Professor Laura N Gitlin

Distinguished University Professor
Dean, College of Nursing and Health Professions
Drexel University


Professor Laura N Gitlin, an applied research sociologist, is the Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University. Professor Gitlin is nationally and internationally recognized for her research on developing, evaluating and implementing novel home and community-based interventions that improve quality of life of persons with dementia and their family caregivers, enhance daily function of older adults with disability, and address mental health disparities. She is a well-funded researcher, having received continuous research and training grants from federal agencies and private foundations for over 35 years.

In all of her research, she applies a social ecological perspective and person—family-directed approach to examine, intervene and support individuals. Her efforts involve collaborating with community organizations, health and human service professionals and other stakeholders to maximize the relevance and impact of such interventions. She is also involved in translating, disseminating, and implementing proven programs for delivery in diverse practice settings globally and in the United States. For example, the Tailored Activity Program is now being used in 9 countries including Latin America, Scotland, England, Australia, Hong Kong and parts of the United States. The COPE program and its iterations are being used in various parts of the United States and Australia. Also, several of her measures have been validated in Spanish and are being used in various countries.

Professor Gitlin is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2009 Eastern Pennsylvania Geriatric Society, Charles Ewing Presidential Award for outstanding contribution to geriatric care; the 2010 United Way Champion Impact Award for Healthy Aging at Home, the 2010 National Institute of Senior Centers Award with Center in the Park, the 2010 MetLife Award for translating the Skills2Care Program (a dementia caregiver intervention program) with Fox Rehabilitation (a home health agency); the 2011 John Mackey Award for Excellence in Dementia Care, from Johns Hopkins University, the 2014 M. Powell Lawton Award from the Gerontological Society of America, and in 2015 she was named as an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She is the author of close to 300 scientific publications including authoring or co-authoring 7 books, the most recent published in 2016 on behavioral intervention research, and 2018 co-authored book, Better Living with Dementia:  Implications for Individuals, Families, Communities, and Society. Finally, she is an appointee to the Health and Human Service’s Advisory Council for the National Alzheimer’s Project Act and its current Chair. She recently co-chaired the first national effort to develop and implement the first National Research Summit on Care and Services for Persons Living with Dementia and their Caregivers. She is also a recent appointee to the Medical Advisory Board, Alzheimer’s Association and member of the international Lancet Commission on dementia care.


Over 50 million individuals and even more family members are living with dementia worldwide with prevalence rates expected to exponentially increase with aging societies.  Dementia is the leading chronic condition contributing to disease burdens in individuals and family members.  Current health systems with their singular focus on cure, prevention and drug therapeutics, have created a cycle of despair contributing to stigma and disease burden of families.  Although there is no cure, proven preventive strategies or drug therapeutics that reduce risk or modify the disease course, there is substantial evidence for positively supporting a ‘good life’ for individuals and their families using non-pharmacological strategies. 

This lecture will provide an overview of dementia as a public health priority. It will present a theoretical base and the evidence for supporting individuals living with dementia and family members using non-pharmacological strategies.  Specific proven approaches will be described and data from randomized trials presented to demonstrate their role and potentiality.  Understanding the evidence base for non-pharmacological strategies is an imperative in order to advance national dementia plans and design systems of care that support a good life for individuals and their families.