Ruggiano, Nicole, PhD

Associate Dean of Research and Professor
A female university researcher poses for a photo
Contact Information Departments
  • Research
Areas of Interest and Expertise
  • Dementia Caregiving
  • Health Information Technology
  • Health Policy
  • Health Self-Management

Download Dr. Ruggiano's CV (pdf)


  • PhD, University of Delaware
  • MSW, Temple University
  • BA, University of Delaware


Dr. Nicole Ruggiano is a Professor and Associate Dean of Research within the School of Social Work. She was previously selected as an American Political Science Association Congressional Health and Aging Policy Fellow (HAPF; 2018-2019) and  John A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar (2011-2013). In addition, she is an Affiliated Associate Professor within the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Affiliated Scientist for the UAB Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Overall, her research and advocacy work aims to improve health and social care for older adults. Currently, her work involves developing and testing technologies that support people with dementia (PWD) and their caregivers, where she leads/co-leads multidisciplinary teams to achieve their research goals. She has served as a PI/co-PI on multiple grant projects awarded to her teams, including funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ; R21HS026571), the National Institute on Aging (NIA; R01AG068572), National Science Foundation (NSF; Award Number 1951974), and the John A. Hartford Foundation. Her most recent grant-funded projects is developing a touchscreen augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to support PWD in communicating their daily preference for care, which will undergo a clinical randomized control trial. She is also developing a community-based supportive technology that relies on volunteered geographic information (VGI) and artificial intelligence (AI) to increase access to information and services for PWD and their caregivers in Alabama.

As an educator, Dr. Ruggiano typically teaches course on policy, research methodologies, and macro practice. She has taught across BSW, MSW, PhD, and DSW programs. She is an active mentor to doctoral students, and serves as the founding Director of the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Program at the University of Alabama. She has served on committees for doctoral projects that span multiple topics across social work.

Dr. Ruggiano continues her macro practice as a community advocate, policy practitioner, and public health educator. As a HAPF, she worked with AHRQ to advance their goals in improving care for people with multiple chronic conditions as well as provided consultation for their work on developing an interoperable e-care planning platform. In addition, she was appointed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivy to serve on the Alabama Lifespan Respite Coalition. She frequently partners with community organizations to support efforts in advancing services for PWD and caregivers. To support public health education related to dementia and caregiving, she is a regular speaker at community events across Alabama, many of which are in rural Alabama. She has also launched a new initiative at the university, called Alabama Caregiver Connect, which was developed to increase the public’s access to the latest research and information about dementia and caregivers, as well as linking caregivers to community resources.

Selected Publications:

Luo,Y., Ruggiano,N., Bolt, D., Witt, J., Anderson, M., Jiang, Z., & Gray, J. (2022). Community asset mapping in public health: A systematic review of applications and approaches. Social Work in Public Health,

Norton, J., Ip, A., Ruggiano, N., Abidogun, T., Camara, D., Fu, H., Hose, B.Z., Miran, S., Hsiao, C.J., Wang, J., & Bierman, A.S. (2022). Assessing Progress Towards the Vision of a Comprehensive, Shared Electronic Care Plan: Scoping Review (2022). Journal of Medical Internet Research, 24(6):e36569. doi: 10.2196/36569. PMID: 35687382

Ruggiano, N., Washington, K. T., Luo, Y., Noh, H., & Brown, E. L. (2021). Feasibility of Using Secret Facebook Groups for Community-based Dementia Caregiver Support. Best Practices in Mental Health, 17 (1), 44-55.

Brown, E. L., Ruggiano, N., Agronin, M., Clarke, P., Davis, D. L., Framil, C., Geldmacher, D., Hough, M., Muñoz, M., H., Roberts, L., & Yang, X. (2021). Integration of health information technology and promotion of personhood in family-centered dementia care: Intervention trial. Research in Gerontological Nursing, 14(5), 225-234.

Ruggiano, N., Brown, E. L., Roberts, L., Framil Suarez, C. V., Luo, Y., & Hao, Z., Hristidis, V. (2021). Chatbots to support people with dementia and their caregivers: Available applications, opportunities, and challenges. Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), 23(6), e25006.

Hao, Z., Li, Q., Ruggiano, N., Yang, B., & Pan, X. (2021) Disparities in Depression among Chinese Older Adults with Neurodegenerative Diseases. Journal of Aging and Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2021.1871879

Hao, Z., Yang B., Ruggiano, N., Ma Y., Guo Y. & Pan X. (2021). Depression prediction among Chinese older adults with neurodegenerative diseases: A performance comparison between decision tree model and logistic regression analysis. British Journal of Social Work,

Ruggiano, N., Ellis, T., Gibson, K., Smith,S., Turner, C., Curington, A., Phelps, C., Ferruccio, A., & Fendley, K. (2020). The Unity Wall Project: A Student-led Community Organizing Effort to Advance Public Discourse on Social Justice. Journal of Community Practice, 28(2), DOI: 10.1080/10705422.2020.1757007

Guo, Y., Yang, F., Hu, F., Li, W., Ruggiano, N., & Lee, H. Y. (2020). Systematic Analysis of Existing Smartphone Apps for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias to Support Self-Care Management. Journal of Medical Internet Research-Aging, 3(1) e15290.

Hao, Z. & Ruggiano, N. (2020). Family-Centeredness in Dementia Care: What is the Evidence?Social Work in Health Care, 59, 1-19.

Shtompel, N., Ruggiano, N., Thomlison, B, & Fant, K. (2019). Dyadic, self-administered cognitive intervention for healthy older adults: Participants’ perspectives. Activities, Adaptation, and Aging.

Ruggiano, N., Brown, E. L., Li, J., Geldmacher, D., Clark, P., Hristidis, V., & Bertram, J. (2019). Communicating with providers for dementia care: Perspectives from caregivers and the potential role for information technology. The Journal of Aging and Social Change, 9(3), doi: 

Ruggiano, N., Brown, E., Shaw, S., Geldmacher, D., Clarke, P., Hristidis, V., & Bertram, J. (2019). The potential of information technology to navigate caregiving systems: Perspectives from dementia caregivers. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 64,432-450

Ruggiano, N., Brown, E.L., Li, J., Scaccianoce, M. (2018). Rural caregivers and technology: What is the evidence? Research in Gerontological Nursing, 11, 216-224.

Ruggiano, N., Brown, E., & Fortuna, K. (2018). Adult day service providers: Untapped potential for care coordination.Nursing & Health Sciences Research Journal, 1, 42-48.

Brown, E., Ruggiano, N., & Meadows, J. (2017). The Caregiver Burden Alert (CBA): A tool for promoting dementia caregiver burden screening and referral. Home Health Care Management & Practice, doi: 10.1177/1084822317743476

Ruggiano, N., Schottefer, L., O’Driscoll, J., & Lukic, A. (2017). “Work is like a therapy that prevents aging”: Perceptions of retirement, productivity and health among minorities and immigrants. Ethnogerontology. 1-11,

Brown, E., Ruggiano, N., Li, J., Clarke, P. J., Kay, E. S., & Hristidis, V. (2017). Smartphone-based health technologies for dementia care: Opportunities, challenges, and current practices. Journal of Applied Gerontology, doi: 10.1177/0733464817723088

Ruggiano, N. & Perry, T. (2017). Conducting Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data: Should We, Can We, and How?Qualitative Social Work, doi:10.1177/1473325017700701

Ruggiano, N., Shtompel, N., Whiteman, K., & Sias, K., (2017). The role of transportation in health self-management among older adults with chronic conditions. Behavioral Medicine, 43, 61-70. doi: 10.1080/08964289.2015.1065788.

Ruggiano, N., Lukic, A., Blowers, A., & Doerner, J. (2016). Health self-management among older prisoners: Current understandings and directions for policy, practice, and research. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, doi:10.1080/01634372.2016.1257531

Whiteman, K., Ruggiano, N., Thomlison, B. (2016). Transforming mental health services to address gender disparities in depression risk factors. Journal of Women and Aging, doi:10.1080/08952841.2015.1072027.

Brown, E.L., Ruggiano, N., Page, T.F., Roberts, L., Hristidis, V., Whiteman, K., & Castro, J. (2016) Care Heroes web and Android apps for dementia caregivers: A feasibility study. Research in Gerontological Nursing, 9, 193-203.

Ruggiano, N., Fortuna, K., & Shtompel, N. (2016) “If I don’t like the way I feel with a certain drug, I’ll tell them.” Older adults’ experiences with self-determination and health self-advocacy. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 35, 401-420. doi: 10.1177/0733464814527513.

Ruggiano, N., Shtompel, N., & Edvardsson, D. (2015). Engaging in coordination of health and disability services as described by older adults: Processes and influential factors. The Gerontologist, 55, 1015-1025.

Ruggiano, N., Taliaferro, J. D., Dillon, F., Granger, T., & Scher, J. (2015). Identifying attributes of relationship management in non-profit policy advocacy, Journal of Policy Practice. 14, 212-230. doi:10.1080/15588742.2014.956970.

Shtompel, N., Fortuna, K., & Ruggiano, N. (2014). Negative feelings among older adults with chronic conditions. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 57, 810-824. doi:10.1080/01634372.2014.898008.

Perry, T., Ruggiano, N., Shtompel, N., & Hassevoort, L. A. (2014). Applying Erikson’s wisdom to health self-management practices of older adults: Findings from two field studies. Research on Aging, 37, 253-274. doi:10.1177/0164027514527974.

Ruggiano, N., Taliaferro, J. D., Dillon, F., Granger, T., & Scher, J. (2014). Networking for Policy Advocacy: Identifying Predictors of Advocacy Success among Human Service Organizations. Human Services Organizations Management, Leadership & Governance, 38, 89-102. doi:10.1080/03643107.2013.828005


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