Carly Berger loves kids and loves to help. That’s what led her to become clinical research coordinator at Children’s National Hospital. She works with kids with conditions including leukemia and Neurofibromatosis Type 1. The 23 year old, originally from Long Island, hopes to go to graduate school to study psychology.
Tell me about your job.
My lab looks at things like cognitive function and the impact of certain conditions on kids’ ability to think and learn. It’s a really cool environment to work in because I’m sitting next to other research coordinators.
[Children with] Neurofibromatosis Type 1 [NF1] are one of our main
populations. My focus on NF1 is how it impacts children’s ability to think. I look at their working memory, like how long [they can] holdinformation in their head. We look into attention issues, too.
What I like most are our studies that involve intervention, not only do we research NF1 and its impact, but we attempt to come up with some ways to alleviate the symptoms. For example, we have this study where we implement cognitive intervention, and it’s all over the computer.
[The lab] makes it fun. There’s a robot on screen and lights up certain numbers like 1, 2, 5, 4 and the kids have to repeat it on their own. And we do testing before and after [the program] to see if it had any impact on the child.
Can you explain what Neurofibromatosis is?
It’s a genetic disorder. Tumors can develop along the nervous system [and on the brain and spine]. The tumors don’t have to be cancerous. The tumors can be totally benign and there are a lot of symptoms included.
Did you know about the condition before you started?
I think it’s a pretty niche condition and I feel like a lot of people that I encounter don’t know about NF. So I think it’s really important that I’m doing work that really isn’t necessarily too familiar with so many people. Now I am able to raise awareness and advocacy and see directly where our research is going.
I thought it would be a really good opportunity for me to learn.
Why did you pick this job?
When I was looking for jobs, I was just cold emailing and cold calling a lot of people. It’s very different than being in the business world. I just looked at different hospitals and I reached out to a few people who I thought did interesting work and that ended up taking me to my current [job.]
Why do you like working with kids?
I really like the fact that kids have wonder. They have so much room for growth and [to] learn. From my experience, they have an open mind.
I worked as a day-camp counselor for 6 year olds and one of my favorite things about that age is that they, in a good way, don’t care what other people think of them. They aren’t afraid to ask questions and they’re curious.
I’m also a kind of silly person and I feel like it’s very easy for me to get along with kids. I like to embrace that side of myself.
Do you connect your work with your faith?
Judaism has always been something that was really important to me and I associate with [my] values like family and all that good stuff. It’s just the way I was raised. My family placed a lot of values on me that are related to what I do in terms of the passion I put into my work, the caring aspect and wanting to help others.
What’s your dream job?
My dream job would be to practice clinical psychology. I’m really
interested in the psychosocial as aspects of what [people] do like how certain conditions impact emotions and all that. I think pediatric psychology, especially, is very interesting.
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