BSN Alumna Begins Master’s Degree in Aging & Health at Georgetown

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September 1, 2020 – After receiving her BSN at Georgetown in 1979, Lelia “Lee” Reed, who was born and raised in Washington, D.C., has spent many years working to promote health and wellness among older adults.

Lelia "Lee" Reed in a formal portrait style photo with trees and plants behind her
Lelia “Lee” Reed, who received her BSN at Georgetown in 1979, recently began the M.S. in Aging & Health Program.

On August 25, she returned to the university – virtually – to begin a master of science degree in aging & health, a step she hopes will give her a deeper understanding of what she has observed in her nursing career. (Learn about the degree program.)

“I obtained a really good grasp of what is occurring in the real world,” said Reed, referring to decades of hands-on experience in acute care, adult daycare, hospice, assisted living, and nursing homes. “I now want to be able to attach a theoretical framework of some type to all of it.”

She plans to focus on both the wellbeing of the older adult residing in a senior living community, as well as the wellbeing of the paid caregiver, who cares for older adults on a daily basis.

She would also like to obtain an understanding as to what specifically establishes and creates a positive relationship between the resident and the caregiver, as well as how this relationship translates into positive or negative outcomes for the older adult.

LCS Foundation Scholarship

This semester, Reed is taking two courses, “Theories and Perspectives in Gerontology,” taught by Dr. Pamela Saunders, the program’s director, and “Senior Living Management,” taught by Professor Andrew Carle, a faculty member.

To help support her studies, Reed has received the LCS Foundation Ed & Sue Kenny Scholarship, the first Georgetown student to do so. The scholarship supports graduate students and undergraduates who are earning degrees “in the field of senior lifestyle services,” according to the foundation.

“I was just floored,” she said. “That’s all I can say. It was so important to me. I was convinced that God had made this pathway for me. He knew about this foundation. He knew I was coming to Georgetown once again. He knew that I would need help to pay for it. He said, the opportunity is here Lee. This door has been opened.” 

Working with Older Adults

A couple of years after completing her bachelor’s degree, Reed – thanks to a connection with former Georgetown nursing professor Dr. Lois Evans – began working at the Greater Southeast Center for Aging. (See Dr. Alma Woolley’s history of the school for a description of Evans’ work.) 

“She definitely had a whole different approach towards how we treat our aging adults,” Reed remembered, one that brought a professional framework to the care of those residing in nursing homes. “I learned so much from her and my master’s-prepared unit manager about resident care, but more so about caregivers and the difficult work they performed on a daily basis. I really, really got my hands into it, and I could actually see what needed to be done.” 

This experience inspired years of commitment to older adults, including the founding of her own business, Deserving Care LLC, a decade ago. 

‘Closing the Gap’

As one of the original founders, Reed has also been involved for eight years with The Closing the Gap Coalition, an all-volunteer organization in Calvert County, Maryland, where she now lives. 

One of the original members came across a 2011 annual report from the school system. This in turn caused the members to ask themselves: “What are we going to do about this?” Reed noted, “It was really alarming regarding the status of African American students here in the county. We began asking ourselves what was being done, and, more importantly, what was not being done.”

Members of the coalition bring varied areas of expertise, she said. They now meet regularly with school leaders and administrators to discuss issues, such as the low number of African American teachers; to support students, such as organizing a donation of computers for students who are unable to afford them; and to address racism, such as a recent incident involving racist vandalism at a school football field.

“Our mission is to look at and address what is affecting the academic achievement of African American and other affected students,” Reed said. “Anybody can join. If you have an interest in making change, you just come to our meetings.”

Georgetown Nursing

As she begins another degree at Georgetown, Reed said her undergraduate nursing education was transformative.

“Georgetown changed my life,” she said. “It has given me a strong foundation of confidence. “It taught me that you’re not going to know it all, but more importantly, how to go and find the answer.” 

She also said the preparation she received in a statistics class has stayed with her in terms of analyzing data. “I can see myself in that class right now,” Reed said. “The professor said, ‘You can make statistics say anything you want.’ I’ll never forget that. As a result, I have learned to dig in past statistical statements and reports. Over the years, that piece has served me extremely well.” 

By Bill Cessato