Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, PhD, RN is an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. She is also a co-investigator and informatics lead in the Wisconsin ADRC Care Research Core, where she directs an interdisciplinary research program used on promoting effective, equitable care and research for those living with and at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Specifically, her health services research laboratory investigates care, utilization and research disparities among diverse populations.
This impressive research and academic career was spurred by her experiences working as a CNA when she was an undergraduate student at UW-Madison. Early in her training, Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi said she knew she was committed to pursuing a career in nursing and science. To advance these goals, she felt it was important to have exposure to the realities of providing care and she became a certified nursing assistant and found a job at a skilled nursing facility.
“It forever changed my life,” she said. “I was drawn immediately to studying Alzheimer’s disease and dementia after I witnessed firsthand the challenges, as well as tremendous opportunities, encountered in caregiving to maximize quality of life for this population.”
In particular, she said she observed how a person living with dementia can be positively influenced by their environment and the approach their caregivers use. However, the care system did not always support use of these optimal caregiving strategies, she said. Through her clinical and advanced research training, Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi worked to find ways to further clarify her understanding of important targets for care-based interventions and lead studies to better document and intervene upon causes of deficits in quality care.
A shift in perspective and the future of Alzheimer’s disease research
The field of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is progressing so rapidly, Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi, said there have been many crucial, defining moments in the field in recent years.
“Perhaps the most salient shift in my career as a scientist personally, has been the opportunity to better disentangle the reasons for widespread health disparities for this condition,” she said.
With help from an award from the National Institute on Aging, her lab found a focus on identifying factors that contribute to unequal representation in research. This lead her to better understand and re-envision her responsibilities as a scientist in appreciating, she said, and address the link between who is included in Alzheimer’s disease research and who can benefit from research discoveries.
“This shift has moved me toward continually pursuing through my science a commitment to ensure all people affected by dementia – and especially those at highest risk – have the opportunity to participate in research toward the elimination of dementia and its consequences,” she said.
Read more about Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi and her research on her lab’s website.