I am assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in the Division of Population Health Sciences, affiliate faculty of the National Resource Center for Alaska Native Elders, and founding director of the UAA Healthy aging Research Lab. I research the anthropology of aging with mixed-methodologies in the Circumpolar North. My work focuses on engaging older adults (aged 65+ years) in community-based participatory research projects to enhance healthy and positive aging. My research involves undergraduate and graduate student research assistants from the UAA Healthy Aging Research Lab to investigate the barriers and facilitators to healthy aging, and develop interventions to improve health outcomes in the Circumpolar North. I teach a variety of gerontology and health promotion courses that utilize service-learning, community-engaged projects, and interprofessional education. I am co-chair of the UAA Interprofessional Education Committee and board member (secretary) for the Alaska Anthropological Association.
I am currently working on several projects related to older adult health and wellness in Alaska, including the use of Concept Mapping methods to define healthy aging for seniors in Anchorage. I am finishing a manuscript on the barriers and facilitators for older men’s recruitment and retention in health promotion program. I work with collaborators across UAA on a variety of health interventions, especially those focusing on increasing fruit and vegetable intake and exercise practices among older adults. I am also collaborating with Communication faculty to bring improvisational comedy principles to a training for family caregivers of people with Dementia. The Improv to Improve project is also working in partnership with Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska and the Scared Scriptless comedy troupe. Currently, UAA anthropology faculty Dr. Ryan Harrod and I are co-editing a textbook titled “Anthropological Perspectives on Aging.” I am also co-editing a special volume of Alaska Journal of Anthropology with UAA faculty Dr. Sally Carraher and UAF faculty Elaine Drew on medical anthropology in Alaska.
My dissertation research in Anchorage looked at the sociocultural influences on older adult nutritional status outcomes, such as the role of friends, family, cultural identity, and the media on diet and physical activity practices. This mixed-methods project collected data from 82 seniors in Anchorage including a Food Frequency Questionnaire, a physical activity assessment, a survey, participation observation, and semi-structured interviews. I am currently working on a project in Anchorage, Alaska that utilizes concept mapping methods to quantify how various stakeholders (older adults, senior advocates, service providers, local gerontologists) in Anchorage conceptualize “healthy aging” in the urban subarctic.
My other past research includes smoking cessation, cancer screening, health promotion programs, and a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to assess the accuracy, feasibility, and cultural acceptability of various physical activity measures among rural Appalachians, including self-report, pedometers, and accelerometers. I have also conducted survey research in Martin County, Kentucky on an environmental impact follow-up study to the coal sludge spill in 2000. Additionally, I’ve worked to understand smoking behaviors and other healthcare concerns for Kentucky’s LGBT community, and research into early detection of challenging child behaviors in primary care settings.
In the past, I have also served as the Research Analyst for the Alaska Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education and coordinator of Research and Development at Hope Community Resources, a service provider agency for Alaskans that experience disabilities. My work at Hope was two-fold: to improve our agency’s service delivery through research and increased use of evidence-based practices, as well as increase available research data relevant to people with disabilities through collaborative projects and publications. I have also taught Intro to Anthropology, World Civilizations, Introduction to Archaeology, World Cultures, Cultural Diversity in the Modern World, and Medical Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University, Eastern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, and Gateway Community and Technical College.