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Celebrating Women at Kessler Foundation

Photo of Kessler Foundation women employees

We are proud to say 70% of Kessler Foundation staff are women. As an organization, we embrace efforts to identify and leverage the authentic leadership strengths that women bring to the equation. To celebrate women at Kessler Foundation, we highlight three out of our many deserving employees, each at different stages of their careers. In an interview, these women gave career advice, shared about inspirational figures in their lives, and more. See their full interview below.

 

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Photo of Nancy Chiaravalloti
Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD
Director, Centers for Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research and Traumatic Brain Injury Research 

Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, PhD is Director of the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research and the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation and Research Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Chiaravalloti conducts research in cognitive rehabilitation, particularly in new learning, memory and processing speed. She has led numerous externally funded randomized clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of cognitive rehabilitation protocols in clinical populations, examining post-treatment changes from multiple vantage points such as objective behavior (neuropsychological tests), everyday life (questionnaires, tests of daily life functioning) and at the level of the brain (functional neuroimaging).

Dr. Chiaravalloti has obtained over $15 million in grant funding, including grants from the National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the NJ Commissions on TBI and SCI Research. She has published over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts, including a book on changes in everyday life following brain injury and illness. Dr. Chiaravalloti has been the recipient of several national and international early career awards. She is considered an expert in cognitive rehabilitation in both multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury. Dr. Chiaravalloti is the project director of the Northern NJ Traumatic Brain Injury Model System, one of 16 federally funded model systems of research and clinical care for persons with traumatic brain injury. 

Q: What advice would you give to women in your field?

A: When people say “you can’t have it all,” they are wrong. One of the greatest challenges that women face is balancing a family and career. It is something I struggle with every day. It takes a lot of flexibility and a strong desire to do both. Sleep often suffers. But, it can be done and it’s worth it.

Q: How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?

A: I have accomplished a great deal professionally and my husband and I are raising three kids. I’ve been fortunate to have fantastic female role models, both in my profession and as mothers. They have a substantial impact on who I am professionally and as a mother and wife. The barrier I am constantly chipping away at, that still exists for women today, is the notion that a woman cannot balance a successful career and a fulfilling family life. She certainly can if she wants to. I encourage the young women I mentor to have confidence in who they are as professionals and as mothers and wives, because the two can complement one another.

Q: Tell us about a woman you look up to.

A: I am captivated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, maybe because I just read her book. I respect her accomplishments. In particular, it can be challenging to be a vocal advocate for what you believe in when you are in the minority, due to gender, race, religion etc. Justice Ginsburg was not only one of two female justices, she also strongly vocalized her opinion, and that takes courage.

Q: What attracted you to the Foundation?

A: Initially, the science and the mentorship attracted me to Kessler Foundation, but there are more factors keeping me here. The environment is ideal for my personality. It is comfortable and collegial, while also being challenging. Scientists and postdoc fellows challenge each other in an effort to strengthen the team. The Foundation provides freedom to pursue my research. I believe strongly in the mission. We do not conduct research for the sake of research. We are trying to impact people’s lives in a positive sense. It is tremendously rewarding.

 

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Photo of Soha Saleh
Soha Saleh, PhD
Research Scientist, Center for Mobility and Rehabilitation Engineering Research 

Sohah Saleh, PhD is a Research Scientist in the Center for Mobility and Rehabilitation Engineering at Kessler Foundation and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Saleh leads the Advanced Rehabilitation Neuroimaging Lab and is a principal investigator on several funded research studies, which investigates the underlying mechanisms of neuromuscular function, specifically neural networks involved in motor learning and control, and neuroplasticity after injury and in response to rehabilitation interventions.

Q: What advice would you give to women in your field?

A: The field needs the affection and determination of women. Use your affection to care about your patients and your team, and use your determination to maintain focus on your goals and succeed in causing a significant impact on patients’ lives.

Q: How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?

A: I try to ignore the existing barriers women often face. Still, the most challenging barrier is balancing work and family. Women struggle more than men with that, and I hope this barrier gets lifted one day. It is also helpful that the Kessler Foundation management provides a supportive environment for female scientists and research staff.

Q: Tell us about a woman you look up to.

A: The woman I look up to is my mother. She is not a scientist, but she is determined and strong, with interesting life experiences. I learned from her to be a humble person, proud of who I am and what I do, and ambitious in finding means to improve people’s lives.

Q: What attracted you to the Foundation?

A: Since my early training in biomedical engineering, I was attracted to neurorehabilitation. I saw in neurorehabilitation a gate of hope for individuals with disabilities. So, when I learned about Kessler Foundation, I was attracted to the mission of the foundation and the dedication of the scientists to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. At Kessler Foundation we do not provide magical cures, but we make a pledge to work day and night to advance therapeutic protocols to improve lives, and as a scientist, I am proud to contribute to that.
 

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Photo of Victoria Queyquep
Victoria Queyquep
Development Assistant

Victoria Queyquep is the Development Assistant for Kessler Foundation. She graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies. She is responsible for providing administrative support to the Development staff in all aspects of their fundraising and donor engagement efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Victoria was previously an intern at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in Short Hills, NJ.

Q: What advice would you give to women in your field?

A: Take each day as a learning experience. Be passionate about what you do and enjoy it! Know that you are making a lasting and positive impact on both your organization and in the lives of others. While working at Kessler Foundation, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on donor engagement, major event planning, and fundraising. I still have so much more to learn and I’m excited to continue growing on this career path.

Q: How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?

A: I don’t allow my spinal cord injury to get in the way. I’m proud to be a young woman working full-time with a team consisting of an amazing group of women.”

Q: Tell us about a woman you look up to.

A: I admire Sarah Swafford. She is a Catholic speaker, author, and the founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries.  While in college, I attended several of her keynote talks. Though she speaks to both male and female audiences, Sarah specifically addresses issues that women face, such as body image, maintaining female friendships, and self-worth. Over the years I’ve been inspired by her wisdom and words of encouragement which have served as little reminders that I’m not perfect, but rather I’m a work in progress.

Q: What attracted you to the Foundation?

A: As someone with a spinal cord injury, I’m so grateful to be a part of an organization that advocates to be a voice for people like myself, as well as for others with physical and cognitive disabilities. My colleagues are passionate about what they do, and that makes my role worthwhile. Through research, grants, and employment initiatives, Kessler Foundation gives people a chance to live an amazing life. 

Submitted by nmiller on Fri, 04/12/2019 - 15:30