About Us

We are researchers based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Our focus is on improving care and outcomes for people living with dementia and their family caregivers.

This work took place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Laura C. Hanson, MD, MPH

Medical Director, UNC Palliative Care Program Director

Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine

Dr. Hanson is a Professor in Geriatric Medicine, and Co-Director of the Palliative Care Program. Dr. Hanson is board certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Medicine. She has clinical expertise in the care of medically complex older patients and in palliative care for adult patients of all ages.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Hanson also leads a program of research to measure and improve quality of health care for older patients made vulnerable by frailty, serious illness, or advanced dementia. Recent studies include development and testing of quality measures for hospice and palliative care, quality improvement interventions to enhance care in nursing homes, community-based supportive care for African-Americans with cancer, and NIH-funded clinical trials to improve the quality of decision-making and quality of care for patients with advanced dementia. Dr. Hanson is Principal Investigator for the Goals of Care, Comfort First, and Advance Care Planning programs.

Anna Beeber, PhD, RN, FAAN

Associate Professor and Beerstecher-Blackwell Distinguished Term Scholar

Dr. Beeber is a recognized leader in gerontological nursing and health services research. She is an associate professor and Beerstecher-Blackwell Distinguished Term Scholar at the School of Nursing, as well as a research fellow with the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Dr. Beeber is an Investigator in the Translating Research in Elder Care program at the University of Alberta Canada. She is devoted to improving the quality and safety of long-term care and enriching the quality of daily living for older adults residing in these settings. With funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, she has worked on large-scale studies aiming to examine the role of staff – nursing assistants, RNs and LPNs in the quality and safety of health services provided in long-term care settings, as well as research to improve the care of older adults with dementia and the complex care of older adults residing in nursing homes and assisted living. Dr. Beeber contributed to the Advance Care Planning program.

Stacey Gabriel, MPH

Research Associate/Project Manager

Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research

Ms. Gabriel is an experienced Project Manager coordinating public health and clinical research studies for over 10 years. She has managed oncology and dementia focused clinical trials. In addition, Ms. Gabriel has extensive background in public health program coordination, creating health marketing campaigns, leading training sessions, and conducting program evaluations. Ms. Gabriel has contributed to the Comfort First, and Advance Care Planning programs.

Christine E. Kistler, MD, MASc

Associate Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine

Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine

Dr. Kistler’s area of interest is decision-making around the care of older adults, particularly the appropriateness of their care. Her research has focused primarily on preventive services such as cancer screening and tobacco cessation, and around infection control. Dr. Kistler was Co-Principal Investigator in the Advance Care Planning Program.

Susan Mitchell, MD, MPH

Susan L. Mitchell, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and health services researcher, is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Senior Scientist at Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research in Boston. She graduated from the University of Ottawa Medical School, has a Master’s degree in Public Health from Harvard University. Her research focuses on decision-making, outcomes and resource utilization in advanced dementia. She has been the Principal Investigator on many NIH funded grants that aim to improve the cared provided to older patients with advanced illness and their families. Dr. Mitchell has contributed to the Goals of Care and Comfort First programs.

Cherie Rosemond, PhD

Dr. Rosemond brings almost three decades of experience working on the social, physical, and political aspects of aging in the United States. Since 2012, Dr. Rosemond has served as a consultant to the Orange County Department on Aging. In this capacity, she has worked with teams of aging services providers, UNC students, and community members to develop and implement Orange County’s Master Aging Plan. Her focus areas include senior housing, caregiving, and program evaluation. Dr. Rosemond contributed to the Goals of Care Program

Mi-Kyung Song, PhD, RN, FAAN

Professor & Edith F. Honeycutt Chair in Nursing

Director, Center for Nursing Excellence in Palliative Care at Emory University

Dr. Song is based at Emory University and clinical background includes critical care and cardiovascular nursing. Dr. Song's research is focused on improving end-of-life and palliative care for patients with serious multiple chronic illnesses (e.g., patients with advanced chronic kidney disease and post-lung transplant recipients with chronic rejection) and their family members. Specifically, her research areas of interest are end-of-life communication, treatment decision making, surrogate decision making, integration of palliative care, and bioethics. Her methodological areas of interest include intervention development and testing, treatment fidelity, clinical trials, and mixed methods in intervention program of research. She contributed to the Goals of Care program.

Dr. Mark Toles

Mark Toles, PhD, RN, FAAN

Associate Professor, Department of Nursing

Dr. Toles is an associate professor with expertise in nursing care of older adults, the quality of care in nursing homes, and transitional care of older adults as they transfer between settings and providers of healthcare. His prior studies have used epidemiological and case study approaches to describe health outcomes and services for transitioning older adults. In his current research, Dr. Toles continues to develop and test “Connect-Home,” a transitional care intervention for older adults as they transition from skilled nursing facilities to home. Dr. Toles is also a co-investigator in studies of comfort care of older adults in nursing homes and cardiac rehabilitation for adults transferring from hospital-based to home-based care. Dr. Toles contributed to the Comfort First and the Goals of Care programs.

Kathryn Wessell, MPH

Palliative Care Research Specialist

Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research

Kathryn Wessell is the Palliative Care Research Specialist and manages the website. Ms. Wessell has over ten years experience working with palliative care, aging, and health services research. Ms. Wessell has expert knowledge in chart abstraction, database management, and clinical outcome assessments. Ms. Wessell contributed to the Goals of Care program. 

Gary Winzelberg, MD, MPH

Associate Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine
Associate Director, UNC Palliative Care Program
Director, Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program

Dr. Winzelberg, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He is board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Internal Medicine.

He graduated from Dartmouth Medical School, trained in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, and completed fellowships in Geriatric Medicine at Harvard Medical School and in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Washington.

Dr. Winzelberg’s teaching focuses on improving physician serious illness communication skills, particularly with families of incapacitated patients. Dr. Winzelberg contributed to the Advance Care Planning program.

Dr. Sheryl Zimmerman

Sheryl Zimmerman, PhD

University Kenan Distinguished Professor

Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development

Co-Director of the Program on Aging, Disability, and Long-Term Care, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research

Dr. Zimmerman is widely recognized as a leading expert in long-term services and supports for older adults, especially residential care; notable among her international work is comparative studies of end-of-life services and supports. Dr. Zimmerman has received two career awards from the NIH, written four books and more than 300 manuscripts, and is Co-Editor-in-Chief of JAMDA – the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. In 2016 Dr. Zimmerman was recognized as the nation’s top-ranked social work scholar in aging.  Dr. Zimmerman contributed to the Goals of Care and the Comfort First programs.