Anthony Lequerica, PhD
Neuropsychologist/Senior Research Scientist
Contact: Anthony Lequerica
Anthony H. Lequerica, PhD is a Senior Research Scientist and Neuropsychologist in Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation and Associate Research Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at New Jersey Medical School/Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. After a clinical psychology internship at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit, he completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship through the Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Program sponsored by NIDILRR at the University of Michigan Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Ann Arbor. He has extensive post-graduate training in quantitative methods with a strong interest in measurement and psychometrics. He is currently Co-Investigator and Data Manager for the Northern New Jersey TBI System (NNJTBIS) and is co-chair of the TBI Model Systems Cultural Special Interest Group (SIG) and an active member of the Sleep/Wake/Fatigue SIG. He has written over 35 peer-reviewed publications and has given presentations and lectures at conferences at the local, national, and international level. Dr. Lequerica has received grant funding from the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research for studies examining sleep after TBI. He is a member of the American Psychological Association (Divisions 22, 40, and 45), the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society. His current research interests are sleep/wake disorders after acquired brain injury and issues of cultural diversity that impact rehabilitation outcomes with a strong motivation to improve neuropsychological testing and cognitive rehabilitation interventions for Spanish-speakers and other underserved populations.
B.S. in Psychology, State University of New York at Stony Brook
In this YouTube video, Dr. Lequerica answers questions about the implications for cultural diversity and cultural competence in brain injury research and rehabilitation.
You can also listen to Dr. Lequerica's lecture on cultural sensitivity in brain injury research above via SoundCloud.
Q&A with Dr. Lequerica:
What’s your current research focus or area you are most excited about?
My current research focus is in two areas. One area of study is sleep disturbance after traumatic brain injury (TBI). The other is looking at cultural issues in neuropsychology and brain injury rehabilitation. Currently I’m most excited about the latter because I have started to bring my line of research to be more relevant to what I do clinically. As a clinical neuropsychologist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, I see outpatients with a variety of cognitive deficits. Because I do testing in Spanish, the percentage of monolingual Spanish speakers being referred for evaluation has been steadily increasing.
What prompted/motivated you to choose that area?
My interest in cultural issues probably originates from my experiences growing up as the first generation of my family of Puerto Rican descent to be born in the continental U.S. My parents spoke English but my grandmother, despite living here for many years, knew only Spanish. I used to have to go with her to doctor appointments to translate and I saw the difficulties she faced in all aspects of her life when she had to interact with Anglo-American culture. While the Hispanic community is continuing to grow in the U.S., there are not enough Spanish-speaking neuropsychologists to meet the demands, and there are a number of associated areas of research in terms of assessment and intervention that have great room for improvement and innovation. So I think personal experience, training and skills, and opportunity all played a part in choosing this area of research.
Briefly, what path did you take to get there? Or what is your career trajectory- long-term goal?
I got my doctoral degree from Wayne State University. Their clinical psychology program provided exemplary training with a strong focus on research methods. A predoctoral externship at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan was where I discovered the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and became convinced that this was the field in which I wanted to build a career. I still was more interested in clinical work but my love for research led me to the University of Michigan where I did a post-doctoral fellowship in the Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Program sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. I am truly thankful for that opportunity because it shaped me into a well-rounded researcher and allowed me opportunities to further my studies in statistics which has been invaluable in giving me the knowledge necessary to lead data analysis projects to write manuscripts for publication. I am a big proponent of secondary data analysis driven by sound scientific theory.
What barriers or facilitators did you encounter along the way? If a barrier, how did you overcome that barrier.
What has been my biggest barrier has also provided me with great opportunities for success. Being 50% research/50% clinical for several years was very difficult because I was always doing 75/75. My brain thinks like a researcher but my heart needs to do clinical work. I can’t live without either. It was very difficult to advance in a research career without being able to pull in enough grant funding as a principal investigator. What allowed me to overcome that barrier was a very simple change from inpatient to outpatient on the clinical side and a re-allocation of time to 60% research and 40% clinical. For me, this is a very comfortable split because I have two days per week set aside for clinical work and three days for research. The responsibilities don’t spill over by having my time compartmentalized more rigidly. My current goal is to further develop a bridge to make my roles complimentary. This was not possible when inpatient clinical work was taking up so much of my time and energy. I alluded to opportunities for success as part of my split duties. My clinical work keeps me in direct contact with the areas where research and innovation are needed with direct feedback from patients as to their needs. Just as clinical work informs my research to be relevant and useful, my research informs my clinical work and there are several changes that have been implemented in clinical practice that has come from the introduction of research findings. This is what evidence based practice is all about.
Advice for young scientists. Words of wisdom.
I think one of the challenges I have faced is that it has taken me a while to realize my talents and focus on fully utilizing my strengths and things that make me unique and valuable to the field. I have learned that you have to be your own advocate and learn to promote yourself, sometimes in creative ways to capture the attention of important stakeholders, consumers, or funding agencies. If you don’t tell them and show them what you bring to the table that is important for the advancement of rehabilitation research, people are not going to go out of their way to pull it out of you. It took me some time to figure out where I actually “fit” in the big scheme of things and it came down to knowing what holes need to be filled and realizing that of all the things I’m passionate about, there were certain areas where everything comes together effortlessly: passion, talent, and need for growth in the field. Take advantage of ALL early career opportunities that are thrown your way. You will not be early career forever and these opportunities can be amazing for your educational, professional, and personal development. Also keep on networking and collaborating with colleagues who share the same passion for your area of interest.