Meet the Team

Joe Gaugler, PhD

Robert L. Kane Endowed Chair in Long-Term Care and Aging

Faculty Biography

Staff

Robyn Birkeland

Robyn Birkeland, PhD

Study Counselor

Robyn earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida. She then moved to the frozen tundra where she completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota. She has over 20 years of experience providing counseling adults and families.

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Robyn’s personal experience of having three grandparents develop dementia in their senior years drove her to further her understanding of dementia and its effects on families. Her career followed her passion, allowing her to provide support to the families of individuals with dementia.

Robyn is a Study Counselor at the University of Minnesota. She provides a 6-session counseling and support protocol to families whose loved one has recently moved into long-term care using the Residential Care Transition Module (RCTM). This intervention is specifically designed to support this caregiving experience. Robyn collaborates with family members, typically adult children or spouses, guiding them through the transition process of moving a family member into long term care. Over the course of the 5-year study and with the help of the 240 participating families, Robyn and the RCTM team will evaluate the effectiveness of this counseling intervention.

Ann Emery, MS, CRC

Robert L. Kane Long Term Chair in Aging Coordinator
Research Coordinator

Ann is a research coordinator for several projects on the Families and LTC Projects team. She received her Masters of Science from the University of Minnesota in 2010 and her Clinical Research Coordinator certificate in 2016.

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Her areas of specialty include data management and quality assurance. Prior to joining this research team she worked in the UMN School of Dentistry as a research scientist and lab manager where she worked for over 10 years. Ann particularly enjoys the community aspect of this work and the direct interaction with families of those living with memory loss.

Kate Heckathorn

Executive Office and Administrative Specialist

Elma Johnson, MPH

Research Coordinator

Katie Louwagie

Katie Louwagie, DNP, APRN, AGNP-C

Research Nurse

Katie is a research nurse on the Families and Long Term Care Projects team. She earned her doctorate in nursing practice, with a focus in adult-gerontological health, at the University of Minnesota.

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Prior to joining our team, she practiced as a nurse practitioner providing on-site primary care in the long term care setting. She is involved with various projects including the Residential Care Transition Module (RCTM), PorchLight Project, and Care to Plan.

Tamara L. Statz, MA, LMFT

Study Counselor

Tamara has experience working with individuals and families across the lifespan, but she has a heart for older adults and caregivers. Tamara has over 17 years of experience working with older adults and their families in various settings, including: in-home, assisted living, care centers, and hospice.

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Tamara earned her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Minnesota

Personally, all four of Tamara’s grandparents lived into their 90s and had various forms of dementia. Tamara experienced the family dynamics and care decisions that her parents and grandparents faced, and provided advocacy for her grandparents during medical appointments. These experiences continued to solidify her interest in advocating for older adults and their quality of life.

At the University of Minnesota through the Residential Care Transition Module (RCTM) Tamara provides counseling to family caregivers who have recently moved a family member into residential long-term care for memory loss. Over the course of this 5-year study, 240 families will participate in the study. The goal of the study is to evaluate the efficacy of the RCTM and ultimately disseminate the intervention into the community and long-term care residences to support family members through this transition.

Robert L. Kane Post-Doctoral Fellows

Zachary G. Baker

Zachary G. Baker, PhD

Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellow

Zach earned his PhD from the University of Houston in 2019 with a minor in quantitative methods. Before joining the Families and Long-Term Care team his work focused on how people could live their best lives, largely through their relationships with others. This work had a heavy application of theory, complex methodology, and statistics.

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Zach now applies the theoretical, methodological, and statistical rigor that were essential to his work in social psychology to persons living with dementia (PWD) and their caregivers. Specifically he aims for PWD and their caregivers to have the technological tools and psychosocial resources at hand to live their best lives.

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Manka Nkimbeng

Manka Nkimbeng, PhD, MPH, RN

Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellow

Manka received her PhD in Nursing from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing where she explored the relationship between acculturation, discrimination and physical function in African immigrant older adults.

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Manka graduated Magna cum Laude with her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) and worked as a nurse at a community health center. After witnessing numerous health disparities with her patients, she returned to school to study how to change policies for improved health outcomes for vulnerable populations. She obtained her Master’s in Public Health from Boston University. Manka’s research interests center around understanding the causes of health inequities in minorities and improving health outcomes for older adults. Her long-term goal is to develop and test interventions that can be translated into health policies and practice to improve health and eliminate health inequities for older adults.

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Graduate Research Assistants

Elle Albers, BS

Graduate Research Assistant

Hayley McCarron

Hayley McCarron, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Hayley is a PhD student in the department of Epidemiology and Community Health, with a focus on social epidemiology. She received her MPH from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

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Hayley joined the Families and Long Term Care Projects as a Graduate Research Assistant in 2017 and is involved with various projects including ADS Plus and the Residential Care Transition Module (RCTM).

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Ashley Millenbah, BS

Graduate Research Assistant

Colleen Peterson, MS

Graduate Research Assistant

Christy Rosebush, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Hank Stabler, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Rachel Zmora, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Rachel Zmora completed her MPH in Epidemiology at George Washington University in 2015. She anticipates graduating with a PhD in Epidemiology minoring in Biostatistics in December 2020.

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Her primary research interests are in clinical epidemiology with a focus on cardiovascular diseases. She has worked with the LTC team on implementing reproducible data science. In her future work, Rachel intends to incorporate her experience in mixed-method analyses developed while working with the LTC team to study patient well being and quality of life beyond traditional clinical outcomes.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

  • Zoe Gabrielson
  • Kobe Perez
  • Aneri Shah
  • Ayush Shah
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