There are very few moments that set the course for where the rest of our lives will lead. But Gregory Pappas of Plymouth, Massachusetts experienced that moment as an intern at the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, a leading center of Alzheimer’s research.
Pappas is a senior at Providence College. He’s majoring in Psychology with a minor in Biology and is also involved in the neuroscience program there. Pappas says that when it came time to complete an internship, a former classmate and a professor both recommended Butler Hospital. With its dual focus on research and clinical care, the Memory and Aging Program was the perfect fit.
From January to May, 2019 he spent 10 hours each week at the program. He shadowed the research staff, observing as study participants underwent cognitive assessments and assisting with administrative tasks for the various studies.
“Within the first week I knew that neuroscience was the type of work I wanted to do, and I have Butler to thank for that,” Pappas says.
“My internship was a great experience. The whole team – the research team, Dr. Salloway, Bill [Menard, research operations manager] – they all were really helpful and wanted me to learn, and I’m so thankful,” Pappas says.
But it wasn’t just the learning that convinced Pappas that neuroscience was where his life’s work should be. It was also the humanity he observed at the program.
“I have a history of dementia in my family as well, so this was a good way for me to apply something I was learning in a personal way. And the way the staff interacts with the community and the patients is just so special,” he says. “That [the staff and the research participants] know each other’s lives, know about their children, know how they’re doing beyond the monthly or yearly study assessments is so great. Even though Butler is nationally recognized, it is very much a community hospital, and that’s very important.”
Though his internship ended in May, Pappas’ involvement at the Memory and Aging Program did not. He continues working with the program as a volunteer.
“In my volunteer capacity, I just help out with whatever they need. I’m doing some administrative work related to one of the studies, and I also help out a lot at the community outreach events the program hosts. When I have time, I still walk around and chat with people too, to keep learning new things about the field,” he says.
Now that he’s got a clearer picture of what he wants to do with his life, Pappas says he hopes that vision will keep him involved with Butler Hospital and the Memory and Aging Program for some time to come.
“I’m planning to go to grad school, perhaps at Brown University because I already know so many of the doctors from Butler,” Pappas says. “But first I’m planning to have a gap year after I graduate from PC, because I want to have a few more research experiences. I’m looking into applying to be a research assistant at the Memory and Aging Program, but either way I’ll still continue to volunteer. This is definitely a place I’ve come to call home.”
To learn more about internship and volunteer opportunities with the Memory and Aging Program, call (401) 455-6402.
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