Learn More About the DEER Program

Welcome, DEER Friend! We are the Dementia Engagement, Education, and Research Program, situated within the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Our Mission:

The DEER Program aims to build capacity within individuals, organizations, and communities to improve the experience of living with dementia and care partnering practices in Nevada and beyond.


We affectionately call ourselves the DEER Program because we believe in the power of symbolism, and deer have for time immemorial been associated with the very qualities of being that we believe are core to supporting people living with dementia in living well: presence, awareness of surroundings, intuition, gentleness, adaptability, regeneration, and unconditional love.

Our History

In October 2018, with the growing recognition that dementia is a public health priority, Dr. Jennifer Carson, a critical gerontologist who is internationally recognized for her award-winning care partner dementia education programs, launched the Dementia Engagement, Education, and Research (DEER) Program in the University of Nevada, Reno School of Public Health. Her vision was to partner with people living with dementia, care partners, and other stakeholders to collaboratively develop research initiatives, program innovations, and educational opportunities that would radically transform the culture of dementia care and support in Nevada and beyond.

Building on her previous work as the lead facilitator for the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division’s (ADSD) Dementia Friendly Nevada initiative, which launched its first community groups in 2016, Dr. Carson worked with ADSD and other partners to establish a permanent administrative home for Dementia Friendly Nevada as the DEER Program’s first grant-funded initiative. This transition opened opportunities for additional philanthropic support through the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation. With initial funding from ADSD, Dr. Carson worked with members of Dementia Friendly Nevada to build a robust network of communication, collaboration, creativity, and support to initiate and elevate the impact of programs and resources, fostering new innovations and increased utilization of existing programs in local communities and across the state, in addition to creating channels for national visibility.

In September 2020, with continued funding from ADSD and additional funding from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) as part of its larger BOLD (Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure) Program grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the DEER Program and Dementia Friendly Nevada broadened their scope to endeavors that take a life course-perspective on dementia risk reduction, promoting healthy lifestyle strategies to protect brain health and support well-being no matter a person’s age or whether or not they currently live with cognitive changes. It is never too early or too late to promote brain health.

Most recently, additional funding from ADSD supported the DEER Program in continuing to package and/or disseminate capacity-building programs for adoption and implementation by other organizations across the state, including: the national Dementia Friends program, Dementia Friendly Nevada’s Dementia Conversations program, Healthcare Interactive’s CARES™ dementia education program, and the collaboratively developed NEST Programs, which are designed to provide social support and technology assistance to older adults. With a commitment to avoiding duplicating services or competing against valued partners for funding, the DEER Program works collaboratively to identify gaps in the Nevada aging services network, and then addresses those gaps with high-quality, capacity-building resources, sustainably and robustly amplifying the ability of the aging services network to meet the needs of Nevadans. In summary, as a university program, the DEER Program aims to serve and support the Nevada aging services network.

Nothing About Us Without Us

In all of this work and other grant-funded initiatives, it is important to note that the DEER Program’s success stems from its unwavering commitment to partnering with the true experts in the experience of living with dementia: people living with dementia themselves. At every step of the way, the DEER Program works not on behalf of people living with dementia but alongside them, innovating the way toward a future in which all Nevadans can live well and thrive as they age.