About Us

A research team from the University of Utah received a grant (Project Number: 1R01AG061946-01) from the National Institute on Aging to create the TLC program and to conduct a research study to evaluate its efficacy in supporting caregivers in the community.

University of Utah


The University of Utah, located in Salt Lake City, is a world-class research and teaching institution built on a legacy of innovation, collaboration, community engagement, and service. 

Rebecca L. Utz, PhD

Professional Bio

In 2004, I moved to Utah to be a professor of Sociology at the University of Utah.  My teaching and research interests focus on how to support families coping with the challenges of health and aging. I became interested in this topic at the age of 14, when I took my first part-time job at a nursing home in Ohio.  Then, after caring for my chronically ill daughter and witnessing other illnesses within my own family, I became acutely aware of how important family caregivers are and especially how important it is for family caregivers to take care of themselves and to use respite.  I am the Principal Investigator of the TLC research study.  I am committed to helping family caregivers in our community get the respite that they so need and deserve.

Michael Caserta, PhD FGSA

Professional Bio

I am a professor in the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Utah and a co-investigator on this project. This is the most recent in a series of studies in which I have been involved focused on how aging individuals and their families cope with many of the stressful life situations they encounter. The challenges that family caregivers face has been one of those areas that I have worked on throughout my career where early on it became clear how important respite is for caregivers. I am therefore excited about my involvement with this project in order to continue this important work.

Alexandra Liisa Terrill, PhD

Professional Bio

I am an assistant professor at the University of Utah Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies. I am a clinical psychologist by training, specializing in rehabilitation. My research focuses on adjustment to chronic neurological conditions and associated disability and the role of close relationships in managing these conditions (to include caregiving). My overarching goal is to provide accessible and sustainable interventions that foster resilience and promote healthier lives for patients and their families.

Bob Wong, PhD

Professional Bio

A Research Associate Professor for the College of Nursing at the University of Utah, I specialize in statistical analysis, research methodology, and data management. I have been working in the field of geriatrics since 2006. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to be a part of research teams investigating ways to help caregivers. I have seen the emotional and physical toll that often comes from caring for loved ones suffering from health decline. That is why the TLC project is near and dear to my heart.

Eli Iacob, PhD

I have been involved in research for the last 14 years at the University of Utah beginning with my PhD in Neuroscience studying biomarkers for depression and chronic pain and post-doctoral fellowship studying chronic pain behavioral testing and advanced statistical methods to examine patient reported outcomes over time. I have been at the College of Nursing since the end of 2017. My role has focused on helping students and faculty develop rigorous studies in the field of the behavioral sciences by emphasizing study design, database management, and statistical analysis plans. Research groups that I have been involved with study diverse patient and caregiver populations including alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and post-partum depression. It has been wonderful to work with the diversity of faculty since they bring unique clinical insight into how our interventions can have significant impact on the daily lives of participants. Importantly we make great efforts to emphasize the caregiver’s role in disease and how to find ways to decrease caregiver burden. This approach attracted me to the TLC project a fundamental hurdle in everyone’s life is we have a conception of what we SHOULD do but do not know how best to do it or lack motivation to follow through. Working on increasing the frequency and specifically quality of respite in caregivers is of paramount importance. My specific role in the project is to help with study design, database management, and ultimately conducting the analysis.

Louisa A. Stark, PhD

Professional Bio

My experiences with caregiving have taken place over the past several years with my mother. Mom, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday, has progressed from living independently in her own home through having several strokes that eventually left her confined to bed. She now lives with one of my sisters, who is her primary caregiver; I and other sisters help as often as we’re able to. I’ve seen how important respite care is for my sister - and how challenging it can be to get that time during the pandemic. I’m a professor of human genetics and direct the GSLC, which developed the online TLC program and digital resources. I and the GSLC are passionate about making science and health easy for everyone to understand. I also direct the Community Collaboration and Engagement Team (CCET) of the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which facilitated the TLC Community Advisory Board. The CCET is dedicated to bringing community voices to research, including for this project.

Amber Thompson

I am the research assistant for the TLC research study. I study a host of end-of-life issues, including how families are affected by caring for loved ones and their interactions with the healthcare institution. I became interested in this area after caring for my father who had pancreatic cancer. Caring for him was the greatest gift and the hardest thing I have experienced to date. I am so excited to work with caregivers who agree to participate! I have high hopes that using respite, and learning how to get the most out of it, will help families during the process of caregiving .

Catharine Sparks, MSc

I am the Project Coordinator for the TLC research study. I have many years of experience in the area of caregiving and cognitive aging research. I worked for five years as a caregiver for people experiencing Alzheimer’s related dementia. It was this experience that motivated me to attend graduate school where I focused on research related to communication and well-being for those experiencing dementia and their caregivers. I am excited to continue my commitment to supporting caregiver health and well-being by helping to facilitate this research project and to working with the caregivers who agree to participate in the study. 

TLC Community Advisory Board

TLC researcher team partnered with a 15-member Community Advisory Board (CAB) to develop the TLC program and research study. The TLC CAB was comprised of diverse community leaders, current and former caregivers, and stakeholders working with caregivers in the community. They provided significant feedback during the development of the TLC tools and resources, ensuring that the TLC program would best meet the needs of diverse caregivers in the community.  The TLC CAB included:  Heather Brown, Brienne Witte, Valentine Mukundente, and Naomi Flake (Community Collaboration & Engagement Team, Community Faces of Utah), Pastor France Davis (Calvary Baptist Church), Yefttal Delgadillo (Hispanic Health Care Task Force), Deb Hall (Utah Pride Center), Ed Napia (Urban Indian Center), David Pascoe (Chaplain), Esperance Rugomwa (Best of Africa), Sarah Scott (Neighborhood House adult day services), Melanie Scott (Utah Coalition for Caregiver Support and Stepping Stones Counseling Solutions), Harmony Starr (GSLC), Fahina Tavake-Pasi (National Tongan American Society), and Maurice Wells (former caregiver, volunteer for Alzheimer’s Association).



GSLC is the creative and technical team that developed the online TLC program and digital resources. GSLC is a resource center at the University of Utah known for creating visually engaging products that bring science ideas and processes alive.  The team responsible for the creation of TLC includes:  Kevin Pompei, Harmony Starr, Jason James Harris, Brooklee Watters, Jonathan Conger, and Peter Anderson