Dr. DiPasquale serves as a clinical neuropsychologist at the MossRehab Drucker Brain Injury Center. In this role, she works with patients who have acquired brain injuries.
What made you decide to become a neuropsychologist?
I studied psychology and chemistry in college and looked to combine them in some way. I had a professor who was a mentor at Cabrini University who introduced me to a new neuropsychology program at Drexel University. The first three months into the program confirmed my passion and interest in the field.
What are your educational background and training?
After getting my undergraduate degree, I completed a master's in neuropsychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology with a specialization in neuropsychology at Drexel University. While at Drexel, I did a practicum at MossRehab on the inpatient unit, which was one of the most influential experiences of my life. I was intrigued by the process of injury, rehabilitation, and change and how the treatment team worked with the patient to understand their needs, support their healing, and prepare them for what was coming next in their lives. I completed my predoctoral internship at Rusk Rehabilitation in New York, working with inpatient and outpatient populations. I returned to MossRehab to complete my dissertation research on Disorders of Consciousness under the mentorship of Dr. John Whyte.
You’ve worked at both MossRehab and MRRI?
While earning my graduate degree, I worked at the Drucker Brain Injury Center and the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI). At MRRI, I completed my dissertation under the guidance of John Whyte, MD, PhD, director emeritus. My work focused on developing the Responsiveness Program, which evaluates clients most severely impaired due to a neurological injury to determine their state of consciousness. After completing that research, I continued on the inpatient unit at Drucker and moved to outpatient care in 2003.
What is your current role at MossRehab?
I now clinically supervise and support the Drucker Brain Injury Center's Community Re-Entry Program, which helps individuals with brain injuries to return to work, school, community, and their homes. For example, those wanting to get a job might attend mock interviews. Therapy is very diverse and based on what a client wants to achieve for themselves. Patients can change, grow, and rehabilitate over a lifetime. If trauma can change the brain, so can the healing process.
Why have you worked at MossRehab for your entire career?
The patients, families, team, and mission. I have great respect for MossRehab for recognizing the importance of neuropsychology in the continuum of rehabilitation. We support the patient's goals through formal assessments, psychotherapy, and cognitive rehabilitation. Our role is to consult, educate, treat, and support the patient, family, and team.
Can you explain neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is the study of the relationship between brain function and human behavior. Before CAT scans and functional MRIs, clinicians used behaviors to understand what was happening with a person neurologically. Today, we interpret post-neurological impairment through formal, quantitative assessments using paper and pencil tests, computerized evaluations, observations as well as patient and family reports of how the person functions in their daily life.
How do you assess patients for rehab?
Treating a patient with a brain injury is complicated because it can be an invisible disability. It's like unwrapping a package and seeing what's inside the person. During an assessment, I evaluate attention, memory, learning, and emotions by stepping into the patient's life to understand how they think, learn, problem-solve, and remember. The therapy team creates a rehabilitation program that aligns with the patient's cognitive and emotional profile, injury, and goals to best support getting the client from where they are to where they want to be. The treatment is very different for someone who might want to go back to school versus another person who wants to learn a new job. While a person may have continued deficits resulting from their injury, the goal of rehabilitation is to find the way forward and develop and support the strategies necessary for the patient to have a meaningful and protective life.
What is your approach to treating patients?
We need to understand the person and their goals. A patient with a brain injury may not understand the difference in themselves from before the injury. I provide clients with emotional support, counseling, and psychotherapy to help them understand the injury and its impact. We also work together to form goals. Patients might not know what they want or can do in their lives moving forward. Through psychotherapy, I help them find their place in the world. It's a very sophisticated process to help them develop the emotional and cognitive tools to navigate their new world.
What inspires you on the job?
My patients and work inspire me. While demanding, my job is creative, thoughtful, and intellectually stimulating. It's intimate work where I interact face-to-face with clients and their families. I'm inspired by my patient's openness to vulnerability and willingness to stand with the team and figure out how to achieve their goals.
What are your clinical interests?
Foremost, I'm interested in individuals with brain injury and their integration into the community, including the workforce. I'm also interested in the assessment of persons with dual diagnoses, including the intersection of brain injury and substance misuse. I had the opportunity to work with the judicial and behavioral health system in Philadelphia and at Norristown State Hospital to evaluate those who are incarcerated or deemed incompetent and assess their ability to participate in brain injury rehabilitation. Aging and brain injury is another important focus of my work.
What is something co-workers don’t know about you?
I love dancing: swing dance and lindy hop. I've also been known to spontaneously sing Broadway show tunes, much to the embarrassment of my children.
What is the last book that you read?
I tend to read fiction and non-fiction at the same time. My last fiction book was The Maidens. My last non-fiction read was Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration.
What is your life motto?
My motto is a quotation from Michelle Obama: "I am still in progress and hope that I always will be." That's a message that I want to send to my patients and apply to myself. There is always an opportunity to learn and change.
Learn about MossRehab Traumatic Brain Injury Program.