Lily N. Shapiro, PhD


“I aim to design and conduct research that enhances our understanding of the lived experience of health and illness and the burdens and pleasures of caregiving work.”

Lily N. Shapiro, PhD

Collaborative Scientist, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute


Lily Shapiro, PhD, MPH, is a medical anthropologist who focuses on care/caregiving, health systems navigation, and aging and dementia. She currently works on the ACT (Adult Changes in Thought) Study, designing research that investigates the lived experience of patients with dementia and their caregivers. She has particular interest in patients who do not have living close kin or otherwise have nontraditional family/caregiving arrangements, and in developing interventions that can better support them.

Her previous research focused on workplace accidents and reconstructive plastic surgery in South India. Although topically different from her current research on aging and dementia, the research methods and broader questions — about care and caregiving, how people navigate the health care system, how various systems make this easier or more difficult, and how these experiences are framed by historical, economic, social, and familial structures — are largely similar.

At KPWHRI, Lily also contributes to mixed methods studies, conducts qualitative survey response analyses, and collaborates on cancer care research, focusing on how people experience and think about their cancer. Innovative qualitative methods are among her other interests, including the use of natural language processing and other machine learning techniques to glean qualitative insights from nontraditional data sources, such as medical records.

Lily received her bachelor’s in anthropology from Amherst College, and her master’s and PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Washington. She also received a master’s in public health from UW.

In her free time, Lily enjoys running, gardening, cooking, and exploring the outdoors with her family.

Recent Publications

Shapiro LN, Gray MF, Freitag C, Taneja P, Kariya H, Crane PK, O'Hare AM, Vig EK, Taylor JS. Expanding the ethnographic toolkit: Using medical documents to include kinless older adults living with dementia in qualitative research. J Aging Stud. 2023 Jun;65:101140. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2023.101140. Epub 2023 May 10. PubMed

Shapiro LN. Mobilizing volume: trauma, surgical skill, and clinical tourism in South India. Med Anthropol Q. 2020 Sep;34(3):324-343. doi: 10.1111/maq.12562. Epub 2020 Jan 7. PubMed

Boisson S, Stevenson M, Shapiro L, Kumar V, Singh LP, Ward D, Clasen T. Effect of household-based drinking water chlorination on diarrhoea among children under five in Orissa, India: a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. PLoS Med. 2013 Aug;10(8):e1001497. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001497. Epub 2013 Aug 20. PubMed


New findings


Using long-term data to understand a vulnerable population

Studies offer insights into the lives of older adults with dementia who lack family.

Learn About the ACT Study

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Understanding brain aging

For over 30 years, the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) Study has been advancing our understanding of cognition, aging, and better ways to delay and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.