MC neuroscience major gains practical experience at Pat Summitt Clinic

MC neuroscience major gains practical experience at Pat Summitt Clinic

May 2, 2019

This month, Taylor Leonard ‘19 graduated from Maryville College with a neuroscience degree and a year-long internship with the Pat Summitt Clinic under her belt.

Leonard has always had an interest in neuropsychology, so when the time came to find an internship, her advisor helped her get in touch with the Pat Summitt Clinic, which opened in January 2017 at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. The physicians on staff are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other dementias and cognitive diseases such as frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA).

The clinic has two neuropsychologists on the team, so it was the perfect place for Leonard to learn from professionals in her field.

“Taylor had expressed a desire to be a neuropsychologist from the first time I met her when she was a first-year student,” said Dr. Lori Schmied, MC professor of psychology and Leonard’s advisor. “This was an ideal placement to get experience in that area.”

Leonard, who is from Knoxville, Tenn., began her internship in July 2018, and the first semester of her internship fulfilled her Significant Practical Experience (SPE) credit. Each MC student must complete at least one SPE credit as part of Maryville College Works, a program that “integrates career preparation for today’s job market.”

Despite completing her course credit after the first semester, Leonard chose to continue her internship for a full year. She was excited for the opportunity to learn from professionals in her field and cement her career path.

“It just felt like a place where I could really learn and would hopefully steer me in the right direction, because I know so many people use internships as a time to either cement what they want to do or decide what they definitely don’t want to do,” Leonard said.

At the Pat Summitt Clinic, Leonard works as a cognitive tester. She checks patients’ vitals and administers tests like the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA). She’s also responsible for scoring and storing the test results.

In the past year, she’s had the chance to learn a lot about Alzheimer's and many other kinds of dementia. She said that each week, the doctors conduct lunch meetings where they talk about interesting or difficult cases, which has been instrumental in teaching her about different symptoms and diagnoses.

Leonard emphasized that the internship has allowed her to grow not only professionally but also personally.

“I’m an introvert by nature, so I’ve also really learned how to work with other people, especially strangers,” Leonard said. “It’s definitely been a learning experience – both academically and interpersonally – that I’m grateful for.”

Positive learning experiences like Leonard’s are exactly why MC started Maryville College Works. Schmied agrees that practical experiences like internships can often teach students more than they could ever learn in a classroom.

“They [internships] are opportunities for a different kind of learning for students beyond the traditional classroom experience,” Schmied said. “Being able to apply theory to practice strengthens their applications to graduate programs or jobs.”

Leonard added that internships are competitive, and it’s important for students to remember to put their best foot forward when representing their school.

“When you get an internship, you’re really putting the college’s name on the line,” Leonard said. “If employers see more people from our small school with admirable work ethics, it will be easier for the students coming after to find great opportunities.”

Though Leonard’s internship will end in May, she’s already been asked to stay on at the Pat Summitt Clinic as a full-time, paid cognitive tester. She hopes the additional experience learning and working in her field will set her apart as she applies to graduate schools and works toward a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

“I’m hoping it helps, simply due to the fact that I’m in a clinical environment and interacting with the kind of people I’m hoping to work with in the future and seeing how they do things,” Leonard said.

Story written by Evy Linkous ’16

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2019 semester is 1,148.