Xiaoyi Zeng (She/Her) is a doctoral student at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin, and a social work advocate for older individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. Having been a caregiver herself, and as a community social worker at the Coalition of Asian-American IPA in New York, Xiaoyi felt compelled to support those affected by dementia and their caregivers, empowering them to age healthily, happily, and independently within our community. Originally hailing from Shandong, China (the hometown of Confucius), Xiaoyi was deeply influenced by the “human-centered virtues for leading a peaceful life” inherent in Confucianism. Throughout her social work experience, she developed a keen interest in enhancing the health and well-being of the aging population, particularly among marginalized racial and ethnic groups with lower socioeconomic statuses. Xiaoyi’s research endeavors revolve around promoting the physical, mental, and cognitive well-being of older individuals, with a special focus on Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
Xiaoyi served as a clinical research coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai for over three years. Collaborating with a multidisciplinary team at the ADRC, she actively participated in conducting dementia evaluations and clinical interviews with over 200 elderly Chinese Americans and their family members. She applied her cultural and linguistic expertise to the development of appropriate assessment tools and recruitment materials tailored to older Chinese Americans – a historically overlooked minority group in Alzheimer’s research. She also provided training and quality control for English Chinese bilingual interdisciplinary teams including neurologists, psychometricians, and research coordinators who were conducting dementia evaluations on Chinese older adults.
Xiaoyi’s principal mentor is Dr. Yuanjin Zhou, geriatric social work scholar at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, with whom she is working on research projects that aim to develop fall-risk management interventions for older adults with dementia and their caregivers. Throughout her doctoral training, Xiaoyi will continue to build her research agenda related to the aging demographic while expanding collaboration with interdisciplinary scholars. Additionally, she will utilize Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) to address the longstanding racial and ethnic disparities prevalent in dementia care and aging research involvement.
Xiaoyi obtained her Master of Social Work at Fordham University and her Master of Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. She is a proud volunteer for the CaringKind (formerly Alzheimer’s Association New York City Chapter), where she has been offering educational talks, caregiver support, and community advocacy for dementia caregivers for more than six years. Driven by an unwavering commitment to enhancing the well-being of the aging community, Xiaoyi envisions herself to be an educator, advocate, and leader, thereby reshaping the landscape of geriatric social work.