At #AGS21, UCSF Expert Dr. Alexander K. Smith Will Offer “Confessions of an Unfocused Researcher” on Road to Better Care as We Age

  • At #AGS21, UCSF Expert will offer “Confessions of an Unfocused Researcher” on the road to better care as we age #geriatrics #aging

New York (April 2, 2020)—The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and AGS Health in Aging Foundation celebrates Alexander K. Smith, MD, MS, MPH, a Professor of Medicine at UCSF and one of geriatrics’ most influential researchers and advocates, as the recipient of the 2020/2021 Thomas and Catherine Yoshikawa Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Clinical Investigation. Dr. Smith will deliver his remarks, “Confessions of an Unfocused Researcher,” at the AGS 2021 Virtual Annual Scientific Meeting (#AGS21) (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 because age affects all aspects of life,” said AGS Board Chair Sunny Linnebur, PharmD, FCCP, FASCP, BCPS, BCGP. “Dr. Smith’s career is a prime example of casting a wide net 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 has also 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 has additionally co-produced GeriPal, a popular blog and podcast focused on issues of concern to geriatrics and palliative care clinicians. Much of Dr. Smith’s work, including his new position as executive editor of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, helps him not only 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.

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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. More than 2,500 nurses, pharmacists, physicians, physician assistants, social workers, long-term care and managed care providers, healthcare administrators, and others will convene virtually May 13-15, 2021 (pre-conference program on May 12), to advance geriatrics knowledge and skills through state-of-the-art educational sessions and research presentations. For more information, visit