Dr. Michael W. Parker

Associate Professor

Department: Social Work

Degree: Ph.D., University of Alabama

Areas of Expertise

EldercareSuccessful Aging
Spirituality and HealthTranslational Research
Sustainable Interventions with Communities and Organizations


Dr. Michael Parker is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and is currently Professor of Social Work and Center for Mental Health & Aging at the University of Alabama (UA) and Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care and Center for Aging at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Parker holds a B.S. in Economics and an M.S. in Psychology from Auburn University and a Doctorate from the University of Alabama. His geriatric and gerontological training includes completion of a National Institute of Aging (NIA) Post Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan and selection and training as a John A. Hartford Geriatric Scholar. He is a licensed LCSW with Private Independent Practice certification.

Full highlights of his 20-year military career are described in the Congressional Record of the United States. During Desert Storm, he was involved in hostage release missions into Lebanon and Syria and, among other duties, he served as the Drug and Alcohol Consultant in Europe, which included professional oversight for 95 outpatient clinics, six inpatient programs, 37 adolescent programs, a drug testing lab, and six counselor training schools. His military honors include the Order of Military Medical Merit and the Legion of Merit.

During Dr. Parker’s 12-year academic career, he has received private and public external research funding as the primary investigator or co-investigator totaling over $4.5 million and published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and 25 chapters on successful aging, elder care, and faith and healing. In their recent book, A Vision for the Aging Church: Ministry to and from Seniors, Drs. Houston and Parker believe that elders can lead the way in rebuilding “the walls” of our communities. They summarize years of research with congregations, address ageism in the modern church, and offer theological perspectives and sustainable, evidence-based programs that can be implemented through partnerships across denominational lines that tap into regional academic institutions. Dr. Parker remains committed to the development of sustainable methods that translate research for older persons and their caregivers (successful aging conferences, aging in place initiatives, disaster planning, parent care readiness, and life reviewing programs, etc.). He has presented over 100 professional talks, and his community planning work has been recognized by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and other national organizations. His NIA-funded longitudinal research with 1,000 community-dwelling residents over the age of 65 has generated a series of articles that have helped explain, confirm, and translate the importance of positive spirituality in the health of older Americans. Nationally, he has served as a member of the Gerontological Society of America’s Hartford Scholars selection committee, a National Mentor for Hartford Scholars, the chief architect for the Veterans Affairs Hartford Scholars Program, a grant reviewer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Faith in Action Program, and a behavioral scientist for the U.S. Army and Air War Colleges and the U.S. Air Force Chaplains Institute. His federally patented, web-based age-ready program is being employed by the human resource departments of three major universities to assist employed elder caregivers and to help retirees to organize their long-term care plans. Clinical trials at the U.S. Army and Air War Colleges and feasibility studies with university employees and congregations have been completed with congregations in an effort to develop sustainable programs that translate the latest research.

At UA, Dr. Parker has been the recipient of the Frank R. Egan Award for teaching and exemplary practice and the Office of Community Affairs’ Award for outstanding community-based research. His honorary memberships include the Phi Alpha Honor Society in Social Work, the Pi Tau Chi National Religious Honorary, and the Psi Chi National Psychology Honorary. His current research includes a Department of Defense funded study of active-duty RNs who have experienced trauma, submission of a National Institute of Health grant on elder caregiving, and the establishment of a Faith & Successful Aging Institute that helps communities organize successful aging conferences and partnered programs. He is currently working on Veterans for the Ages, a book intended as an encouragement to contemporary veterans to live lives of significance after their military service, using the exemplary, post-Civil War lives of two military heroes. For his upcoming sabbatical, Dr. Parker has accepted a research fellowship at the University of Edinburgh to study the medical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of aging and caregiving.

Dr. Parker and his wife, Lane, have been married 35 years and they have an abundant supply of adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. Their elder son, Mike Jr., suffered a spinal cord injury during his senior year at the University of Mississippi following a diving accident, so they have direct experience with caregiving.

Curriculum Vitae