Loyola University Maryland clinical psychology graduate Claire Semerjian, M.S. ’12, has been awarded a grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to develop a streamlined cognitive assessment procedure for children who have undergone treatment for cancer.
The $6,000 award will fund Semerjian’s research this summer at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where she will work in the pediatric oncology unit alongside pediatric neuropsychologist and Loyola alumna Karin Walsh, M.S. ’97, Psy.D. ’04. Their goal is to create a screening mechanism from a data set that would test, assess, and evaluate patients for cognitive impairments at discharge in an effort to anticipate the difficulties each patient will face in school and identify necessary accommodations.
“I’ve always wanted to make a meaningful impact on the lives of children, and this award from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation gives me the opportunity to help kids and their families who have been devastated by pediatric cancer,” said Semerjian.
Radiation, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments can have a deleterious effect on a child’s still-developing brain. The resulting cognitive deficits often cause pediatric cancer patients to struggle when they transition back into school, and frequently a battery of neuropsychological tests isn't administered until after those struggles begin. Semerjian’s project could potentially spare patients months of difficulty in school, reduce the hospital resources requirement to fully test patients, and increase access to cognitive evaluation services.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for all children with cancer, awarded more than $4 million in new medical research grants in the first cycle of 2012. Semerjian, who applied for the grant in her final semester as a student at Loyola, is one of only 15 people from across the country to win a Pediatric Oncology Student Training (POST) grant from the foundation this year. The POST grants are designed to enable medical and graduate students to gain experience in the lab of an established researcher in the field of pediatric oncology over the summer months.
A native of Washington, D.C., Semerjian is a 2010 graduate of Pennsylvania State University, where she received a B.S. in Psychology. Later this year she will be applying to doctorate programs that have a neuropsychology track or provide opportunities for career development in neuropsychology.
About Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation:
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope.