Just as she has developed on the field hockey pitch, Josephs has evolved in her work with autism. Over the past two years, she has shifted her focus from the personal to the clinical.
During Josephs’ sophomore year at Cornell, she began an internship with Dr. Theresa Lyons, founder of Navigating AWEtism and Eat To Heal AWEtism. Lyons writes a blog for the Huffington Post and hired Josephs to help her edit the entries from a “less scientific perspective.”
“She wanted parents to be able to understand what she was saying,” says Josephs. “So she would send her blogs to me to make sure that parents could take something away from it. I would give her my thoughts, or offer suggestions on blog posts I thought she should write.”
From there, Josephs went on to take a summer internship with Autism Speaks, which is dedicated to advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions.
Initially, she considered drawing on her vast experience of working with autistic kids to intern with the Family Services wing of the organization, but she eventually decided that working with the Science Department would give her new opportunities for growth while preparing her for medical school.
Working under Dr. Mathew Pletcher, Head of Genomic Discovery, Josephs spent the summer researching the genes and environmental factors that contribute to autism. She did that by working with the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), which is one of the world’s largest databases providing researchers with genetic and medical information on people with autism and their family members. Josephs helped organize the genomes and assisted with maintaining the AGRE website while also writing a blog entry on the role AGRE has had in new research that is improving healthcare for people with autism. She also did research on the current medications and therapies used to treat autism and studied how they worked based on the statistical evidence.
“It was a great experience to work with Autism Speaks,” says Josephs. “I really loved it. They gave me a lot of freedom to research what I was interested in, and there are so many fascinating elements to study. It will definitely help me as I move forward with med school.”
Before heading off to medical school, Josephs will wrap up her final year at Cornell and with the Big Red field hockey team. She will take on another new role as a senior leader on a squad that will feature a large rookie class. But based on past evidence, there is little doubt that she will put in the work necessary to excel.
“Isabel has emerged as a strong leader for our program,” says Cornell field hockey coach Donna Hornibrook. “She brings her best every day. Over the years, I have been so impressed with what Isabel has done, not only on the field, but also in the classroom and with her work with autism. She works incredibly hard and puts her heart into everything she does. It’s evident from the first moment you meet her that she’s a special young woman and she’s going to go on to do amazing things.”
The ninth annual World Autism Awareness Day is Sunday, April 2, 2017. For more information, visit: https://www.autismspeaks.org/liub