Our Staff

Gay Thomas

WINRS Co-Founder and Lead Stakeholder Engagement Consultant


Gay Thomas, MA is Director of Stakeholder Engagement with the Wisconsin Network for Research Support (WINRS), an innovative patient and community engagement resource based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. Gay is passionate about helping research teams create and sustain effective partnerships with patient/public stakeholders, especially those from under-represented populations. Over the past 8 years, it’s been her privilege to listen to community members and patients give researchers powerful advice on how to improve research materials and increase the diversity of study participants. Her background includes work on Capitol Hill, for Planned Parenthood and with several health insurance organizations. Gay believes that the most effective outcomes result from deep and respectful personal engagement. “One thing I love about my work is the chance to bring real, but under-represented, voices into the development of research and educational programs. So-called ‘lay people’ are the true experts on their own lives. Getting this perspective integrated into the research process feels like a huge step towards reducing health disparities”.

Katrina Phelps

Community Liaison and Communications Specialist


Katrina Phelps, PhD, is the Community Liaison and Communications Specialist for WINRS. Katrina’s background includes teaching university courses on developmental psychology and grant writing; collaborating with academic and community partners to create innovative art programs for youth in underserved neighborhoods; and working with nonprofit human service organizations to develop a regional information and volunteer center. Together with dynamic colleagues, she envisioned and implemented national projects on advancing youth development and elder abuse prevention. She is passionate about community engagement and deeply values the role that WINRS plays in connecting researchers with the wisdom and expertise that exist in the groups they study. “I love the opportunity to build relationships with people in our community, learn about groundbreaking research projects at UW-Madison and across the nation, and facilitate gatherings to allow the richness of patient and community voices to transform the depth and responsiveness of the research enterprise.”

Barb Bowers

Faculty Advisor

Barbara Bowers is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Nursing. She is the faculty director of the Center for Aging Research and Education, Director of the qualitative and mixed methods research resources and Director of the Clinical and Community Outcomes Research Certificate program for the Community Academic Partnerships/Institute Clinical and Translational Research. Professor Bowers’ research has focused on workforce development and models of care in settings serving older adults and people with lifetime disabilities. She has served on many state and federal work groups related to quality improvement and workforce development in long term care. Professor Bowers earned her undergraduate degree in Nursing at the University of Michigan, a Master’s degree in nursing from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a PhD from the University of California-San Francisco. Prior to entering graduate school, she worked as a nurse practitioner in geriatrics. She initiated the WINRS project with a grant from the federal government in the hope of creating a strong connection between faculty researchers and community members while making research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison more beneficial to the larger community. “The opportunity to work so closely with and learn from people in our community has been wonderful. I am convinced that the quality and usefulness of our research has benefited tremendously from the skilled and thoughtful input of so many.”