About Us

Black in Gerontology & Geriatrics (BIGG) is an organization that was born to address the systemic inequities found in aging research/teaching/practice by focusing on three primary pillars – community, advocacy, and accountability.

What We Do

Collaboration

We work with groups, and organizations to create spaces and provide social support for Black people in the field of aging

Support

We provide guidance and professional development opportunities to BIGGs

Community Engagement

We engage with communities to achieve sustainable outcomes, equitable decision-making processes, and deepen relationships and trust between the field of aging and our communities

Ally Engagement

We are stronger together. We recognize the importance of connecting with ally partners (those who do not identify as BIGG but support our mission) to determine strategies and opportunities to work together with the goal of increasing diversity in organizations and spaces.

Team

Darlingtina Esiaka, PhD, CPG, CPH

Founder and Program Manager

Ayomide Okanlawon Bankole, PhD, RN

Director of Communications

Kalisha Bonds Johnson, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC

Director of Special Programs

Candidus Nwakasi, PhD, MPH

Director of Community Engagement

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Dr Darlingtina Esiaka PhD, CPG, CPH

Founder and Program Manager.

Dr. Darlingtina Esiaka is an NIH IRACDA/INSPIRE Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University. In 2019, she received a dual-title Ph.D. in social psychology and gerontology from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.

Her research interests revolve around two major themes inspired by the decolonial perspective in sciences. One focuses on the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) in older Black men. She studies how to predict progression and conversion to ADRD in Black men, long before the presentation of behavioral symptoms.

The second focuses on the early detection of cancer in older Black men. She studies psychosocial factors that predict fatal stage cancer diagnosis in older Black men. Her research has received funding from NIH/NIA, Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease (MCCFAD), and New Jersey Health Foundation (NJHF).

 She has received over 20 awards, scholarships, and fellowships, including the prestigious Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett Woman Mentoring Women Award from the Emily Taylor Centre for Women and Gender Equity, the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) ‘s Diversity, Mentoring, Career Development and Technical Assistance Fellowship, and the Louise Julie Doehring’s Excellence in Gerontology Award.

Ayomide Okanlawon Bankole, PhD, RN

Dr. Ayomide Okanlawon Bankole is a National Institute of Health T32 postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing.

Dr. Bankole’s research is focused on two priorities: (1) addressing factors contributing to poor health outcomes and disparities among older adults with multi-morbidity (2) improving the capacity of healthcare clinicians to support older adults and their family caregivers, particularly during care transitions. 

Kalisha Bonds Johnson, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC

Director of Special Programs

Dr. Kalisha Bonds Johnson is an Assistant Professor on the tenure track at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Bonds Johnson graduated with a PhD from Oregon Health & Science University in 2019.

During her PhD program, she was funded through several mechanisms, including the SAMHSA at American Nurses Association Minority Fellowship Program and the Jonas Foundation as a Veterans Healthcare Scholar. In her postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University, she is advancing this line of inquiry to focus on the decision-making process regarding health care for African American persons living with dementia and how these decision-making processes affect the quality of life of African American persons living with dementia and their families.

Dr. Bonds Johnson hopes to improve health outcomes from African American persons living with dementia and their families through clinical interventions and/or theoretical developments.

Candidus Nwakasi, PhD, MPH

Director of Community Engagement

Dr Candi Nwakasi, is an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at Providence College, RI. He was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Southern Indiana School of Nursing and Health Professions, where he worked on dementia workforce improvement.

With a PhD in Social Gerontology and MS in Public Health, Candi’s research is broadly focused on understanding and examining several factors that influence the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged people as they age. His interests include cancer survivorship in disadvantaged populations, cognitive decline, dementia, and caregiving, and health care and support access in older and disadvantaged populations.

He has received multiple funding for his work and his latest grant is from NIH, through the Rhode Island IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (RI-INBRE), to evaluate cancer survivorship in Blacks and Latinx in Rhode Island. Candi hopes to use his work to inform tailored, culturally relevant care and interventions for disadvantaged population groups.