Water flowing over rocks in the UW Madison arboretum

About Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute

The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI) is committed to helping people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, their caregivers, and the health professionals working to support them.

Our mission is to advance health equity through research, education, clinical care and community engagement for all people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

Our purpose is to increase dementia awareness, provide education on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, identify and disseminate strategies to reduce dementia risk, convene stakeholders across the state, improve access to quality dementia care services, and to develop and support culturally tailored, effective clinical and community-based models of care.

Our commitment is to advancing health equity. In 2021, we pledged to strengthen this commitment and announced our WAI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement:

“We believe that racism is a public health crisis affecting the communities we serve and society as a whole and have signed on to the Racism is a Public Health Crisis in Wisconsin declaration. The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute is committed to health equity and inclusive excellence that embraces diversity among its faculty, staff, students, research participants, stakeholders, and constituents. We embrace a definition of diversity that acknowledges the richness of all races and ethnicities, identities, ages, abilities, experiences, and opinions. We embrace a definition of inclusion that acknowledges the unique contributions of all and prioritizes people just as much as the desired outcomes of our organization. We embrace a definition of health equity where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible with resources that are accessible to all.”

In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea to share knowledge, WAI collaborates with both rural communities and urban centers, the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), and various University of Wisconsin academic and research departments.

WAI receives core funding from the state of Wisconsin, research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and program funding from Bader Philanthropies.

The WAI is home to the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), the largest family history study of Alzheimer’s disease in the world.

In 2016, WAI partnered with the Wisconsin ADRC to launch the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s (IEA). Through IEA, we are working together across the spectrum of Alzheimer’s disease – from research to community outreach to improved patient care – committed to developing the next breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease research, prevention and care.

WAI History

WAI was established in 1998 by a coalition of service providers, community-based organizations, educational institutions and advocates organized by the Wisconsin Bureau on Aging and Long-Term Care Resources and Bader Philanthropies. WAI received pioneering guidance and support under the leadership of our founding director Dr. Mark Sager.

In 2008, the WAI Regional Milwaukee Office was established in Milwaukee, WI with the goals of empowering the local community, improving access to quality care, and increasing African-American research participation by building culturally-tailored programs.

WAI Leadership

Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS, is director of WAI. Dr. Carlsson is also the Clinical Core leader and co-leader of the Biomarker Core for Wisconsin ADRC. Dr. Carlsson is a faculty member of the division of geriatrics and a geriatrician who treats veterans with dementia and memory issues. She is co-director of the memory clinic at William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.

Gina Green-Harris, MBA, is director of the WAI Regional Milwaukee Office. She also serves as director of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee, director of the All of Us Research program in Milwaukee, and director of the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF).

Sterling Johnson, PhD, is associate director of WAI. Dr. Johnson is a clinical neuropsychologist with research interests in early identification of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. He leads the WRAP study, is a lead investigator of the national CLARiTI study, and is the associate director and biomarker core leader in the Wisconsin ADRC.

Sarah Klein is administrator of WAI, where she works closely with leadership, faculty and staff to ensure the mission of WAI is achieved.

Nia Norris, PhD, is associate director of the WAI Regional Milwaukee Office. Dr. Norris assists in the development of outreach and research programs to Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin communities, maintaining strategic partnerships to support programs for minority and medically under-served individuals.

Art Walaszek, MD, leads the education and community health activities of WAI. Dr. Walaszek is also co-leader of the Outreach, Recruitment and Engagement Core at the Wisconsin ADRC.

Kimberly Mueller, PhD, is faculty member of the WAI leadership team.

Alzheimer’s by the numbers

There are more than 110,900 people living with Alzheimer’s disease in Wisconsin. That represents more than ten percent of the adults over age 65 in the state.

In Wisconsin, there are more than 205,000 caregivers providing unpaid care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. The lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s at age 45 is one in five for women and one in ten for men.

More than 7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to total $360 billion in 2024,
increasing to nearly $1 trillion by 2050. Dementia caregivers today are providing 20% more care than in 2009.