraduate studies in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan, Dr. Smith pursued masters’ degrees in public health from UC Berkeley and Harvard, in addition to a medical degree from UCSF. He joined the UCSF faculty in 2008, three years after completing his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Then and now, Dr. Smith has remained a prolific researcher while also balancing priorities as a clinician, educator, and mentor. The author or co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Smith also has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on four grants to UCSF from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging.  Since 2009, Dr. Smith also has co-produced GeriPal, a popular blog and podcast focused on the issues affecting geriatrics and palliative care clinicians.  Like much of Dr. Smith’s work, including his current tenure as an editor focused on social media and mentoring for emerging research reviewers for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, work on GeriPal and other endeavors not only helps Dr. Smith advance geriatrics expertise but also explore a diverse array of geriatrics questions in new and important platforms, a staple skill for recipients of the Yoshikawa Award.

First announced at the 2016 AGS Annual Scientific Meeting and supported thanks to generous contributions to the AGS Health in Aging Foundation, the Yoshikawa Award recognizes the research accomplishments of mid-career clinician-investigators directly involved in the care of older adults.

About the American Geriatrics Society

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has—for more than 75 years—worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit

About the Health in Aging Foundation

The Health in Aging Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit

About the Yoshikawa Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Clinical Investigation

Named in honor of Dr. Thomas T. Yoshikawa and his wife, Catherine—who together served the AGS and the geriatrics community for more than two decades—the Yoshikawa Award will offer recognition and financial support to emerging geriatrics scholars who represent the early promise of the Yoshikawas’ own illustrious careers. The award has been supported thanks to generous contributions to the AGS Health in Aging Foundation from AGS members, as well as friends and colleagues of the Yoshikawas.

About the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting

The AGS Annual Scientific Meeting is the premier educational event in geriatrics, providing the latest information on clinical care, research on aging, and innovative models of care delivery. Following the cancellation of the 2020 gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 3,000 nurses, pharmacists, physicians, physician assistants, social workers, long-term care and managed care providers, healthcare administrators, and others will convene next year from May 13-15 (pre-conference program on May 12), in Chicago, Ill., to advance geriatrics knowledge and skills through state-of-the-art educational sessions and research presentations. For more information, visit