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Washington State University

Meet the Members of GATHER Lab

Principal Investigators

Dr. Cory Bolkan is a Professor in the Department of Human Development at Washington State University in Vancouver and is co-director of WSU’s GATHER Lab (Generating Aging & Translational Health Equity Research). Dr. Bolkan’s research is focused broadly on healthy aging, the implementation and evaluation of evidence-based health and social service programs for older adults, and the exploration of how family/social relationships are risk or protective factors for well-being in later life, especially in regards to elder abuse. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to adult development, gerontology, death and dying, and research methods, and is a faculty member in WSU’s interdisciplinary Prevention Science doctoral program.

Dr. Raven H. Weaver is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. And is co-director of WSU’s GATHER Lab (Generating Aging & Translational Health Equity Research). Dr. Weaver’s research centers around vulnerable and near-risk populations (e.g., low-income, rural-dwelling, insufficient care) and the adequacy of formal and informal long-term services and supports designed to promote health behaviors and deter adverse health outcomes in late life. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to adult development, gerontology, death and dying, and families in poverty and is a faculty member in WSU’s interdisciplinary Prevention Science doctoral program. Updated CV

Graduate Students

Autumn Decker, M.S.

 

Autumn is a graduate student with a B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan (2018), and an M.S. in Kinesiology from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee (2020). Autumn also holds a certificate in Applied Gerontology from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Autumn is a Doctoral candidate in Prevention Science here at WSU where her research interest includes death preparedness and the end-of-life experience. She is also interested in older adults living in rural areas, service use, health literacy, grief and coping, and intersections of public policy and health outcomes in older adults. Updated CV

Kelly O’Sullivan, B.S.

Kelly is a graduate student with a B.S. in Gerontology from Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina (2022). Kelly is a Masters and Doctoral student in Prevention Science here at WSU. Her research interests include dementia and cognitive changes in older adults, innovative facility-based care, minority aging, resource access for older adults, and family caregiving. Updated CV

Medical Students

Angelique King, B.S.

Angelique King is a medical student at WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in the Class of 2025. She first connected with the GATHER lab for scholarly work on death education for WSU Spokane’s healthcare programs. For future goals, Angelique is undecided on her specialty but is interested in chronic diseases and serving the geriatric population. Her interest in death, dying, and death education comes from a desire to understand and improve the end-of-life and grieving experience. As she goes on to choose a specialty, she looks forward to taking her experiences from here to practice in serving both patients and families.

Logan Patterson, B.S.

Logan is a medical student at the WSU’s Elson S Floyd College of Medicine with a B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2016). He is currently in his third year of school and is participating in clerkships in the greater Spokane area. Logan’s medical specialty interests include oncology, palliative care, geriatrics, and internal medicine. As part of his education, he is researching how death and dying are approached in medical school curricula. He hopes to take many of the lessons from this research regarding the end-of-life and grief into his future clinical practice

Quynh Phung, B.S.

Quynh is a second-year medical student at Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, WSU-Spokane. She is interested in becoming an Emergency Medicine physician one day, a field that sees the second-highest number of patient deaths of all medical specialties. Her interest in death and dying grew after watching bewildered family members make guesses about the treatment preferences of their loved ones and experiencing her first death as a medical student in the Emergency Department. She has been working with other medical students to enhance end-of-Life care training at ESFCOM, hoping that students will be better equipped with palliative care knowledge and navigate the emotional challenges of coping with patient death.

Anna Roman, B.S.

Anna Roman is a third-year medical student at WSU’s Elson S Floyd College of Medicine, with a B.S. in Materials Science Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. She is undecided in her specialty, but her research interests include death education for health science students, human development, folk medicine, and cultural beliefs around death, dying, and end-of-life care.

Undergraduate Students

Emily Ericson

Emily is currently a senior at WSU, studying psychology and human development. She is passionate about helping others and using her education to bring joy to people’s lives. She hopes to further her education with a master’s degree in social work. Her interest in gerontology grew by taking Dr. Weaver’s Death and Dying class in which she learned how much help those who are dying and the people around them need and the underwhelming amount of help that they do receive. Outside of school Emily enjoys playing sports, hiking, reading, and volunteering with diverse groups throughout the community.  

Ashley Robillard

Ashley is a senior at WSUV majoring in Biology and minoring in Anthropology. She won the 2023 Crimson Award in the WSU Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) for her research with Washington State agencies on Rapid DNA Analysis and forensic evidence knowledge for evidence processing and collection. She has a passion for forensics and focuses on applying her biology academia to a career in funeral services and mortuary science. She plans to become licensed for afterlife procedures and funeral service sciences by taking the national exam from the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Besides her biology studies, she is interested in forensic anthropology, crime scene investigation, death doulas, and destigmatizing conversations about death and dying.

Lab Alumni

Kaeli Stephens

Kaeli Stephens graduated with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and a focus on death and dying. She contributed to research at WSU-Vancouver that is focused on the presence of death education in the U.S. and perspectives on Medical Aid in Dying in the Pacific Northwest. She is interested in studying cultural death practices, rituals and beliefs which encompasses death festivals, internment practices, and afterlife beliefs. Outside of Anthropology she is literate in areas of death advocacy, the death positivity movement and the development and education of ecological internment technologies and practices.

Olivia Davis

Olivia graduated from Washington State University with a major in Human Development and a certificate in Gerontology. Olivia is interested in one day working as a licensed clinical social worker in Palliative Care or Hospice. She believes degrees in Human Development and social work will allow her to transition into this field of work nicely. Additionally, Olivia has always been interested in aging populations because they are an underserved population that can greatly benefit from younger people taking an interest in them and their well-being.

Fatima Zubedi

 

Fatima graduated from Washington State University with a major in Neuroscience and minor in Chemistry for pre-medicine. Fatima first developed an interest in Gerontology after four years of volunteering in the Intensive Care Unit during her high school career. She wanted to understand why certain patients readily accepted their comings to end of life while others remained in denial. She then met with Dr. Weaver her freshman year of college, and began investigating perceptions, attitudes, and anxieties surrounding death and dying in young adults in the U.S population. As a future physician, she hopes to incorporate the findings of this study into her medical practices, promoting advanced care planning to alleviate death anxieties within patients.

Alissa Brooks

Alissa is a student at WSU-Global working toward her Undergraduate degree in Human Development with a Gerontology focus, Psychology minor, and Human Services Certificate. Her interest in aging comes from working in the kitchen of a retirement community. She was amazed at the variety in older adults view of their own age and the differing opinions on death and dying. The knowledge and wisdom she has gained from conversing with older adults also piqued her interest in gerontology. Once she finishes her undergraduate degree, she wants to either continue her education in graduate school or become a case manager for hospice/aging populations. She is excited and passionate when it comes to learning about, and working with, older adults.

Emery Pederson

Emery graduated from WSU-Vancouver with her undergraduate degree in Psychology and a minor in both Human Development and Aging Studies. She is passionate about finding new ways to support those in end-of-life care and those struggling with mental health. From a young age, she has been interested in studying associated afterlife beliefs, perceptions, anxieties, treatment approaches, and rituals related to death and dying. After earning her undergraduate degree, she hopes to further her education in graduate school and to later seek out a career in mental health counseling.