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Dr. Kara Dassel Appointed Assistant Dean for the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program


Kara Dassel, PhD, FAGHE, FGSA, FAHSE, has been appointed Assistant Dean for the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program (GIP), effective April 1, 2022.

"Dr. Dassel is an exemplary gerontologist and leader," says Dean of the College of Nursing Marla De Jong, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN. "During her time at the college, she has expanded the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program, provided support to caregivers and their patients through innovative research, and mentored students to become future health care leaders. I know that Dr. Dassel will take the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program to new heights."

Dassel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Taylor University in 2002, and a PhD in Gerontology and a certificate in statistics at the University of Kentucky in 2007. In addition, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neuroimaging and neuropsychology at Barrow Neurological Institute from 2007-2009.
She was appointed to the University of Utah College of Nursing in 2013 as Associate Professor. From 2013-2017, she served as Director of GIP. Since January 2021, Dassel has been serving as GIP's Interim Assistant Dean. Under her leadership, GIP successfully transitioned to a fully online format, fostering access to potential students. Using a University of Utah Teaching and Learning Technologies Online Program Development $155,000 grant, faculty mapped the curriculum for 17 courses, developed two new courses, and adopted best practices for online education. Dassel ensured that GIP aligns with the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) Gerontological Competencies for Undergraduate and Graduate Education, and achieved AGHE Program of Merit status.

Dassel has taught nine gerontology courses, a course for the Department of Internal Medicine, and is highly regarded for mentoring students and including students in her research and publications. In addition, she helped create a graduate certificate in gerontology designed for Doctor of Nursing Practice students who plan to pursue a career in post-acute and/or long-term care settings. In addition, she has assisted in submitting an application to create a dual Master of Science in Gerontology and Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program, which is anticipated to begin in Summer 2024.

"Dr. Kara Dassel is a nationally recognized leader in gerontological education and research. Her previous work directing the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program enhanced our curricular standards—aligning with competencies for gerontology in higher education, fostering program expansion, and earning designation as a national program of merit," says former Assistant Dean for GIP Jacqueline Eaton, PhD. "I look forward to what our program will accomplish under her direction as Assistant Dean."

Dassel’s research interests focus on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), end-of-life care planning, and caregiver health outcomes. She developed an advance care planning intervention using the Life-Planning in Early Alzheimer’s and Dementia (LEAD) Guide, which is designed to help care recipients and care partners converse about values and preferences for long-term and end-of-life care. As the lead on the ADRD portion of the Health Research and Service Administration Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program project, she is developing an online dementia educational program designed for direct-care workers in long-term care settings. Dassel publishes and presents extensively, often including students as co-authors.

At the international, national, state, and community levels, Dassel has served in multiple capacities on committees, councils, and boards, including, for example, the AGHE Awards Committee, the Gerontological Society of America Program, Publications, and Products Committee, and the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics Council, the Utah Commission on Aging, the Utah Department of Health Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Council, and the Utah Alzheimer’s Association.
Dassel is a Fellow in the Gerontological Society of America, AGHE, and the Utah Academy of Health Science Educators. She serves on editorial boards of The Gerontologist, Educational Gerontology, and the Journal of the Academy of Health Science Educators. She is published in several well-known journals, including The GerontologistAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Journal of Applied Gerontology, Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, and Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders.