Working as a neuropsychologist is a bit like being a detective for Bonnie Carlson-Green, PhD, LP. Learn more about her fascination with the brain in this week’s Five Question Friday.
How long have you worked at Children’s?
I’ve been at Children’s for 17 years – one year less than my eldest child’s age, which makes it easy to remember!
Describe your role.
I was hired to develop the neuropsychology program, specifically as it relates to supporting the hematology/oncology patients. Many children who have central nervous system (CNS) cancers or are treated with brain surgery, craniospinal radiation, or intrathecal chemotherapies can develop neurocognitive late effects – problems with attention, processing speed, memory or other difficulties that affect their development and learning capacity. We now have six neuropsychologists across both Children’s hospital campuses and see children from age 2 years to young adults into their 20s, and sometimes 30s, for neurocognitive issues related to a variety of diagnoses and conditions.
In high school, I wanted to be a pediatrician but decided to major in psychology in college because I was fascinated with the study of brains and behavior (there were no neuroscience or neuropsychology programs back in those dark ages). My psychology classes were a lot more interesting than the cutthroat pre-med classes so I gave up plans for med school. Now I feel like I get the best of both worlds: I work in a hospital setting with kids but get to spend a lot more time getting to know them over the course of their assessment.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the challenge of a mystery. Families come to me with questions about why their child is struggling. I listen to their stories for clues, do my own bit of detective work through my assessment, and then present my hypotheses to the families. It’s so gratifying for parents to have an “aha” moment in your office when all of a sudden they have a better understanding of their child. It’s also wonderful to be able to follow children over time and to see them learn to read or to do better in school because of recommendations or strategies that you suggested.
What’s your favorite meal?
My absolute favorite food in the world is Tom Yum soup. It’s a Thai soup that is a little sweet, a little sour and served with rice. Every bite tastes a little bit different than the last. There is nothing better, and it cures every ill. Unfortunately, the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Dinkytown that made the best Tom Yum soup in the Cities closed a number of years ago, so my husband and I were forced to learn how to make it ourselves.