Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Residency Program: Resident Bios

Elaine CarrascoElaine Carrasco
Birth place: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
College: Universidad Iberoamericana, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Medical school: Universidad Iberoamericana, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Residency: Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, New York
Reason for pursuing NDD: Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I had the opportunity to do volunteer work in orphanages, where sadly, children with neurodevelopmental disabilities were abandoned by their families. Being faced with this reality made me want to dedicate my medical career to the understanding of children with special needs that would allow me to ultimately create systems in third world countries, such as my own, that would both increase awareness in the general population and help disabled children reach their full potential.

Joanna BurtonJoanna Burton
Birth place: Princeton, New Jersey
College: University of Chicago
Medical school: University of Illinois
Residency: University of Maryland Medical Center
Reason for pursuing NDD: As most of us in NDD training will tell you, I fell into the field accidentally, though my winding career path was always pointing me this way. I taught bilingual special education in Washington, DC, through Teach for America and knew I wanted to keep working with this population, but in a different environment than the classroom. I returned to school and received an MD/PhD, with the PhD in speech and hearing science. My dissertation focused on the effects of environment on assessment of word learning. I investigated child psychiatry, child neurology, and developmental medicine before finding this neurodevelopmental disabilities fellowship. This is the right match for my interest in both academic and clinical medicine and serving a special needs population. It allows me to work with children through identification and follow-up of neurologic and developmental disabilities (and the intersection of the two) as well as guide educational placement and services. Additionally, I get to pursue my interest in understanding the biological underpinnings of language disability.

Mary Lee GregoryMary Lee Gregory
Birth place: Columbia, South Carolina
College: Furman University
Medical school: Medical University of South Carolina
Residency: Baystate
Reason for pursuing NDD: I have a long-standing interest in learning and memory. My undergraduate degree was in neurosciences and I pursued a PhD focusing on effects of environmental enrichment/impoverishment in adolescent rats on learning/memory and the expression of mGluRs. Pediatric neurology was a clear choice for me. When I learned about NDD programs, I appreciated the more holistic training and view of patient care, as well as the protected research time and emphasis on academic careers.

Joan JasienJoan Jasien
Birth place: Baltimore, Maryland
College: James Madison University
Medical school: University of Minnesota
Residency: Yale University School of Medicine
Reason for pursuing NDD: As I reflect on my experiences in life and education, I can readily identify a series of encounters that have led me to my current position as a neurodevelopmental resdent/fellow embarking on a career caring for children and adults with special health care needs. My first exposure to this varied population was when I was a young girl. My mom taught swimming lessons at a YWCA to children and adults with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. As I doggie-paddled around them I was struck by their smiles, laughter and enjoyment of their activity and each other. This experience inspired me to become a Special Olympics coach for five years and enroll in special education courses in college. I volunteered in homes for physically and mentally disabled children and adults in urban and rural Haiti and India. I developed a deep interest in health care through these experiences and subsequently enrolled in further education and training.

Siddharth SrivastavaSiddharth Srivastava
Birth place: Delhi, India
College: Columbia University
Medical school: Johns Hopkins University School Of Medicine
Residency: Johns Hopkins Hospital
Reason for pursuing NDD: I envision my career as one that combines a zeal for research with a genuine drive to improve the lives of children with developmental disabilities. I am interested in exploring the genetics and molecular mechanisms of language deficits and autism in the context of genetic disorders; identifying the genetic and epigenetic changes involved in undiagnosed disorders involving neurodegeneration or regression; and reversing deficits in developmental disabilities by targeting implicated molecular pathways.

Jacqueline WeissmanJacqueline Weissman
Birth place: Dayton, Ohio
College: The University of Chicago
Medical school: Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
Residency: Children's Medical Center Dallas/UT Southwestern Pediatrics
Reason for pursuing NDD: I became fascinated with autism and the other developmental disabilities working in a special needs daycare center in high school. Throughout college and medical school I became interested not only in the patients and caring for them but also in the genetic and neurophysiologic underpinnings of these disorders. NDD was a natural fit for me considering my specific interest in working with this patient population as well as my strong research interest and desire to always be in the lab and in the academic world.

Meghan O'NeillMeghan O'Neill, MD
Birth place: Des Moines, IA
College: University of Notre Dame
Medical school: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Residency: Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago (McGaw/Northwestern University)
Reason for pursuing NDD and Specific Interests: I have been interested in working with kids with disabilities since high school, when I first volunteered as a Special Olympics coach. During my college years, I had several experiences which strengthened my desire to work with this population, including living and working at a Chicago-based home for persons with disabilities for a summer and volunteering as an ABA therapist in the community for one semester, through a college psychology course. I was studying pre-medicine at the time and knew I wanted to go to medical school, but at the same time wanted to incorporate my desire work with persons with disabilities. I ultimately chose to go to medical school across the street at Johns Hopkins largely because of its affiliation with Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI), which I knew was a world-renowned medical facility for persons with disabilities. I enjoyed several rotations at KKI during medical school and ultimately decided to apply to the Neurodevelopmental program here following completion of my pediatrics residency. I know that as an NDD fellow at KKI, I will develop strong clinical and research skills, ultimately preparing me for a future career in academic medicine.

Tara Johnson

Tara Johnson
Birth place: Baltimore, MD
College: The Johns Hopkins University and The Peabody Conservatory of Music
Medical school: The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Residency: St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
Reason for pursuing NDD: After doing research in Orthopaedic Biomechanics, I have seen the impact of orthopaedic intervention on patients with diseases or injuries to the musculoskeletal system. My fascination with the musculoskeletal and nervous systems continues, but as I progressed through medical school and pediatric residency training, I have seen great potential for alternative nonsurgical treatments for many patients. I perceive the specialty of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities to be an exciting and fertile field in which clinical talents and research potential are intimately and inseparably required to enable physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenged children to maximize their life-long potential to succeed.

Specific Clinical or Research Interests: As I worked with more physically challenged patients during clinical electives in medical school and pediatric residency, I realized that their quality of life could be improved more effectively if intervention began at an early age. Having witnessed the adaptive potential of the immature human brain, I am hopeful that I can use my engineering background to perform translational research, design, build, and test devices and strategies to enhance rehabilitation efforts and optimize their function. I also hope to work with industry partners to make such technology available to patients worldwide.