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Latino Aging Research Resource Center

Latino Aging Research Resource Center

LARRC Scholars Biography and Project

Carolina Apesoa-Varano, Ph.D.

Carolina Apesoa-Varano

Ester Carolina Apesoa-Varano is an assistant professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. Apesoa-Varano earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Spanish and Latin-American Literature and Sociology at State University of New York, Oneonta, in 1997. She earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento, in 2000 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology from UC Davis in 2008. Apesoa-Varano was a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholar, part of a prestigious National Institute of Health program, from 2011 to 2012. Prior to joining the School of Nursing, she was a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences where her research focused on barriers to depression care in diverse, older men’s health.

Project: Social Capital and Ethnicity: A Qualitative Longitudinal Study of Caregiving Experience,
Burden, and Reward among Alzheimer’s Disease Latina Caregivers

While the literature on caregiving and caregiver intervention is vast, we lack understanding of effective interventions to support Latina caregivers who are more likely to report high levels of burden, depression, and stress compared to other ethnic groups. The overall purpose of this pilot longitudinal qualitative study is to show how social capital and ethnicity impact Latina caregivers’ experiences and the nature of their social resources over time as they care for someone with AD. The study is a purposive, non-probability sample of Latina family caregivers of a patients with AD recruited and assessed through the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center database. Structured physical and mental health data will be collected using two questionnaires and analyzed for descriptive statistics. Qualitative interviews will be converted to text and thematically analyzed.


Lorena Garcia, Ph.D.

Lorena Garcia

Lorena Garcia is an assistant professor in Public Health Sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Dr. Garcia’s expertise is in chronic health, aging, endocrinology and metabolism, minority health, and health disparities.

Dr. Garcia’s current research also includes examining raw milk consumption in Mexico through funding from the UC Global Health Institute Junior Faculty Fellowship. The Raw Milk/Leche Bronca Study is a global health collaboration that will study the consumption, characteristics and views/beliefs of raw milk/leche bronca (RM/LB) in rural communities of Mexico which have high outmigration to the USA.

Dr. Garcia was formerly an Interdisciplinary Women’s Health Research (IWHR) Scholar from the NIH-sponsored BIRCWH (Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health) program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Her research focused on health disparities in Mexican, White and African American women, where she looked at metabolic and nutritional syndromes, particularly obesity, pre-diabetes, diabetes and health-related complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Dr. Garcia received a Doctor of Public Health from the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA in 2002 and a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology/Biostatistics from Boston University in 1996. She has been engaged in Latino health research since the early 1990s with a special interest in health disparities, chronic disease, aging, behavioral health, injury and violence prevention in the Latino community.

Project: The Impact of Neighborhood Context on Older Latino’s Chronic Health Status

Older Latinos are more likely to reside in lower socioeconomic position (SEP) neighborhoods and to have negative health outcomes. Neighborhood context can positively and or negatively affect older Latino health. The prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension is particularly high among low SEP Latinos. While it is understood that health disparities and chronic disease exist by race and SEP, there is limited information on the specific role that neighborhood context plays on older Latino health and specifically to cardiovascular health. Therefore it is hypothesized that low neighborhood SEP will negatively impact older Latino’s chronic health, specifically their diabetes status. We plan to determine the relationship of neighborhood context on diabetes status for older Latino’s to examine the role of neighborhood context on changes in diabetes status and to assess whether these relationships differ by gender and nativity. Logistic regression methods and multilevel regression models will be used to analyze the covariates of interest.


Sarah Farias, Ph.D.

Sarah Farias

Sarah Farias is an Associate Professor in Neurology at the UC Davis. Primary research interests involve the development of new measures of everyday functioning applicable to older adults with cognitive impairment and dementia, and the study of the how cognitive and non-cognitive impairments influence everyday functioning. Other active research interests in the area of aging are related to the influence of vascular disease on cognitive decline, the role of cognitive reserve in moderating the effects of disease on cognition, and the development of new approaches for how to measure cognitive reserve in older adults. Dr. Farias obtained a bachelor’s in science degree from Arizona State University in 1993, and a PhD from the University of North Texas in 2000. She held an internship in the department of Neurology and Psychiatry at Tulane University and in 2002, and she was awarded a NIMH-funded summer research scholarship in Geriatric Psychiatry.

Project: Development of a community-based cognitive enrichment intervention to
promote cognitive health in Hispanic older adults

Convincing evidence suggests that engagement in cognitively, socially, and physically stimulating activities have positive effects on cognition. Multimodal interventions, which incorporate opportunities for learning and novelty along with increased physical and social activity, may offer the greatest benefits to brain health. One approach to providing this type of intervention is through volunteer work. We seek to understand the perceptions and barriers Latino older adults have regarding participation in intervention programs designed to maintain or improve cognitive health through volunteerism. We will conduct and analyze qualitative focus groups to (a) define Latino older adults’ views on volunteerism and activities that promote general cognitive health, (b) identify specific barriers to participating in volunteer work, and (c)identify facilitators to volunteerism. In Phase 2 we will conduct and analyze focus groups with leaders and stakeholders at community-based volunteer organizations. Data will be analyzed using qualitative methods and relying on collaborative expertise from within the UC Davis academic community.


Dawnte Early, Ph.D.

Dawnte Early

Dawnté R. Early is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at her alma mater. Dr.Early received her PhD in Human Development with a minor in Quantitative Psychology from the University of California, Davis. Dr.Early's major area of interest is examining how demographic and environmental factors contribute to cognitive decline in ethnically diverse older persons.

Project: Life experience modifiers of late life cognitive trajectories

Levels of brain pathology increase and cognitive function declines as we age. The trajectories of cognitive change, however, are heterogeneous and the degree of brain pathology account for only a fraction of the between-person variance in cognitive aging. While genetic factors almost certainly play an important role in moderating or mediating the effects of brain pathology on cognitive function, considerable evidence suggests that early childhood conditions and certain types of experiences over the lifespan can also play predictive or risk-elevating roles. We examine the hypothesis that experiences in childhood and middle adulthood modify cognitive function in late life by developing specific measures of life history variables associated with cognitive trajectories in late life. Using data from the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center longitudinal cohort, a sample of 400 equally represented by Latino’s, African Americans, and Caucasians, and where there is considerable heterogeneity in cognitive status, we will use the Life Experiences Activities Form (LEAF) to collect data on childhood and adult experiences. We predict (1) that childhood poverty is associated with lower late life cognitive performance and decline, (2) greater social interaction in mid-life is associated with less cognitive decline, (3) higher levels of cognitively stimulating activities in mid-life are associated with less cognitive decline, and (4) higher levels of physical activity in mid-life are associated with less cognitive decline.