Freddi Segal-Gidan, PhD, PA, has been a driving force in promoting the study of gerontology and geriatrics as an integral part of the education of PAs and other health professionals and recognition of the vital role of PAs as medical providers in the care of older adults. She has devoted her career to improving health care providers’ ability to care for the aging population. She was the first PA to complete a fellowship in geriatric medicine, an accomplishment that would go on to shape her career and then directed the PA geriatric fellowship program for over a decade. She founded the Society of PAs Caring for the Elderly (now called Geriatric Medicine PAs) in 1992 and was the organization’s president from 1998 until 1999. She has been a PA educator since 1986. She is currently serving as the director of the USC/Rancho California Alzheimer’s Disease Center and is a member of the Clinical Core of the NIH-Funded USC Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Segal-Gidan grew up in the San Fernando Valley in southern California, the oldest of four girls. Her parents met in the business school at New York University and moved to southern California when she was six months old. She attended public school graduating in the top 5% of her high school class. She left southern California to attend Reed College in Portland, OR graduating in 1976 with a BA in Psychology and Biology. This is where she first heard about PAs during her junior year. After taking a year’s leave during which she traveled overland in Africa for five months, she returned to complete her undergraduate degree with a desire to pursue a career in medicine. Being eager to gain medical skills and knowledge, she applied to PA programs against the advice of her academic advisor and several physician friends of the family. She obtained a BS in Health Science from the Health Associate Program at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, in 1978, to become a PA. In 1986, she began coursework toward a Masters of Science in Gerontology at the University of Southern California (USC) L. Davis School of Gerontology as part of the geriatric fellowship. In 1989 she was invited to join the first doctoral class in the country in gerontology and in 1997 received her PhD in Gerontology-Public Policy from the University of Southern California. She then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at USC in Alzheimers neurobiology and aging in 2000.
Segal-Gidan started her PA educator career in 1986 with the University of Southern California, School of Medicine in Los Angeles. She has taught in the PA Program, the Departments of Neurology and Family Medicine in the medical school, and at the University’s L. Davis School of Gerontology, School of Social Work and School of Public Policy. She currently holds an academic appointment as Associate Professor, Clinical Neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She was the Director of the Mary K. Krookall PA Fellowship at the McCarron Center on Aging (2000-2008), Director of the Spanish-speaking satellite core at USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC, 2008-2014), Director of education core at USC ADRC (2014-2016), and serves as a member of the Clinical Core at USC ADRC (2005 – present).
Segal-Gidan’s interest in geriatrics and gerontology began when she worked as a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility as a summer job. During her PA training she was drawn to the older patient population who brought their rich histories with them into the exam room along with many challenging medical and psycho-social problems. She was inspired by her paternal grandmother who lived to be 101, remained active and independent until her 100th birthday which provided her a role model of positive aging.
Segal-Gidan began working at the USC-Rancho Alzheimers Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Center, a state-funded center, when she was hired as the first PA at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center, Downey, CA, in 1989. In 2002 she became Co-Director (2002-2006) of the Center, renamed the USC-Rancho Alzheimers Research Center of California (ARCC), also served as Education Core Director (2002-2009), and then Director (2006-present) of what is now known as the Rancho-USC California Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CADC).
Segal-Gidan has been a member of the American Academy of PAs since 1979. She is currently a member of the American Geriatrics Society (becoming a Fellow in 2010), the California Academy of PAs, the California Geriatrics Society (in which she was a founding member), the Gerontology Society of America, and Geriatric Medicine PAs (in which she was the founder in 1992 and president from 1998-1999). She was inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha, the PA Honor Society, in 2016.
Segal-Gidan’s many honors and awards include the California Academy’s President’s Annual Leadership Award (1984), the American Academy of PA’s Paragon Award for PA-Physician Partnership (2008), and the Heartbeat Dedication Award from the Many Faces of Dementia Conference (2020). Segal-Gidan developed the Many Faces of Dementia bi-annual conference in 1999 and still remains its director. She was appointed to the Fulbright Specialist Program in 2016 and held a Fulbright Specialist Assignment at HAN University Nijmegen, Netherlands, from 2022 to 2023.
Segal-Gidan has served on numerous committees, editorial boards, and grant review boards. She has been program investigator on many research grants and has authored articles in academic journals and book chapters. She is co-editor of Geriatrics and Gerontology for NPs and PAs, An Interprofessional Approach, published initially in 2023. She has been invited to give CME lectures at the AAPA Annual Conference, the Gerontology Society of America, the American Geriatrics Society and the American Society on Aging. She has been the medical content consultant for the television series Grey’s Anatomy, and This is Us.
Segal-Gidan is married to Jonathan Gidan, DDS, a children’s dentist, and has two sons. She has been an avid runner for over 40 years, completed a number of marathons and continues to run several days a week. She enjoys gardening and growing her own vegetables, hiking in the local mountains, skiing in the winter and loves to travel both locally (has been to all 50 states) and internationally. Currently she is engaged in a collaborative teaching program with faculty from seven health professional programs at USC in a large interprofessional geriatrics course and has several projects focused on improving detection and screening for cognitive impairment and dementia in primary care settings.
Acknowledgments: This Biography was prepared by PA History Society Staff with the assistance of Dr. Segal-Gidan. It was submitted to the Society in February 2023. Photographs are courtesy of Dr. Segal-Gidan.