The Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellowships in Aging, Dementia, and Long-Term Care nurtures scholars with strong substantive expertise/interests in long-term care, healthcare systems and delivery, prevention, and management of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRDs), intervention design/development, systems innovation, health equity, and/or quality of care/quality of life among older adults and their family/professional caregivers. Methodological skills in one or more of the following areas are preferred: (1) intervention research; (2) quantitative/longitudinal methods; (3) qualitative or mixed-methods; (5) community-engaged research methodologies; (6) program or policy evaluation; and/or (7) implementation and dissemination.

Ample opportunities exist to develop an independent program of research in one or more of the areas above in collaboration with the Director, Joseph E. Gaugler, Ph.D. (the Robert L. Kane Endowed Chair in Long-Term Care & Aging and Professor in the School of Public Health) and the Associate Director, Tetyana Pylypiv Shippee, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, School of Public Health). Fellows have the opportunity to join and seek mentorship from a diverse and vibrant group of research programs including:

Required qualifications include: a) an earned doctorate; b) evidence of productivity in a defined area of research and scholarship; c) excellent written and oral communication skills; and d) strong interpersonal and organizational abilities. Preferred qualifications include: a) recognition in an area of scholarship; b) strong potential for external research funding; and c) a substantive research publication record.

Announcing 2022-2024 Postdoctoral Fellow

Quniton Cotton, MSSA

Quniton Cotton, smiling

My overall career goal is to become a leading social work scientist increasing the adoption of effective culturally responsive interventions for Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease Related Dementias (AD/ADRD) caregivers and the advancement of national policies for dementia care and research. I possess 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. I remain curious about the dynamic environmental factors that shape human life and the influence of these factors on decision-making and life outcomes in a complex changing world. My 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. I plan to develop, test, and disseminate novel interventions that address the needs of Black American AD/ADRD caregivers. I will complete a PhD in Clinical Investigation from the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in summer 2022. I 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. 

What led you to apply to the Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellowship?

Drs. Bob and Rosalie Kane leave behind a tremendous legacy of scholarship in geriatrics and gerontology. Their interests in both research and practice was evidenced by advocacy efforts to utilize research to transform systems, policies, and outcomes. Drs. Gaugler and Shippee so capably honor this legacy through their leadership, scholarship, and mentorship. I sought out the Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellowship because of its immense potential for me to launch a successful research career in a collegial and supportive environment such as the one at the University of Minnesota.

What are some of the projects you plan to work on while a Fellow? What do you hope to achieve?

My dissertation research utilized the method of Grounded Dimensional Analysis, a variant of Grounded Theory, to explore the experiences of Black American AD/ADRD caregivers and led to the development of a conceptual model on decision-making (everyday dementia care management decisions and decisions in times of crises). During my time as a Fellow, I will build on this model to develop and test a culturally tailored AD/ADRD decision-making tool. There are a number of exciting collaborative opportunities available to me as a Fellow. One project I am excited to be part of is the Porchlight Project, a randomized controlled evaluation of volunteer programs that aims to assess the efficacy of community-based volunteer interventions. As a Fellow, I hope to gain additional training in mixed-methods research, contribute to the science through peer-reviewed publications and presentations, and build a national network of colleagues. 

What are some of your professional and academic goals after the Fellowship ends? 

My goal is to secure a tenure-track faculty position with extramural support and lead a highly effective interdisciplinary program of research and lab. 

2019-2021 Fellows

My aim is to better understand, develop, evaluate, and disseminate technological tools and psychosocial resources that help caregivers and persons with dementia to thrive during and after the dementia caregiving process. This is accomplished through advanced methods (e.g., interventions, longitudinal studies, event momentary assessment, dyadic data collection), statistics (e.g., multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, response surface analysis), psychological theory/perspectives (e.g., self-determination theory, attachment theory, positive psychology), and other methods (qualitative, mixed, and community-engaged). I am currently funded through a career development award from the National Institute on Aging, focused on former dementia caregivers (K99 AG073463) and convene the Supporting Dementia Caregivers After Death Community Advisory Board.

What have you accomplished during your time as an RLK Post-Doc?

Comparing my CV now to my CV when I applied to be an RLK Post-Doc reveals some stark contrasts. I have double the publications (10 → 20), more than seven times the citations (56 → 431), and more than 14 times the funding as Principal Investigator from the National Institutes of Health ($68,044 → $996,961). I have published with many top researchers in some of the most prestigious journals in the field and in science more broadly. I have even built a Community Advisory Board of former caregivers, clinicians, healthcare administrators.

How much has the RLK Post-Doc meant to you and your career?
When I was accepted, I told everyone that this was my dream postdoc. The RLK postdoc was my top choice, but sometimes reality doesn’t live up to high expectations. In the case of the RLK postdoc, reality exceeded my high expectations. The format of the postdoc was perfect: dual mentors and dual mentees traveling a similar journey. Tetyana and Joe have been advocates for me in both career and personal life. They ensured I maintained work-life balance while encouraging every new research idea or grant opportunity that appealed to me. They incessantly opened their Rolodexes and introduced me to dozens of scholars in the field. They exposed me to new ideas and challenged me to think deeply about what sort of scholar and mentor I wanted to be. All of this while providing years of protected time. It feels like no exaggeration to say that becoming an RLK postdoc has been the single most positive and pivotal choice I have made for my work and my career.

Manka Nkimbeng
Manka Nkimbeng, PhD(c), MPH, RN

I am an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Prior to that, I was a Robert L. Kane Postdoctoral Fellow in the same division. I received my PhD in nursing from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, my MPH from Boston University School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. My research centers around understanding the causes of health inequities in minorities and improving health outcomes for older adults. In partnership with the African Career, Education & Resource (ACER) Inc., I am currently leading two projects with African immigrants in Minnesota. These projects seek to understand African immigrants’ dementia care, caregiving and education experiences and needs. Encompassing my research and policy expertise, I plan to adapt and test interventions that can be translated into health policies and practice to improve health and eliminate health inequities for older adults.

What have you accomplished during your time as a RLK Post-Doc?
This fellowship made it possible for me to dedicate 100% of my time to research and I believe it accelerated my career growth. I was able to leave my postdoctoral fellowship early to begin a tenure track faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Below, I describe my funding and publication successes:

Funding: I received 3 grants to support my research during the fellowship. I received pilot funds from the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (JHAD-RCMAR) to develop a culturally tailored dementia education program for the African immigrant community. This project; the African Immigrant Dementia Education Project that built on the African Immigrant Memory Loss project received two concurrent pilot awards, but one was rescinded. Secondly, I was invited by my community partner to serve as a technical expert and evaluator for the African Career Education Resources (ACER) Inc’s COVID Community Coordinator for the African American and African immigrant community that was funded by the Minnesota Department of Health. This project enabled me to continue building trust and building the community partner’s research capacity.

Also, I currently have two grants under review at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) that were developed primarily during the fellowship. I am an expert on the “Diverse Interdisciplinary Geriatrics Research Training Program (NIA R25), where we plan to develop introductory geriatric and gerontology training for racial/ethnic minority undergraduate students. The second is my (K01) where I plan to obtain training in cultural adaptation and feasibility testing of behavioral interventions. Both grants have received favorable scores and we are currently awaiting council review.

Publications: To date, I have 33 peer-reviewed articles published; 9 of them were published during the 18months of my postdoctoral fellowship. Many of these articles are published in journals that are widely-read and highly relevant in the fields of geriatrics, gerontology, nursing and immigrant health including the Journal of Applied Gerontology, Geriatric Nursing, Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Ethnicity & Health, and Journal of Professional Nursing. I also authored a non-peer reviewed newsletter article, and a book chapter titled “Diverse, Culturally Rich Approaches to Family Care in the United States in Bridging the Family Care Gap, edited by Dr. Joseph E. Gaugler during this time.

How much has the RLK Post-Doc meant to you and your career?
A mentor once said that the postdoctoral fellowship gives you the time and opportunity to gather momentum, so that you can begin a faculty appointment on very strong footing. This was one of the reasons why I pursued a postdoctoral fellowship and I think this is what happened in my career trajectory. During the fellowship, I was able to focus my time solely on research and gained more collaborators and community partnerships that enabled me to publish more, finalize my K01 application and ultimately obtain a tenure track faculty appointment.

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