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Faculty Spotlight: UT Associate Professor Exploring Effects on Alzheimer’s, Dementia Caregivers


Associate Professor Joel Anderson joined the College of Nursing in 2016. Anderson has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and PhD in nutrition from UNC Greensboro. He completed an NIH-funded postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Virginia and a certificate in clinical dementia practice at the University of Michigan. Anderson also holds an adjunct appointment as honorary associate professor at the Centre for Age-Related Medicine in Stavanger, Norway.


Anderson’s research program focuses on nonpharmacological interventions to support caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He is interested in developing person- and family-centered strategies to alleviate caregiver strain and improve quality of life. One particular interest is how caregivers use social media as part of their caregiving experience and the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ caregivers and older adults.


Why did you choose UT’s College of Nursing?

At the time, the college was beginning to build capacity in caregiving and gerontology research. It was exciting to join the college at that time and help to expand work in that area.


What current research projects are your working on?

Right now, I’m co-leading a multisite project funded by the National Institute on Aging with colleagues at Emory University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The project is called RISE: Research Inclusion Supports Equity. The goals of the RISE project are to build capacity and engagement of LGBTQIA+ caregivers and adults with memory loss in aging research. I’m also collaborating with faculty in the Tickle College of Engineering on NIH-funded research to develop ways to support caregivers using humanoid robots.


Why is this research important?

LGBTQIA+ adults are underrepresented in aging research yet experience higher rates of subjective cognitive decline, diagnoses of dementia, and health disparities that increase their risk for dementia. To ensure equity and address these disparities, we must include and engage LGBTQIA+ people across the lifespan.


What is one thing you hope your work can offer humanity by the end of your career?

If any of the work I do can help support one caregiver in providing care for someone with dementia, I will consider my career a success.


What advice would you give current or future nursing students who are interested in research?

The best career advice I ever received from a mentor was to do what makes your feet dance. It’s what led me away from laboratory science into clinical research.


Tell me about what is next for you? What other projects or partnerships would you like to pursue to continue to improve health care?

My colleagues on the RISE project are already thinking of ways that we can extend our work even though the project is just getting started. One of things we’re very focused on is ensuring we mentor and include students and early-career researchers all along the way.