Research Summary

I investigate family and informal caregiving in communities with flexible and adaptive family and kinship structures that have been underserved or marginalized by health care and research. I am especially interested in how networks of family, friends, and close others provide social support and caregiving for members with chronic illness and at end of life. Since 2014, my program of research has focused on LGBTQ+ individuals with chronic and life‐limiting illness and their caregivers.


  • Bachelor of Arts, Theatre, State University of New York College at Cortland
  • Bachelor of Science, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
  • Graduate Certificate, Women Studies, University of Washington
  • Masters in Nursing, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
  • Doctor of Philosophy, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
  • Graduate Certificate, Gerontology, University of Utah Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program


I've come to nursing research and education after first pursuing education and work in the performing arts and media, studying to be an actor (with a concentration in Shakespearean and classical performance) and working on-air  in college and commercial radio markets. In the mid 1990s after graduating from a humanities program, I became interested in human services, working as a CNA and then as a recreational therapist with people with intellectual, psychiatric and physical disabilities transitioning from institutional to community residential settings . This work led me toward the nursing field, where early on I gravitated toward psychiatric and community nursing and public health.

I earned my PhD in nursing because of my deep belief in the power and profound responsibility of knowledge production. Three overarching principles tie my research, teaching and theoretical interests together: a drive to deeply examine the ideas, assumptions and values we take for granted; a focus on social justice for those people who are systematically marginalized within dominant US cultures; and a profound respect and joy in the iterative process of teaching and learning.

My program of research is centered on identifying and addressing mental health needs and health disparities among people in underserved groups who experience serious chronic and life-limiting illness. In the past, I led a team in field research to examine elements that are essential to designing and implementing sustianable end of life care in a prison, incuding the role of inmate hospice volunteers in delivering care to fellow prisoners. I have investigated the effects of minority-related stress on mental health and chronic illness outcomes among older LGBT and African American aduts. Most recently, I have been working as a co-Investigator with our R01-funded research team (Ellington, PI) invstigating communication needs and alignment among professional hospice care team providers, family caregivers and patients receiving in home hospice services; I wrote and am leading an NIH funded supplement to this study to learn more about the needs and experiences of LGBTQ family caregivers of home hospice patients with advanced cancer. Through this work, we are developing competencies and strategies that will help guide hospice and palliative care researchers in designing and conducting more inclusive research.