Site: Baylor Scott & White
Director of Training: Jared Benge, PhD, ABPP
Location: Temple, TX
The Baylor Scott & White Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neuropsychology is a two-year APPCN accredited postdoctoral specialty-training program. Advanced clinical, didactic and research training in neuropsychology is provided through the Division of Neuropsychology within the Neurosciences Institute at the Scott & White Memorial Hospital’s main campus in Temple as well as its outpatient clinic in Round Rock. Jared Benge, PhD, ABPP, is a clinical neuropsychologist within Baylor Scott & White’s Neurosciences Institute, and he serves as the training lead for the postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Benge’s primary clinical and research interests focus on dementia, movement disorders, and traumatic brain injury. He currently holds an academic appointment as Assistant Professor of Medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. He completed internship and postdoctoral training at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
Early in graduate school, you should seek out as broad exposure as you can within the field, both from a training and an education standpoint. These years are some of the last opportunities where you can truly explore what interests you in this specialty. So, even if you know you are interested in dementia, take a ped’s class or rotation to make sure you “know what you are missing.” Take that one-off stats lecture series to add some IRT to your statistical understanding. Don’t hesitate to get that minor rotation with the anxiety researcher in your department: patients with neurological disorders get anxious too! A broad exposure to patients and knowledge of psychological theories/practices helps you in your practice day to day.
Also, a lot of times students are worried about “how much” is enough neuro experience. Certainly you want to get as much breadth and depth of experience as you can in neuropsychological assessment. However, the best neuropsychologists I know are, at their core, great psychologists. Don’t neglect the foundational interviewing, therapy, and assessment skills you are exposed to in school, because in the “real world” you need both strong brain-behavior knowledge and top-notch clinical skills.
2. What kinds of clinical training opportunities at Baylor, Scott & White most set it apart from other postdoctoral fellowships?
I think the breadth of referrals fellows will see sets us apart. Neuropsychology was not at our hospital until about 6-7 years ago, and since that time it has expanded rapidly. So, while our geriatric population is definitely a bulk of our outpatient load, new referral sources from neurology, geriatricians, oncologists, neurosurgeons, pain doctors, etc. seem to come on line all the time. There is a good breadth of experience here, and each day and each supervisor brings something new to the fellows’ training. I feel that trainees who complete our program have good broad exposure to adult neuropsychology, and from there can take on a variety of different roles, be those with a similarly broad or more narrow focus.
3. The term “goodness of fit” is often used to describe how training sites make ranking decisions among groups of often highly competitive applicants. Please describe how you determine goodness of fit. What qualities do you particularly look for when selecting candidates for your program?
“Goodness of fit” means basically “what do you want to do with your career?” We are a generalist, primarily outpatient (some inpatient experience), primarily adult (with some ped exposure) neuropsych practice in a multi-disciplinary clinic setting. If you want to spend 2 years in a narrowly focused area (i.e. only see one particular patient population, only want to work inpatient, or want a 50% research position), we can’t provide that. Bottom line is that “fit” is a two way street. I would encourage potential fellows to be honest with themselves and programs about what they want or need to be the neuropsychologist they want to be. It is ok to be picky at this stage of your career: seek the programs that will help make you what you want to be.
By the time fellow applicants clear graduate school hurdles, internships, etc., most applicants are very strong. We look for individuals who have got the basics of adult neuropsych down, are interested in generalist adult experiences, and who have enough research experience to hit the ground running with a project. We want someone who has a solid foundation we can build on to make a well-rounded scientist-practitioner. A deep love of central Texas and blistering hot summers (with great winters) doesn’t hurt either!
4. Research activity is an integral component of your postdoctoral fellowship program, and fellows have ample opportunities to collaborate with supervisors on ongoing research protocols. Please describe your research interests and provide a brief overview of the kinds of studies currently being conducted within the Neuroscience Institute at Baylor, Scott & White.
The faculty here has various research interests including neuro-oncology, epilepsy, and some new projects hopefully coming on line soon with normal pressure hydrocephalus. My research is focused on the neuropsychological aspects of movement disorders. As an example of the types of projects I’ve worked on recently with fellows, a former fellow did a retrospective chart review comparing pre-deep brain stimulation cognitive profiles in patients with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease (PD), our current second year is working with me on a factor analytic study of quality of life in PD, and we have a current prospective study collecting a host of data on instrumental activities of daily living in PD.
5. Scott & White Healthcare recently merged with Baylor Health Care System to create one of the nation’s largest integrated health systems. How would postdoctoral training in an integrated clinical care model such as this help to prepare neuropsychology fellows for successful careers amidst recent and forthcoming changes in U.S. healthcare policy?
As I mentioned above, because we are a smaller program, fellows get to work closely with us on cases and see the challenges and opportunities that working in a changing healthcare climate brings. Practically, what that means is you cannot escape our fellowship without knowing what an RVU is, how pre-authorizations work, and watching me struggle with an insurance appeal or two (or more!). Knowing how to thrive in a large and changing system is important because the market is forcing healthcare systems to grow in order to minimize costs per patient. I predict that over the years, if you get a job in the private sector, it is likely to be within a large healthcare system. I encourage fellows to learn from us what it takes to survive and thrive in such a setting, and wherever you train, to seek out the administrative/insurance/business details so that you hit the ground running with your new job.
For more information about training opportunities at Baylor Scott & White, please visit: http://healthcare-professionals.sw.org/graduate-medical-education/fellowships/neuropsychology-fellowship/neuropsychology-fellowship