Clinical Neuropsychologist Speaks with Social Justice in Science Club

On Oct. 6, the Social Justice in Science Club, in partnership with the Medical Society, welcomed their first guest speaker of the academic year: Robin C. Hilsabeck, Ph.D., director of UT Health Austin’s Comprehensive Memory Center.

A highly distinguished clinical neuropsychologist specializing in Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive impairment, Hilsabeck has been recognized for distinguished service by the National Academy of Neuropsychology and for excellence in research on aging by the Texas Aging and Longevity Center.
She joined the Oct. 6 club meeting via videoconference and spoke with more than 40 Upper School students about her research on older adults with cognitive issues. In addition to discussing her clinical practice, she spoke about her experiences as a woman researcher in STEM, the future of neuroscience and disparities in health care.
Hilsabeck advised students interested in entering the medical field to seek the perspectives of different practitioners. “It’s a long, hard road,” she said of medical practice and research. “Talk to people doing the work you’re interested in to get their perspective.”
She also advised students interested in medical research to stay objective, avoid personal biases and always focus on the data. “Working with older adults in a clinical setting can get sad,” she noted. “I feel privileged to hear their stories and focus on helping them in their twilight years.”
She shared one specific example of a troubling patient experience — a man who had been molested by his uncle. “My patient said he wanted to kill his uncle for what he had done,” Hilsabeck explained. “In some states, if you fear for someone’s life, you are required by law to warn them of the threat. In Texas there is no duty to warn; it’s a breach of confidentiality. I felt helpless afterward because I didn’t know what would happen.”
When asked about her biggest career challenge, Hilsabeck said that being promoted can be a double-edged sword. “I want to be a scientist and work with clients,” she said. “But when you move into leadership roles, you also take on managing other people and the work they do. That can be difficult, particularly when you cannot control some of the things they’re up against.”

Special thanks go to Social Justice in Science Club leaders Sonal Alla and Alice Huang for arranging Hilsabeck’s talk with students. To learn more about this student organization, as well as the myriad other clubs offered at St. Stephen’s, visit the Campus Life section of our website.
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