CARE Affiliates

Research Faculty

Barbara Bowers

Position title: Professor Emerita, CARE Founding Director

Barbara Bowers, PhD, RN, FAAN conducts research with frail older adults in both community and residential settings. She is interested in how public policies, organizational practices and models of care delivery influence quality of care and quality of work life for caregivers. Her interest in work life quality for workers in long term care systems has led her to examine causes of staff turnover, the relationships among organizational structure, organizational culture, management practices, and care outcomes, and to explore ways to improve the effectiveness of staff development. Her work with informal caregivers at home has led to the development of tools to support caregiver decision making. Professor Bowers is the founding director of the School of Nursing’s Center for Aging Research and Education. She is currently on the boards of the Advancing Excellence in Long Term Care Collaborative, Capitol Lakes Foundation, and Metastar, and on the national steering committee of the Moving Forward Nursing Home Reform Coalition.

Lisa Bratzke

Position title: Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Lisa Bratzke, PhD, RN, ANP-BC, FAHA studies cognitive impairment of patients with coronary heart disease, who, according to health data, suffer from concentration or memory difficulties. With coronary heart disease on the rise—40 percent of the U.S. population is projected to have some form of it by 2030—she is examining ways to slow deteriorating cognitive function in this population, thereby improving quality of life for individuals with chronic heart failure.

Barbara King

Position title: Professor, CARE Co-Director

Barbara King, PhD, RN, APRN-BC, FAAN is the Charlotte Jane and Ralph A Rodefer Chair and Professor at the School of Nursing. Her primary research investigates how to improve care for hospitalized older adults to improve their functional outcomes both during and after a hospital stay. She is one of two faculty co-Directors of CARE.

Wan-chin Kuo

Position title: Assistant Professor

Wan-chin Kuo, RN, PhD utilizes social and behavioral data from population-based longitudinal studies to examine how the socio-ecological environments interact with 24-hour behaviors and shape cardiometabolic disparities in industrial workers. The ultimate goal is to build worker-centered intelligent environments to alleviate health disparities among industrial workers across the nation and the world.

Maichou Lor

Position title: Assistant Professor

Maichou Lor, PhD, RN earned her BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Nursing from the UW–Madison. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University. Her research focuses on improving data collection for research and patient provider communication in health care delivery settings among vulnerable populations, including Hmong elders, using applied informatics.

Kristen Pecanac

Position title: Assistant Professor

Kristen Pecanac, PhD, RN conducts research into how conversations between healthcare professionals, patients and their families shape treatment decision-making. Her goal is to reduce stress and suffering for patients and their family members by improving communication.

Tonya Roberts

Position title: Associate Professor, CARE Co-Director

Tonya Roberts, PhD, RN conducts research to help improve the quality of life for frail older adults who require long-term care. She is particularly interested in enhancing the personalization of care in ways that allow older adults to achieve their individual life and care goals, and in developing interventions that activate and engage older adults in their own care and long-term care environments. She is the Karen Frick Pridham Professor in Family-Centered Care and one of two faculty co-Directors of CARE.

Megan Zuelsdorff

Position title: Assistant Professor

Megan Zuelsdorff, PhD is a social epidemiologist and an Investigator in the Inclusion of Underrepresented Groups Core of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Her research focuses on social determinants of later-life cognitive health, including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. She approaches cognitive aging and dementia research from a public health and equity perspective, conducting research that is inclusive, accessible and responsive to the concerns of community stakeholders.

Clinical Faculty

Sarah Endicott

Position title: Clinical Professor

Sarah Endicott, DNP, PMHNP-BC, GNP-BC is a board-certified psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner and geriatric nurse practitioner with experience caring for older adults with complex needs across care settings. Her current clinical practice is geriatric psychiatry in long-term care and on a geriatric psychiatry unit. She teaches in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the UW–Madison School of Nursing and serves as a preceptor for students in medicine and nursing. Her interests include the education and support of caregivers for people living with dementia. She serves as the faculty liaison to the CARE Advisory Committee.

Sarah Kruger

Position title: Clinical Professor, Emerita

Sarah Kruger, DNP, RN focuses on older adults, including those with diabetes and those with neurological conditions. She is interested in developing different teaching modalities for students. She is an advanced practice registered nurse.

Becky Muehrer

Position title: Clinical Professor, Accelerated BSN Coordinator

Becky Muehrer, PhD, RN received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate at the UW–Madison School of Nursing. She is an experienced clinical and nursing instructor who oversees the School’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. She led a project to incorporate diverse educational materials into the undergraduate programs to improve student knowledge and understanding of darker skin tones in health assessments. She is collaborating with CARE and UW Hospital to integrate instruction on Age Friendly Health Systems into the undergraduate programs.

Stacy Schmitt

Position title: Clinical Instructor II

Stacy Schmitt, MSN, RN teaches in the undergraduate program at the UW–Madison School of Nursing. She also works in a rural hospital and has professional experience in school, parish and long-term care nursing. Schmitt has collaborated with Aging and Disability Resource Centers and other partners to foster awareness and support of people living with dementia.

Adjunct Faculty

Julia Berian

Position title: Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery

Julia Berian MD, MS is a fellowship-trained colorectal surgeon. She treats benign and malignant conditions including colon cancer, rectal cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, pelvic floor disorders and anorectal conditions. Her practice includes minimally invasive surgical techniques. Her research focuses on improving the surgical care of older adults. She has worked with the American College of Surgeons in building a Geriatric Surgery Verification program. Her current research aims to facilitate goal-concordant patient care and optimize cognitive and functional outcomes for older surgical patients.

Lauren Bishop

Position title: Associate Professor, School of Social Work

Lauren Bishop, MSW, PhD uses epidemiological, advanced computational, and qualitative methods to characterize disparities in health and wellbeing in adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and as they age. Her National Institutes of Health-funded program of research focuses specifically on autistic adults and how their unique mental, physical, and social needs can be properly understood over the life course, to inform treatment, services, policy, and best practices. Dr. Bishop directs the Aging and Health Equity in Autism and Developmental Disabilities (AHEADD) Team at the Waisman Center, where she is a principal investigator.

Elizabeth Chapman

Position title: Associate Clinical Professor, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine

Elizabeth Chapman, MD is a faculty member in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine. She is also associate director of education and evaluation at the Madison VA Geriatrics Research Education and Clinical Center. She holds multiple administrative roles, including program director of the Geriatric Medicine fellowship program, medical director for Post-Acute Care, Geriatric Transitional Care, and the Acute Care for Elders service at University Hospital, and medical advisor for UW Health Care Direct. Her scholarly work has focused on the development of educational interventions for physician trainees and other health professionals in the care of geriatric patients during and after hospitalization.

Alexis Eastman

Position title: Clinical Associate Professor, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine

Alexis Eastman, MD provides medical care for older adults in inpatient and outpatient settings, both in primary care and in memory care. She serves as Director of Clinical Operations for Primary and Specialty Care in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, and as Medical Director of the Badger Prairie Health Center in Verona, Wisconsin. As a medical educator, Dr. Eastman provides classroom and clinical instruction to medical students, residents, and fellows and continuing medical education instruction about topics in geriatric medicine to practicing providers. She is also active in medical student education and serves as a Block Lead for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health MD curriculum. She is a member of the Wisconsin Association of Medical Directors, the American Geriatrics Society, and the Society for General Internal Medicine. Her scholarly publications have focused on perioperative management of older adults, curriculum development on interprofessional learning in geriatric medicine, and initiatives to improve transitions of care.

Michal Engelman

Position title: Associate Professor, Sociology

Michal Engelman, PhD MHS is the Director of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and the Director of Training for the Center for Demography of Health and Aging. She studies the dynamics of population aging and health across the life course, with particular emphasis on early and mid-life factors that influence health disparities at older ages. Her research agenda links individual health patterns with aggregate demographic trends within three lines of inquiry: (1) health and inequality across the life course; (2) global aging, migration, and health; and (3) the formal demography of longevity.

Beth Fields

Position title: Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy Program, Department of Kinesiology

Beth Fields, PhD, OTR/L has a program of research that examines animal-assisted approaches for aging adults with chronic conditions, and systems and methods designed to improve person and family-centered geriatric care. She leads the Geriatric Health Services Research Lab. She hopes to grow her interdisciplinary collaborations to help transform quality geriatric service delivery. As a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, Fields was an affiliate of their Center for Caregiving Research, Education, and Policy.

Carey Gleason

Position title: Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology

Carey Gleason, PhD, MS is a researcher and clinician interested in improving timely identification of and intervention for memory disorders in underserved communities. Ultimately, she seeks to identify targets to modify risk for Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans and Native Americans, groups traditionally under-represented in research. She serves as leader of the Inclusion of Under-Represented Groups Core at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and is principal or co-investigator on numerous research projects examining modifiable risk factors, including cardiovascular disease, emotional health, and social context.

Blair Golden

Position title: Assistant Professor (CHS), School of Medicine and Public Health

Blair Golden, MD, MS is a hospitalist physician and health services researcher. Her research interests involve patient-physician-caregiver communication and improving caregiver engagement during hospitalization events for older adults.

Kari Hirvela

Position title: Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at UW Hospital and Clinics

Kari Hirvela, DNP, RN is a Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist who leads the Age Friendly Health Systems Initiative at UW Hospital and Clinics. She previously taught in the UW–Madison School of Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.

Adrienne Johnson

Position title: Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, General Internal Medicine

Adrienne Johnson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, General Internal Medicine, UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in health psychology and the treatment of individuals with neurological disorders. Her research focuses on reducing the negative impacts of smoking and better understanding the role of smoking on brain health, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Farah Acher Kaiksow

Position title: Assistant Professor (CHS), Division of Hospital Medicine in the Department of Medicine

Farah Acher Kaiksow, MD, MPP, FHM focuses on providing acute care to adult patients in inpatient settings at both the UW Health and VA hospitals. She provides clinical instruction to medical students and residents on the inpatient wards. She teaches in “The Intersection of Incarceration and Health,” an elective course for medical students that includes such topics as infection control, addiction and mental health, conducting research within correctional facilities, and caring for chronic conditions after release. Her scholarly interests include health inequities and how public and health policy can reduce these inequities. Her previous work examined the financial implications of Medicare hospitalization policies on patients of different socioeconomic status. She is currently studying the impact of incarceration on health, particularly among the aging population of incarcerated individuals.

Jooyoung Kong

Position title: Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

Jooyoung Kong, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work. Guided by the life-course perspective, her research focuses on the effects that adverse childhood experiences have on later-life outcomes, including health, intergenerational caregiving, and elder abuse victimization. Her work involves quantitative analyses of large-scale longitudinal surveys, such as the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS).

Kristin Litzelman

Position title: Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies

Kristin Litzelman, PhD is an Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Studies at the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology and a State Specialist with UW Cooperative Extension’s Family Living Programs. Her research centers around how illness impacts families, primarily through the lens of family caregiving. She is particularly interested in the ways that caregivers and care recipients influence one another’s health and well-being, and how we can help caregivers take care of themselves so that they can take care of their loved ones.

Kimberly Mueller

Position title: Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Kim Mueller, PhD researches the neural mechanisms and behavioral aspects of speech and language changes across the spectrum of normal aging, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia. Her work utilizes naturalistic speech-language samples as one means of analyzing and understanding subtle changes to communication. She is also interested in the design and testing of identification methods of early cognitive change in the presence of AD biomarkers, and multimodal therapeutic interventions to address cognitive-communication difficulties in MCI and dementia due to neurodegenerative disease.

Ozioma Okonkwo

Position title: Professor, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine

Ozioma Okonkwo, PhD is a neuropsychologist and executive committee member at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention. His research focuses on clarifying how alterations in the brain and other biomolecules (such as cerebrospinal fluid β-amyloid) place some cognitively-normal individuals on a trajectory that culminates in probable Alzheimer’s disease. He is also interested in discovering new knowledge concerning the modulation of the link between brain changes and cognitive decline by both modifiable (e.g., cognitively-stimulating activities, physical exercise) and non-modifiable (e.g., genetic vulnerability) factors.

Susan Passmore

Position title: Senior Associate Director for Community Engaged Research, Collaborative Center for Health Equity

Susan Passmore, PhD is an anthropologist with many years of experience working public health. She has contributed to discussions about how to improve communication and understanding between patients and providers regarding a range of health disparities, especially those impacting African Americans. Most recently, Dr. Passmore has been working to improve rates of underrepresented racial/ethnic (UR) group participation in health research via the Building Trust and Just Research educational programs and through her own research to explore ways to incorporate the principles of community based, participatory methods into recruitment practices of larger studies and clinical trials.

Kristen Pickett

Position title: Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy Program

Kristen Pickett, PhD focuses on collaborative and community-based research methods aimed at positively impacting health outcomes for older adults, especially those with Parkinson disease (PD), who have limited access to effective forms of physical activity. Her Sensory Motor Integration Lab delivers physical activity interventions in-home via telehealth and through group classes held at community-based facilities. She works with community partners to conduct research for individuals with PD, as well as rural-dwelling and other under-served older adults, who lack access to facilities for physical activity.

Tracy Schroepfer

Position title: Professor, School of Social Work

Tracy Schroepfer, MSW, PhD conducts research focused on 1) improving the care provided to elders who are seriously or terminally ill by determining the best strategies for meeting their psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual needs; and 2) gaining understanding and addressing the barriers to quality health care experienced by medically underserved communities. She also conducts workshops on positive dementia care skills, as well as addressing the spiritual and cultural needs of people living with dementia. Her research is informed by her former practice as a hospice social worker and community work.

Jung-hye Shin

Position title: Professor and Chair, Design Studies Department in the School of Human Ecology

Jung-hye Shin, PhD focuses on aging in place in her research and teaching, mainly the accessibility issues in residential and community buildings. The importance of the physical environment at home and the surrounding community has been well demonstrated but has not been well integrated into the existing body of literature about aging in place. Her current project involves developing an app that allows experts and laypeople to evaluate the home environment for various functional limitations and issues of aging in place and further provide guidelines on potential action items. Dr. Shin is also the Faculty Director of Design Thinking with the Center for Design and Material Culture.

Sue Wenker

Position title: Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Public Health

Sue Wenker, PT, PhD, MS, is a geriatric certified specialist emeritus, an associate professor with the UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and a faculty associate with the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. Clinically, she has been a member of interprofessional teams in both community settings and hospital and skilled nursing facilities. Wenker is currently conducting research focused on teaching and learning interventions for physical therapy students regarding dementia and related diseases.

Paula Woywod

Position title: UW Health

Paula Woywod, DNP, MSN, RN, CHSE co-authored CARE’s Dementia Friendly Toolkit and Dementia Friendly Hospital Toolkit. Previously, she taught School of Nursing students in simulated learning environments. She has practice experience in medical surgical, cardiac, and intensive care settings. She is passionate about incorporating active learning and education to support the care for older adults in clinical and community settings.

Student Scholars

Laura Block

Laura Block, BS, BSN, RN is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin—Madison School of Nursing with a focus on long-term care and cognitive aging among older adults with serious mental illness. Her role as a Registered Nurse in a skilled nursing environment, with added pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic, has deepened her commitment to dementia-focused research in post-acute and long-term care settings. She also works as a Project Assistant for Dr. Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, supporting research studies focused on promoting effective and equitable care and research for persons living with and at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Abigail Bradfield

Abigail Bradfield is a PhD candidate with Dr. Kristen Pickett and the Sensory Motor Integration Lab within the department of Kinesiology in the Occupational Science Track. She is interested in the access to appropriate physical activity programming for older adults who are underserved and underrepresented in research. She is passionate about improving quality of life through public health and preventative approaches.


Kristin Brunsell Merss

Kristin Brunsell Merss, BSN, RN is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin—Madison School of Nursing. Her research explores the intersection of incarceration and health, specifically for older adults and people aging in the criminal legal system.

Hyojin (Jina) Choi

Hyojin (Jina) Choi is a doctoral student in the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology’s Human Development and Family Studies program. Jina’s work focuses on the life changes of family caregivers. She is interested in examining the factors that impact families experiencing caregiving and developing policy to support them in their roles. She is especially interested in the factors that contribute to resilience for family caregivers who are able to handle this role of caregiving and its accompanying stress while maintaining healthy relationships.

Victoria Knoke

Victoria Knoke, MSW is a PhD candidate in the UW—Madison Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work. Her research focuses on aging and end of life needs for adults with developmental disabilities. She is particularly interested in promoting self determination and ensuring adults with cognitive impairment have a voice in their own care at the end of life. Her work is strongly influenced by her background as a social worker in a variety of aging and disability positions.

Jingxi Li

Jingxi Li, BSN, MSN is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin—Madison School of Nursing with a focus on self-management and physical activities among chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. She is especially interested in interdisciplinary research and innovation to support older adult health.

Laura Andrea Prieto

Laura Andrea Prieto is a doctoral student in the UW–Madison Kinesiology department, focused on the role of caregivers in promoting physical activity for older adults. She is especially interested in working with older adults with disabilities and neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Laura has done research on the experiences of older adults and caregivers in a dance setting, and wants to understand how dance and physical activity interventions can influence the quality of life of older adults and their caregivers. She is also exploring how caregivers and older adults of Hispanic heritage navigate the caring relationship within a U.S. and non-U.S. context.

Angela Van De Wettering

Angela Van De Wettering, BSN, RN-BC is a DNP-FNP graduate student and Nursing Clinical Instructor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She has worked with the aging adult population as a bedside registered nurse for the last three and a half years and enjoys learning from their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and stories. She works to prioritize the health and wellbeing of this population while also considering their unique needs. While pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, she is interested in researching and implementing new and innovate ways to improve the quality of care and quality of life for older adults in Wisconsin.

Gracie Venechuk

Gracie Venechuk is a PhD student in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Sociology and a trainee with the Center for Demography of Health and Aging. Her research focuses on addressing disparities in later-life health and well-being; and engaging directly with the population of interest to clearly represent their interests, concerns, and experiences. She previously engaged older adults regarding their health as part of multidisciplinary research on advanced heart failure.