Research Interests

  1. Healthcare access & quality of care for marginalized & vulnerable populations

      • Mental health and healthcare access and healthy aging for immigrants

      • Dementia caregiver wellbeing, family centered care for diverse families, and empowerment to manage challenging behavior

      • Alternative access models for care hesitant populations

  2. Workforce development for healthcare settings

Wharton GSA 2022.pptx


Dr. Wharton is now working with NNPHI and partnerships for research or program evaluation can be contracted through that organization.

Below is a list of research funding prior to joining NNPHI:

Social Work HEALS: Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars (PI: Wharton): Funded by NASW/CSWE & the New York Trust, this 6-year grant funded 4 students per year in a mentored fellowship. Additionally, NASW awarded money that allowed us to produce two healthcare policy events in 2017, and again for two healthcare policy events in 2018-19, and one event in 2021. Students engaged in interprofessional training in healthcare social work, consulted with professional leaders and legislators in Tallahassee and Washington D.C., and engaged with colleagues for mentored research and advocacy training.

This grant funded a total of 24 student scholarships over 6 years, including 21 women and 3 men, of which 12 were students of color, 9 bilingual students, and at least one graduate of the foster care system. All undergraduate scholars have gone on to graduate school, one graduate student has entered a doctoral program and 3 more have plans to apply. Several graduates have accepted employment as research associates and at least 9 graduates have accepted employment in medical settings. Public events provided education and training for more than 500 people.

Mental Health of Venezuelan Immigrants to Central Florida: Recommendations for Policy Action. (PI: Wharton with Dr. Andres Cubellos Novello): This project was a collaboration with Dr. Cubillos, from Javeriana University in Colombia, Dr. Bernardo Ramirez from UCF Health Management and Informatics, and Dr. Heather Peralta from UCF Nursing. The project sought to investigate the experience of immigrants to the area from Venezuela, their access to services and experiences during the transition, and their mental health needs.

This project also involved Social Work student Gilarys Garcia and Medical student Matthew Abrams as Research Assistants, and three students located at Javeriana University in Bogota as Research Assistants.

We are grateful to our community partners and the UCF Center for Behavioral Health Research and Training (CBHRT) for support. Funding for the focus groups was provided by CBHRT; Funding for Research Assistance provided by Colciencias: Colombian National Research Agency.

Savvy Caregiver adaptations & Savvy Neighbors (PI: Wharton; Paulson, Co-PI): This collaboration with Daniel Paulson in Psychology and Edith Gendron at The Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center of Orlando sought to make adaptations to the Savvy Caregiver intervention to better meet the needs of our community, and further seeks to expand our psycho-educational reach to older adult communities aging in place.

This project also involves graduate student Nicole Valdez and support from the OLDeR lab at UCF Psychology (

TeleREACH and FL REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's Caregiver Health) translational project (PI: Wharton; Paulson, Co-PI): Funded by the Florida Department of Health Ed & Ethel Moore Alzheimer's Disease Research Grant program for 2019-2021. This collaboration with AdventHealth Orlando's memory disorder clinic (Dr. Rosemary Laird's team) and Dr. Daniel Paulson in Psychology piloted novel mechanisms for bringing this evidence-based intervention to diverse families in central Florida.

Please see the page on this website for a full list of our research team members and more information about this project!

Learning from Caregivers (PI: Wharton): This project explored the experiences and knowledge of caregivers for individuals with dementia who demonstrated aggressive or other high risk behaviors while living in the community. Targeted areas of information include whether patterns of behavior can be observed in early stages of disease, and whether caregivers perceive that available evidence-based interventions may have been helpful to them in retrospect.

Aggression in Dementia (PI: Wharton): This project involved data collected from electronic medical records at the University of Michigan Health System. The dataset was created during Dr. Wharton's postdoctoral fellowship at UM. Funded by NIH/NIMH.

SBIRT (PI: S. Lawrence): Funded by SAMHSA. This project focused on training community partners for assessment and intervention in substance use in adults. Dr. Wharton was a Co-PI. [This project ended in 2017]

Inter-Professional Education and the Apopka Clinic : This partnership with the College of Medicine, College of Nursing, Department of Physical Therapy, and UF’s College of Pharmacy focuses on team based health care through experiential case-based learning. Dr. Wharton is a member of the steering team for this project and the lead for Behavioral Health, with SW Field Faculty member Iradly Roche and Counseling faculty member Dr. W. Bryce Haggedorn and doctoral student Niko Wilson. The Apopka “pop-up” clinic runs quarterly in partnership with the Farmworker’s Association, and provides interprofessional team care for uninsured and underinsured migrant farmworker community members in the underserved area of Apopka, FL. We see between 60-150 patients at each clinic. The Apopka Clinic team was awarded the inaugural Interprofessional Team Impact award from the IPEC and US Public Health Service in 2017, a grant from Florida Blue in 2018 (PI: Heather Peralta), and several student team awards from UCF.

This project is supported by a behavioral health student planning team. Please see the page on this website for Community Service to view a video about the Apopka clinic.

Musical Minds (PI: D. Paulson): This partnership with the Central Florida Community Arts Association sought to evaluate the Musical Minds choir for individuals with dementia and care partners. Dr. Wharton is a Co-PI.

Equine-facilitated group work for treatment of trauma in veterans (PI: Wharton; Co-PI: J. Whitworth): This project is a partnership with the McCormick Research Institute/UCF College of Medicine.

Canine partnerships for Veterans (PI: J. Whitworth): This is a partnership with a colleague at St. Leo’s College that is examining data regarding canine programs. The aim is to establish evidence of efficacy. Dr. Wharton is a Co-PI.

Developing and pilot testing an EF-CPT intervention for treatment of combat-related trauma in veterans (PI: F. Scogin; Community Partner: Dr. Malone): This project is a partnership with Therapeutic Riding of Tuscaloosa in Tuscaloosa, AL, that focuses on an adaptation of the VA’s CPT protocol to integrate equine-facilitated face-to-face sessions. Dr. Wharton is a Co-PI and provides ongoing program evaluation for TROT.


OLDeR lab, Dept of Psychology, UCF & Dr. Daniel Paulson

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center of Orlando & Edith Gendron

Farmworker’s Association of Orlando

Dr. Rosemary Laird, Judy Clark, Gayle Shepherd, & the AdventHealth Memory Disorder Clinic Team, Orlando

Central Florida Community Arts Association

Heavenly Hooves & Horses for Heroes, Kissimmee, FL

Therapeutic Riding of Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa, AL

Horse Spirit for Soldiers, Hayward, WI

K9 Paws for Patriots

The Center, Orlando

Aging Research Institute of Alabama (ARIA), The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa

Women’s & Gender Studies, UCF

Amity Foundation, Nanjing, China