Meet the Team

Joe Gaugler, PhD*

Robert L. Kane Endowed Chair in Long-Term Care and Aging, Distinguished McKnight University Professor

Faculty Biography


Manka Nkimbeng

Manka Nkimbeng, PhD, MPH, RN*

Assistant Professor, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health

Faculty Biography


Elle Albers, MPH*

Research Coordinator 

Elle is a Research Coordinator on the Families and Long-Term Care team. She completed her MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota in 2020, and received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining the team as a graduate research assistant, Elle was a project manager specializing in health care market research. She currently works on various studies including the Residential Care Transition Module (RCTM), Adult Day Service Plus, A Mobile Informatics Solution to Aid in Memory, and TBI/AD-ADRD Caregiver Support Intervention (TACSI).

Truphosa Aswani, MPH*

Research Assistant

Posa Aswani is a passionate and dedicated General Practitioner with a strong focus on preventive health. Hailing from Kenya, she earned her first degree in Medicine, honing her medical skills and expertise in diagnosing and treating a wide range of health conditions. Throughout her medical career, Posa witnessed the importance of preventive measures in promoting overall well-being and quality of life. Fueled by this passion, she pursued further education and earned a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). This additional qualification equipped her with in-depth knowledge of public health strategies and research methodologies. Now, Posa is stepping into the research space, eager to explore innovative ways to bridge the gap between medicine and preventive health. Her commitment to empowering individuals and communities with the tools for a healthier future drives her research endeavors, making her a valuable advocate in the field of preventive healthcare.

Robyn Birkeland

Robyn Birkeland, PhD*

Study Interventionist

Robyn Birkeland earned a BA in Psychology from Rollins College and a MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida. As a study interventionist and coach at the University of Minnesota with the Families and Long-Term Care Projects team, Robyn provides coaching support to family care partners and individuals with memory loss.  She also delivers presentations and participates in various community outreach initiatives and events.

Steph Ingvalson, BSc*

Project Coordinator

Steph joined the Families and LTC Projects team in 2021 as a Coordinator for the CarFreeMe research study and the BOLD Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Caregiving. She has a background in stroke/TBI rehabilitation and community resource navigation.

Elma Johnson, MPH*

Research Coordinator

Elma joined the Families and Long-Term Care Project team in December 2019 and currently works as bilingual Research Coordinator for ADSPlus. She earned her Bachelors in Business Administration and Management from the University of Oviedo in Spain and her Master’s in Public Health at the University of Minnesota in 2019.

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After arriving to the U.S in late 2004, Elma first worked as a Community Outreach Coordinator with small, immigrant-owned businesses in south Minneapolis. She later became a Spanish and Bosnian medical interpreter at Hennepin Healthcare, where she has since worked as supervisor of interpreter services, innovations project manager and patient experience project consultant. Her professional and research interests include health communication and person-centered care, minority health and health innovation.

“Working at a large safety-net health system like Hennepin Healthcare has been a truly eye-opening and humbling experience. It has given me the opportunity to understand the complexities of our healthcare systems and see first-hand the many barriers people encounter in leading healthy and fulfilling lives. There is great value in understanding people’s cultural experiences of care, and leveraging diverse approaches to health to address the many health inequalities we collectively face. I am passionate about building supportive communities that will create opportunities for everyone to thrive and contribute, at all stages and paths in life.”

Katie Louwagie

Katie Louwagie, DNP

Project Specialist

Katie is a project specialist 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.

Ashley Millenbah, MPH*

Research Coordinator, RLK Chair Coordinator

Ashley received her Master’s in Public Health degree from the Public Health Administration and Policy program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh in Kinesiology. Her interests include physical activity and aging.

Mara Wilson, BS

Research Assistant

Mara is a third-year student at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is interested in pursuing geriatrics and primary care.  Mara joined the Families and Long-Term Care team in 2023.

Robert L. Kane Post-Doctoral Fellows

Quniton Cotton, smiling

Quinton Cotton, MSSA, PhD

Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellow

Quinton earned a Master of Science degree in Social Administration (accredited Master of Social Work degree) with a concentration in Community Development from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor of Art degree in sociology and social welfare and justice from Marquette University, and completed his PhD in Clinical Investigation from the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in summer 2022.

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Quinton plans to develop, test, and disseminate novel interventions that address the needs of Black American AD/ADRD caregivers. He possesses a deep commitment to team science, applied research, and equity-driven practices that improve health and social conditions of Black Americans, especially AD/ADRD caregivers. His growing program of research draws on qualitative and mixed-methods research methodology and examines three harmonious dimensions: (1) the influence of life events and trajectories on health and wellbeing, (2) optimization of health and social service supports, and (3) community-level intervention design and implementation.

Dana Urbanski

Dana Urbanski, Au.D., Ph.D., CCC-A

Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellow

Dana earned her clinical doctoral degree in audiology (AuD) from the Northeast Ohio AuD Consortium and her PhD in speech-language-hearing sciences from the University of Minnesota. As a clinician-scientist, I aim to increase hearing aid adoption and improve hearing aid outcomes for older adults by tailoring and individualizing hearing aid services to meet the individual needs, goals, preferences, and functional abilities of diverse, heterogeneous older adults with hearing loss.

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 Long-term, Dana aims to address the hearing aid needs of as many of these underserved populations as she can. Currently, her research focuses on optimizing hearing aid services, support, and education for community-dwelling older adults with co-occurring dementia and hearing loss and their family caregivers. 

Graduate Research Students

Dionne Bailey

Dionne Bailey, MPH*

Graduate Research Assistant

Dionne is a PhD student in the Health Services Research, Policy and Administration program. She has research interests in health and racial equity, access to affordable healthcare, and gentrification. She would like to focus her research on Black older adults.

Paul Espinoza Kissell, BS*

Graduate Research Assistant

Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and is currently a student in the Health Services Research, Policy and Administration PhD program in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Paul’s research interests include dementia and the dementia caregiving experience in the Latino community. Paul recently joined the Families and Long-Term Care team in 2022 to help culturally adapt the Porchlight project for the Latino community.

Maya Koffski, BS*

Graduate Research Assistant

Maya is a Graduate Research Assistant on the Families and Long-Term Care projects team where she assists with the Public Health Center of Excellence, Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation, and the Smartwatch Memory Aid research study. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Health and Wellbeing Sciences. Her interests include research and community engagement.

Grace Savard, BA

Graduate Research Assistant

Grace Savard (she/her) is a research assistant on the Home Alone study within Families and LTC. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Peace Studies from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. Grace is passionate about community-driven research, practice, and policy, and her past experience as a CNA in long-term care and hospice homes has motivated her to study healthy aging and innovation. Grace is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in Public Health Administration and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Dementia Friends is a global movement that is changing the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. Developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom, the Dementia Friends initiative is led by Minnesota’s Act on Alzheimer’s, with the Minnesota Northstar Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program.

*An asterisk identifies those staff who are trained Dementia Friends and Champions.

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