Elizabeth K. Rhodus, PhD, MS, OTR/L
- Assistant Professor
- Sanders-Brown Center on Aging
- Department of Behavior Science
- Center for Health Equity Transformation, Primary Faculty
- Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Outreach, Recruitment, Engagement Core
Biography and Education
Dr. Elizabeth Rhodus joined as faculty of the Department of Behavioral Science in January of 2022 with goals to develop patient-centered clinical research in environmental and behavioral interventions that promote health equity for people at risk of or living with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). Her research program aims to allow older adults to age within their home despite living with cognitive impairment. While working as an occupational therapist with patients across the lifespan, she recognized the influence of the environment on functional behaviors in those with cognitive impairment, including pediatric autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and advanced stages of ADRD. However, a lack of robust assessment and evidence-based interventions focused on the relationship between people and their environment undermines rigorous and effective clinical decision making. This gap and substantial need in clinical care fueled her career shift to scholarship in 2015. Dr. Rhodus’ research training was framed with a strong theoretical understanding of aging with a PhD in Gerontology completed in 2019 from the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky and experimental training as a post-doctoral scholar at University of Kentucky’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (UK-ADRC) completed in December 2021. Her graduate research included observational studies aimed to understand similarities of ASD and ADRD behaviors, as well as community-based environmental and behavioral characterization of older adults aging with ADRD. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research has been informed by caregiver interviewing, caregiver-report surveys, observation of home environments and ADRD behavior, and feasibility trials. Dr. Rhodus’ career has additionally focused on clinical and service-oriented support in areas throughout rural Kentucky across the healthcare landscape, including rural hospitals, home health, outpatient centers, and skilled nursing facilities. These experiences have exemplified health disparities and inequities which plague rural, underserved populations. Elizabeth’s personal and professional experiences provide a unique perspective into the culture and customs of older adults in rural Appalachia. Her lifetime residency in the region, and classification as an underrepresented researcher from a disadvantaged background, helps to provide inclusive diversity to conversations and collaborations for needed scholarly progression. Currently a Regular Title Assistant Professor at the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, Department of Behavioral Science, and the Center for Health Equity Transformation, 80% of Dr. Rhodus’ time is dedicated to research activities including activities described here. Since 2020, she has authored 17 peer-reviewed articles, numerous national and international presentations, and currently has over $1.1million in grant funding, including a 5-year NIH/NIA K23 career development award. Dr. Rhodus’ work will create opportunities for increased knowledge for functional aging in community-dwelling older adults with cognitive impairment with a goal to translate rigorous science into medically underserved communities.