discoveries magazine

Family Ties

When Sonja Rosen, MD, was a student at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, she served as a teen volunteer at Cedars-Sinai. Now it’s her daughter’s turn. Fourteen-year-old Clarissa joined the Teen Volunteers Program last fall. A recent mother-daughter talk revealed that they have a lot more in common than the time they devote to Cedars-Sinai.

Illustration: Vanessa Dell

Meet the Rosens

Officially Known As

Sonja Rosen, MD, medical director, Geriatrics Chief, Section of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine

Clarissa Rosen, ninth-grader Marlborough School in Los Angeles

Personal Mission

I went into geriatrics because I love helping older people live well. As a child, I spent every summer with my grandparents in Finland, where I was born. I probably related better to older people than to my peers.

I love helping people, too. That’s why I’m so excited about becoming a Cedars-Sinai volunteer. I’m learning about the medical world, and I get to talk to patients and make sure they have what they need.

Harmonious Passions

I love Agatha Christie mysteries and books by Bruce Cook, my late stepfather. For music, I listen to a range—from Chopin to Luther Vandross Jr. My favorite film is Casablanca.

My passions include water polo, swimming, reading—especially books by my late grandfather, Bruce Cook, and Jane Austen—and films like Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet.

Inspiring Ancestors

Both of my parents are concert violinists. My American grandfather was Victor Aller, music supervisor for Warner Bros. in the 1940s, and a Capitol recording artist and concert pianist who performed with the Hollywood String Quartet. My Finnish grandfather was Veikko Talvi, a soldier in the Winter War [a 1939–1940 military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland] and a well-known historian in Finland. He lived to be 100.

My grandmother, Judith Aller, is a concert violinist who studied with Jascha Heifetz. She’s passionate and driven, and she’s the most generous and intellectual person I know. And my grandfather, IIkka Talvi, is a violinist who served as concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony for many years.

Making Music

I love to sing R&B and soul, and Sinatra songs like “Just the Way You Are.” As a cellist, I enjoy playing Bach’s suites.

I also love to sing—especially with my choir at Marlborough and music from the 1950s like “Tonight You Belong to Me” by Patience and Prudence. My favorite piano piece to play is Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”

Most Exciting Project

I’m thrilled to be co-investigator on a research project called Leveraging Exercise to Age in Place (LEAP). It’s funded by the AARP Foundation to help combat social isolation and prevent falls. Cedars-Sinai is at the forefront of a national effort to develop evidence-based programs to fight social isolation. This is so important—loneliness can have the same negative impact on a senior’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

For my final project in history last year, I wrote an essay about Charlemagne, king of the Franks and the Lombards and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. I was blown away by how much one illiterate king was able to impact religion, literature and literacy.

Future Goal

I’d like to write a book someday—maybe something that spreads the beauty of knowing older people and learning about life from them.

I want to be a geriatrician just like my mom.

Words to Live By

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”—Philo Judaeus

I can’t argue with that!

High Note

Marrying my wonderful husband, Richard Rosen, on June 16, 2002, at Temple Israel in Hollywood

Studying English literature and creative writing at the University of Oxford in England for two weeks last July


My favorite candy is salmiakki, salty black licorice from Finland.

I love Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.