Starting out in the field of education, Vicki L. Schmall, PhD, began her career as an instructor at the Wilsall Consolidated Schools in 1969 while a student at Montana State University. She graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science, specializing in family and human development issues. When she was asked to run sex education programming, she decided to return to school to further her knowledge of the field and became a teaching assistant and field supervisor at Oregon State University from 1971 to 1975 while conducting her graduate studies. During this period, Dr. Schmall took several courses in gerontology, a field of study that was just starting to emerge in the 1970s, and realized that this was truly where she fit.
Having been greatly impacted by her grandparents growing up, switching from sex education to gerontology felt completely natural. Dr. Schmall recalls that when her grandfather passed, it was likely that he was suffering from dementia; however, given that there was so little information on it at the time, it went overlooked. Her early involvement in the field of gerontology led to her being invited to help develop gerontology training programs as a graduate student, ultimately leading to her appointment as the gerontology program director at Oregon State University in 1975. Dr. Schmall graduated with her Doctor of Philosophy in 1977 and went on to become a professor and gerontology specialist at OSU. Dr. Schmall retired as a professor emeritus in 1994.
Since 1994, Dr. Schmall has been the owner, executive director and gerontology specialist for Aging Concerns, where she works one on one with older adults and their families to help them live independent lives. She has also contributed her expertise to countless articles, book chapters, educational games, training programs and workshops. In 1997, she co-authored “Home Sweet Home: How to Help Older Adults Live Independently,” which was followed by “The Caregiver Helpbook: Powerful Tools for Caregiving” in 2000. “The Caregiver Helpbook” is now in its fourth edition as of 2018. Dr. Schmall is particularly proud of her training program Powerful Tools for Caregivers, a six-week program for family caregivers that operates in 40 U.S. states and internationally in Canada and South Korea and has been translated into Spanish, Chinese and Korean.
Alongside her primary responsibilities, Dr. Schmall has been involved in a wide range of other professional and civic endeavors. Since 2019, she has been a consultant for the Be EPIC dementia training program for the Sam Katz Community and Health Aging Research Unit at Western University in Ontario, Canada. She also currently sits on the boards of directors for Rebuilding Together Rogue Valley and Ride Connection and is a trainer for older adult sensitivity through Pfizer. Furthermore, she is an ambassador for caregiving with AARP Oregon and a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. In order to keep abreast of new developments in her field, Dr. Schmall maintains professional affiliation with the American College of Health Care Administrators, the American Society on Aging and the Oregon Gerontological Association.
Attributing much of her success to her perseverance, and getting up when she gets knocked down, Dr. Schmall has been recognized for her excellence throughout her career. In 1993, she was named one of the 100 Most Distinguished Alumni of Montana State University, which also honored her with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006. She went on to receive an achievement award from the Oregon chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 1994 and the Bronze Award from the National Mature Media Awards in 1997. During the 2000s and 2010s, she was recognized with the Gloria Cavanaugh Award from the American Society on Aging in 2002, the Ebi Bassi Outstanding Contribution Award from the Institute on Aging’s Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention in 2005, the National Alliance on Caregiving Award in 2007, and the LEAP Award from the JFR Foundation in 2014. Most recently, Dr. Schmall was presented with the Community Impact Award from the Northwest Pilot Project in 2021.