Shenikqua Bouges, MD, assistant professor, Geriatrics and Gerontology. Photo courtesy of UW-Madison

Dr. Shenikqua Bouges chose to bypass lucrative clinical practice options to pursue dementia research and academic teaching that will impact and create meaningful change for underrepresented populations.

Bouges earned her medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2014 and trained in Internal Medicine at University of South Alabama. In 2018, she joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health for a Geriatric Medical Fellowship. This led her to becoming an Advanced Geriatric Fellow at the Geriatric Research Educational & Clinical Center, where she performs clinical research and works to improve representation of minority groups in Alzheimer’s Disease research.

From volunteering as an undergraduate student at local clinics/hospitals and helping at different local events to traveling to Jamaica to aid the children living with HIV, Bouges demonstrates her volunteerism throughout her career. In community service, she volunteers at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Macular Degeneration Symposium and UW Department of Medicine COVID-19 Journal Club, a journal club based on emerging science information from the COVID. 

She recently participated in the mentorship of UW-Madison Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Junior Research Education Component trainees, by imparting her experience and career knowledge to these undergraduate students who are from minority communities and interested in pursuing careers in Alzheimer’s research.

As a researcher, Bouges focuses on assessing recruitment strategies to improve the participation of under-represented populations in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. Almost no one is trying to address this problem, despite the fact that African Americans are two times more likely than other racial groups to develop AD yet are very underrepresented in AD research. Her research project seeks to bridge the gaps in AD research by improving trust building techniques that improve marginalized individual’s willingness to participate, such as respecting cultural and religious barriers of underrepresented groups.

Bouges’ project on testing recruitment strategies was awarded grant funding as a Clinical Community Outcomes Research Pilot Award from the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research – a highly prestigious honor – and just one of many she has earned for her academic research and work.

She has strong relationships with the Black community of Madison and members of the Black Leaders of Brain Health Community Advisory Board (CAB). She has been a committed resource for the community, generously donating time to provide education on Alzheimer’s disease risk in African Americans. Her relationship with CAB has served to bring about local and impactful changes such as the “Memory Sunday” campaign to the local African American churches.

“Memory Sunday” is observed on the second Sunday in June and bringing awareness on AD is accomplished through materials such as The Book of Alzheimer’s for African American Congregations. Bouges led the 2020 local observance of this event by not only bringing the concept to the local churches, but by also giving a seminar on Alzheimer’s disease to the local church audiences on the Thursday leading up to the observance. By bringing this campaign to Madison, Bouges has further educated the local Black community, but also given them another trusted resource.  She is not the loudest voice in the room, but she is among the most passionate.  Having family members affected by the disease has led her to advocate for the highest quality care and service for elders living with the disease – especially Black elders.

Similarly, Bouges is also a resource to the Oneida Nation Alzheimer’s CAB for AD and related dementias on the COVID-19 pandemic. She has accomplished this through seminars which included details on the virus, and details on how to use and care for reusable masks as well as other hygienic information to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

Bouges has since started a new role as a Clinical Health Science faculty. In that role, she will carry a significant clinical responsibility. But academia needs her. There is a shortage of clinician scientists because a balance between clinical and research work is so difficult to achieve. She has been a trusted health resource for underrepresented populations in Madison and beyond. Through her science she has fostered relationships with the community that will be beneficial to science advancement, the community and research.