2018 Role Model Spotlight Series
Dr. Allison Waters: Neuropsychologist in NYC
“Make time for creativity… It' not going to be a startup, it's not going on your blog, it's not going to be on Insta! It's not forwarding anything. It's just for yourself.”
I was a little stuck on who I would ask to interview for this week’s Role Model Spotlight. I knew that I wanted to interview a physician at one point in the series so I contacted a doctor relative and asked for her sister’s contact information. I wanted to know more about the life of a doctor who was living away from home and my relative’s sister fit the bill.
Canadian, Dr. Allison Waters is taking on life as a neuropsychologist in New York City. Allison was keen to describe the richness of life in the big apple. Animated and sincere, Allison seemed to go about life with curiosity at the helm of her existence. She helped me to understand the necessity of her work at a new centre that has brought together people from around the world to research and treat brain differences.
I asked Allison, “What makes you, you?”. After chuckling for a moment, she put her answer to words in true psychologist fashion. Allison noted that the "Big Five" personality traits may be helpful in explaining who she was. Openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism are characteristics of personality that fall on a spectrum of which Allison personally scores above the fiftieth percentile across the board. This means that her personality is expressed with greater intensity than many other people. Allison highlighted that she scores in the 98th percentile for the openness category. She explained that her curious and accepting demeanor are helpful in her line of work.
Allison's day-to-day is quite transient in that she isn’t sure what to expect of her career in the long run. Her work has to do with knowing the brain, a field that has a huge amount of territory to cover. By her titles, she is a clinical psychologist and a neurologist. Her day-to-day can involve research, meetings, providing therapy, teaching university students, and so much more. Allison enjoys the variability of her career and credits her satisfaction with it to the ever-changing circumstances that come along with her work.
RB: “What is the coolest aspect of your job?”
AW: “The feeling of bonding to [colleagues] like you've all reached the summit of a mountain and get to see a vista that no one else has seen. It's a wonderful primate experience. I say that because we're monkeys, right? We're social. I love that. I think that's the coolest part of my job – getting to experience discoveries with other people.”
RB: “Can you describe a moment in your career when you felt like things were falling into place?”
AW: “I'm going to say right now because I just started in New York City and we're opening a new Centre for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics. I make devices that are implanted in people's brains to help with severe depression. These devices are being made for a lot of human struggles like motor disorders and movement disorders like tremors and Tourette Syndrome and also other kinds of psychiatric disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The challenge is that everyone is studying those disorders in isolation. So the innovation with the Centre for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics is that we're acknowledging that all of those things; thinking, feeling, moving, they're all one brain. So we should all be together in this same space doing the research.”
RB: “What’s it like living and working in NYC?”
AW: “It's a dream. I just rode my bicycle here from Harlem. I love riding the subway. I love walking through the park. I love eating at a different place every day. I love looking at the people walking around. What are you wearing? Do you call that exercise? Is that a dog? What a strange combination of people! Are you guys friends? Are you family? Are you colleagues? It is so rich. I can walk all day and just look at everybody and everything and be so happy.”
RB: “Who’s a woman who has inspired you?”
AW: “My mum. My mum inspired me for sure. My mum has always been a very empathic person. She has a sixth sense. She can understand people who are struggling with things in a way that most people can't. She always worked in special education. It was amazing growing up watching her work in special education because I got to see her connect with people who other people weren't really seeing and understanding but for some reason my mum could always understand their language.”
RB: “What does role modelling look like to you?”
AW: “Good listening. I feel like we undervalue listening in our culture and I would like to create a course where we train in active listening and bring that into high schools. I think a good role model knows how to listen, summarize, reflect, and pull out the strengths they see in the person and reflect those strengths back.”
RB: “Do you have any advice for teen girls in 2018?”
AW: “Make time for creativity. Make time to do things that are generative, like produce something that wasn't there before, but for no reason at all. It' not going to be a startup, it's not going on your blog, it's not going to be on Insta. It's for no reason except to knit a pair of socks or to paint a picture or to write a poem. It's not forwarding anything. It's just for yourself.”