Neil Henderson, MD, Executive Director of the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team, saw first hand the effects of dementia at the nursing where he worked as a teenager.

Now, Henderson and his team, based at the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth campus, are working to understand dementia and diabetes, especially among rural and Native American communities.

“American Indian people have about three times the rate of diabetes as the white population, and that increases their dementia risk,” Henderson said in an interview.

The Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team, as well as three others, was founded in 2014 with funding from the Minnesota legislature with the goal of improving healthcare in Minnesota's rural and Native American communities.

“It’s community-based participatory research,” says Henderson. “The community and the research team work together to co-develop a tailored way to lead people toward better health.”

Currently, team members are pursuing projects that will have wide-ranging impacts throughout the state, including a statewide demographic and epidemiologic catalog by Dr. Wayne Warry and a study on tribal populations' understanding of dementia by Dr. Kristen Jacklin.