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Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., of the Kessler Foundation, Delivers the 63rd Annual Mendel Lecture

Mendel2How does a theory go from being a simple idea to an actual method used to treat a condition? Students had the opportunity to learn firsthand from Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., who was invited to Saint Peter’s to deliver the 63rd Annual Mendel Lecture at the University on Thursday, April 24. Chiaravalloti serves as the director of neuropsychology and neuroscience and of TBI research at Kessler Foundation. She also is an associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers University NJ Medical School and is a licensed psychologist in New York and New Jersey.

The title of this year’s Mendel Lecture was, “Treating Cognitive Deficits Following Neurological Illness and Injury.” Students from the biology program and the applied science and technology program filled Pope Lecture Hall to hear Chiaravalloti share in-depth experience in researching the recovery and rehabilitation process for individuals who experience a traumatic brain injury or those who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Chiaravalloti discussed how both traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis have a significant impact on the memory process. She explained how her team at the Kessler Foundation has focused on the learning portion of the memory process. She demonstrated treatments her team developed to improve learning and increase brain activity. She also went on to explain how they prove the efficiency of the methods in order to ensure coverage from insurance companies.

Chiaravalloti serves as a project director of the Northern NJ Traumatic Brain Injury Model System, one of the 16 federally-designated model systems of research and care for persons with traumatic brain injury in the United States. She has obtained more than $12 million in grant funding since starting her professional career in 2001, including grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury Research, among others. Chiaravalloti currently has more than 80 peer-reviewed publications and has made hundreds of national and international presentations. She is looked upon as an expert in cognitive rehabilitation in both multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.

Mendel

“It is an honor to be a part of the long legacy of the Mendel lecture series at Saint Peter’s University,” said Chiaravalloti. “The field of rehabilitation research is a rewarding one. The work we do results in better ways to treat people with disabilities caused by injuries and disease.”

Jennifer Gabarro ’14, a biology major and president of the Saint Peter’s Tri Beta Biological Honor Society, found the lecture to be fascinating. “It is very interesting to hear about the research that is being done surrounding traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis. I have attended Mendel Lectures in the past and as a biology major, it is exciting to be exposed to the topics discussed in the lectures.”

The Mendel Lecture is the longest running lecture series in the University’s history and features distinguished speakers in science. This year’s event was co-sponsored by the biology department, the department of applied science and technology and the Mendel Society of Saint Peter’s University.