Brain Games

Andrew Karp '17 (M)

"Five minutes can change your life forever," says Andrew Karp '17 (M), who recently received his M.A. in rehabilitation counseling from Salve Regina. "You can’t take back what you wish you could."

He is recalling an incident that occurred in 2007, when a close friend suffered a traumatic brain injury in a drunk-driving accident. "He was never the same again," Karp says. "He became a totally different person."

As sickened as he was by the circumstances, Karp was also intrigued – the experience had piqued his interest in the complexities of the human brain. After earning his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Rhode Island, he enrolled in Salve Regina's 60-credit graduate program in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling, seeking to become a clinical psychologist.

Karp was attracted by the opportunity to customize his education, allowing him to pursue budding interests in research and neuropsychology, which focuses on how the brain influences behavior. Working with program director Dr. Judith Drew, he secured a clinical internship with neuropsychologist Dr. Francis Sparadeo.

"After some discussion, we created opportunities for Andrew to do his clinical rehabilitation experiences in the community with local neuropsychologists to learn about the role of psychometricians in neurological testing," Drew said. "As a result of these experiences, he has learned about the latest developments in neuroscience and how different brains work."

"Dr. Drew really personalized what I'm doing to me, which is why I ultimately chose the program," Karp says. "Everyone isn't getting the same cookie-cutter experience. I did something totally different than anyone else in the program, and I know for a fact that other students also had their own personalized journey."

During his psychometric internship, Karp used diagnostic interviews to assess individuals of all ages for mental illness, traumatic brain injury and other forms of neurocognitive impairment. "The goal is to understand someone's intelligence, memory and ability to pay attention, and also to understand their executive functioning skills, such as the ability to reason and judge," he says.

In tandem with his clinical experience, Karp continued to seek research opportunities. Since last year, he has been a research assistant on a systems change grant for the state of Rhode Island, assessing the attitudes of mental health professionals toward their clients.

"We want to know if these staff members are just 'paycheck players' or if they're there to make a difference," Karp says. "If they don’t believe in their clients, we have to change the system, because the system's not working."

Karp's clinical and research experiences have inspired him to pursue doctoral study. As a result, he transitioned to the University's 48-credit rehabilitation counseling program so that he could graduate sooner and gain additional experience in behavioral science research before applying to Ph.D. programs in neuropsychology.

Eventually, he'd like to evaluate athletes who participate in contact sports for head injuries, or work children who have neurogenerative diseases. He also hopes to dabble in teaching and research. "I want to show people the possibilities of what they can do with what they're facing," Karp says. "You look for the helpers – I want to be that helper."

Read more about this program: Counseling, Leadership and Expressive Arts