About Arleigha Cook

Trinity College Class of 2016. Journalist, blogger, concussion education enthusiast.

BIAC Internship: Last Day!

After a semester of work, today I said goodbye to a great organization.

This semester, I organized a 400-person annual fundraising event that saw a 30% rise in revenue for an amazing nonprofit.  I have had a great time with BIAC, and I can’t wait for the chance to speak of them fondly in the future!

Thank you, Professor Raskin, for facilitating this experience.  It has opened my eyes to all the wonderful work that BIAC does, the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and the great people who are involved in brain injury prevention, awareness, and rehabilitation in Connecticut.  I can now say that I know a decent amount about how small nonprofits work and how I can contribute to their goals.

BIAC Internship: Weeks 9 and 10

We are now working on post-walk tasks, which mostly revolve around sending out thank-you postcards and letters.

Last week, I mostly worked on the post cards.  It was quite frustrating to redesign the post card five times, as I mentioned in the most recent lab meeting, but the energy is necessary in order to portray the organization in a favorable light.  It’s all aesthetic and marketing.

This week, I worked on the thank-you letters.  In the process, I learned how to do mail merge, which is quite tedious but also quite helpful.  Eric, our temporary tech person, sat down with me and colorfully explain how to use mail merge and why it works like it does, which was so helpful!

The next thank-you task is for our volunteers.  Christina and I have done some brainstorming, but it’ll need a little more work.  We’re going for a “cutesy” theme, hoping to put a puppy on the card or something like it.

As for my final project, I have contacted Hartford Hospital to see if they are open to sharing (anonymous) data in regards to how their patients acquire brain injuries.  We’ll see how that turns out.

BIAC Internship: Weeks 7 and 8

We are officially five days away from the Walk!

These weeks are devoted to making sure the event runs smoothly.  Volunteers will be contacted with instructions for their assignments, we requested petty cash this afternoon, goody bag stuffing is arranged for later this week, and we gathered various items for the day of the event: banners, signs, shirts, hats, candy, face painting supplies, temporary tattoos, etc.  There is so much to do, and I am so thankful that Christina is in the office all the time to take care of things I can’t!

Christina and I are going to arrive at Rentschler Field at 7 AM on Sunday (that will be a fun day-after-Halloween!) and the rest of the staff will arrive at 8.  I still have to put together a contact list for exhibitors and others providing services or donating food at the event, so I have quite a busy day on Thursday as well.  The rest of the day on Thursday, we will pack up the supplies and make sure things are in order for Sunday.

I also just learned that we are probably going to miss out on around 100 registrants this year due to some large teams from last year that are not going to be present this weekend.  That’s a little disappointing, but we are all set on the financial side of things, so I’m sure it will be a great event nonetheless!

BIAC Internship: Week 6

This past week was spent largely recruiting past teams of more than 10 people.  Looking up past participants was actually a little difficult, because the goal was to get in contact with the team captain (so we had to find that person in the midst of all the other information).

I also put in the order for the sponsor board and the goody bags, so it took some time to find high-resolution images to send to both print companies.  I learned that EPS files are high-resolution, and many other common file types are not (learned this the hard way!).

Lastly, I sent out the final details for exhibitors and volunteers.  Organizing the volunteers was bigger project than I thought because there continue to be cancellations, and others have not expressed a need for a certain assignment.  We also need to train our  volunteers, so I created a schedule for their arrival on the day of the event that I’ll be able to work from.  I’m planning to add phone numbers for vendors and people crucial to the event.

BIAC Internship: Week 5

This past week at BIAC was a whirlwind!  And it was mostly due to needing to order shirts.

This year’s shirts will be “daisy,” “gold,” and purple (for volunteers).  Of course, it took Julie and I quite some time to decide on colors, and then I had to design a structure for the sponsors’ logos that were to go on the backs of the shirts.  I got some ad lib design experience, so that was a bonus 🙂

Then, we had many people register right before the October 9th shirt deadline.  So, recalculating the number of shirts we could guarantee was also a hassle.  The good thing is we’re over 120 online registrants.  Hopefully that’s due to some of my Facebook promotion posts (as well as forcing the BIAC board members to register haha).

Last week, Julie, Christina and I also visited Rentschler Field for a preliminary walk-through.  I met Ben Richards, the new contact person for our event.  We got along well; more and more I am realizing that it’s about who you know and forming solid business relationships with people.

This week, I’ll focus on putting together a volunteer check-in table, a list of things to bring to Rentschler on the day of the Walk, and other miscellaneous preparations for right before the event.

BIAC Internship: Week 4

This blog post will be relatively short because I have finished up my September tasks (right on time!) and will move on to October tasks this week.

This week, I met Christina, BIAC’s new Development Director.  As I mentioned in the recent lab meeting, she and I are going to work really well as a team.  She also has all of the knowledge and experience that I don’t have with things like corporate sponsorships.  I’m hoping that she’ll give me a few pointers on how to ask for money from places like Shoprite.

I now have a full list of volunteers!  The only people I have not been able to reach at all this year are the fraternity at the University of Hartford.  I’m sure I can reach out to a greek life house at Trinity that would love to help out to fulfill community service hours, though.

On that note, I’m sure I will have more questions or concerns next week after starting my October timeline!

BIAC Internship: Week 3

First off, an announcement: I found a food truck!  Julie was a little nervous, but it all worked out.

The thing I am seeing less success with is sponsorships.  I’m not sure if it has something to do with seeing my name instead of Christine’s, or if I am simply going about it in the wrong way (though I do copy Julie’s format each time I send out an email soliciting a sponsorship from a specific company).  It also could be that it’s simply a tougher task.  On the bright side, the new development director starts on October 1st, so communicating with potential sponsors with won’t be part of my job for much longer.

It feels as though I am making significant progress.  I don’t have the prior experience to judge where I am in the planning process as compared to where I should be, but it seems like things are moving along well.

It’s also easy to lose myself in the tasks and forget why I do this work.  At CASO today, someone new came in.   She has been concussed for almost five years.  As she was telling me about her struggles (and signing up for Team Trinity), I was reminded of the people I’m working for.  As I heal, it’s easy to lose touch with how difficult it used to be to even have a conversation with someone.  My meeting with this person helped put me back in touch with the struggles of a survivor.  I hope this humble reminder stays with me for awhile.

BIAC Internship: Week 2

This week began with a meeting about my role as the temporary Events Coordinator.  The executive director of BIAC and I sat down for about an hour and a half to discuss the Walk for Thought in its entirety, namely T-shirts and sizes, table and chair rentals, FirstGiving management, and donorperfect utilization so that I can contact former sponsors and ask them to sponsor the event again.

Sponsorship probably doesn’t require an explanation, but I found it interesting, so I’ll explain a little about it.

When a company sponsors the Walk, they can choose which level of sponsorship.  For example: the top sponsors are the Diamond sponsors, and they receive specific perks for donating their specific amount ($5,000 or more).  Their company gets their logo in the program and on the Walk T-shirt as well as a booth for exhibition and their name and logo on our website for a few months.  Gold sponsors, Elite sponsors, Silver sponsors, and Bronze sponsors all receive perks as well, though they receive fewer perks because they are donating less money.

As previously mentioned, one of my other responsibilities as the Events Coordinator has been to contact former donors and ask them to renew their sponsorship with us for the upcoming Walk for Thought.  It can be tedious because of the specifics I need to mention.  I haven’t received any replies to my emails yet, though, but I will update on that later.

Otherwise, BIAC has been great.  On a less-important note, I am trying to figure out a food truck for the Walk since the one we usually use is not available on November 1st.  I also will look into coordinating volunteers and two photographers.

BIAC Internship: Week 1

My first week interning at the Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut proved to be what I expected: fast-paced and informative.  I was introduced to the staff I did not already know, shown around the office, and then I directly began working to organize the 11th annual Walk for Thought.

One of the great things about working with BIAC so far has been their attitude.  As opposed to previous internships, I feel that the work I do is valuable and necessary to BIAC’s well-being.  They have trusted me solely with the organization of one of their biggest fundraising events of the year, and I cannot be more grateful for that.

In the first two days there were quite a few small tasks to accomplish.  I spent the majority of those days in the office sending emails and making phone calls to past volunteers and participants to see if they would volunteer their time again.  Examples: calling Rentschler Field to set up a site visit, contacting various vendors to get their availability, and seeing if local fraternities and sororities are interested in volunteering to fulfill their community service requirements.  I found it especially helpful to make a list of important dates, as part of my responsibilities include scheduling meetings with companies we have purchased Walk items from and managing the FirstGiving website (i.e. closing early bird registration).

On Tuesday, Julie and I will sit down and go over what I have done so far and figure out some answers to a few questions I have regarding contact information for certain volunteers and scheduling.  This week I am also scheduled to meet with the company from which we order T-shirts to decide on colors and pricing.

Monitoring Disease Progression: The Benefits of Repeated Neuropsychological Assessment

Written by Elizabeth S. Gromisch, M.A.

When someone has been diagnosed with a degenerative neurological condition or has sustained injury to the brain, such as with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), there is often a concern about changes in cognition. In a degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a decline in cognitive functioning can be indicative of disease progression. Identifying disease progression is important not only in clinical settings, but research settings in which new treatments are developed.

In AD drug trials, MRIs of brain atrophy may be used as an outcome, as changes in the volumes of the right and left hippocampi would be associated with changes in memory. Previously, screening measures of cognitive and behavioral status, such as the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) and AD Assessment Scale (ADAS) have been used (Cummings, Gould, & Zhong, 2012), but along with other brief measures like the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), they may not be the most reliable (but that is a topic for another blog post!).

Schmand et al.’s (2014) study compared MRIs as an outcome to a neuropsychological battery. If you are not familiar with a neuropsychological battery, it consists of several measures that assess different cognitive domains, such as memory, language, and executive functioning. These measures can be pencil and paper tests, though they can be administered through a computer. In addition to providing a more comprehensive picture of an individual’s cognitive functioning, neuropsychological tests can have stronger psychometric properties than screening measures (Schmand et al., 2014).

Participants in the study (N = 62) were patients at the Academic Medical Centre memory clinic in Amsterdam. They were between the ages of 50 to 85 and had cognitive complaints. At baseline, they underwent a neurological examination and were administered the CDR and MMSE. Participants then underwent a structural MRI scan and neuropsychological evaluation, which included measures of executive functioning, memory, verbal fluency, and effort. Two years later, they had a follow-up MRI and neuropsychological evaluation, with alternative forms of the tests used. With the MRI, they focused on the cortical thickness of the temporal lobe and atrophy of the hippocampus. They found when they used the neurologist’s diagnosis, the neuropsychological assessment was more responsive with patients with MCI and early dementia compared to the MRI. Another benefit found with using this brief neuropsychological battery, which takes about 45 minutes, is intervention trials in AD and mild cognitive impairment which can have a 50% smaller sample size.

Repeat neuropsychological assessment is often used in a clinical setting. For example, an individual who has sustained a TBI may have an assessment early on in the recovery period, and may undergo repeat testing a year later to track changes in cognitive status. However, there are concerns clinicians should keep in mind with repeat testing. A significant issue that may arise is the practice effect, in which an individual’s performance on the follow-up may be better due to previous exposure to the measure. This can occur even when the questions on the test are different or an alternative version of the test is used (Heilbronner et al., 2010). In the official position from the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN), they recommend “change as a measurable construction to be used to inform the clinical descriptive and diagnostic process…consideration may be given to the standard error of measurement for a test manual, empirical findings on the expected magnitudes of score increases over a particular interval, or other relevant research on test operating characteristics for the instruments employed in the neuropsychologist’s battery.”



  1. Cummings, J., Gould, H., & Zhong, K. (2012). Advances in designs for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials. American Journal of Neurodegenerative Diseases, 1, 205-216
  2. Heilbronner, R.L., Sweet, J.J., Attix, D.K., Krull, K.R., Henry, G.K., & Hart, R.P. (2010). Official position of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology on serial neuropsychological assessment: the utility and challenges of repeat test administrations in clinical and forensic contexts. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 24, 1267-1278
  3. IOS Press. (2014 February). Neuropsychological assessment more efficient than MRI for tracking disease progression in memory clinic patients. Accessed from http://www.iospress.nl/ios_news/neuropsychological-assessment-more-efficient-than-mri-for-tracking-disease-progression-in-memory-clinic-patients/
  4. Schmand, B., Rienstra, A., Tamminga, H., Richard, E., van Gool, W.A., Cann, M.W.A., & Majoie, C.B. (2014). Responsiveness of magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological assessment in memory clinic patients. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 40, 409-418