Hi! My name is Amisha Garikipati and I am a junior from Greensboro, North Carolina majoring in Neuroscience and double minoring in Biology and Chemistry. From a young age, I have always been fascinated by learning about the complexities of the human brain and understanding how it works. The summer of my freshman year at UNC, I was fortunate enough to start working in the Lysle Lab which studies the alterations of immune system responses from associative learning mediated through neural pathways following opioid usage. Through my experiences here, I was able to learn basic science techniques such as immunohistochemistry staining of brain samples, confocal microscopy analysis for astrocyte quantification, cannula insertions for drug administration using stereotaxic surgeries, behavioral analysis for animal models and much more. Being a part of this lab inspired me to continue learning more about neuroscience research. Through my classes, I got interested in learning about neurodegenerative disorders specifically, and the Gil internship allowed me to pursue this interest.
As a premed student, in addition to learning about the biological processes involved in neurodegenerative disorders, I am also interested in learning about the patient-centered aspects of care. The Gil Internship allowed me to bridge both my interests in neurodegenerative disorder research and gaining healthcare exposure. I am currently interning with a new, independent startup company called CareYaya. CareYaya focuses on improving the at-home care services for people with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia. CareYaya strives to make care more affordable for the families that need it, more convenient to find and book, and to incorporate technology to improve care outcomes. My initial roles at CareYaya included conducting literature reviews to create online resources on effective lifestyle interventions for people with neurodegenerative disorders. Through this project I was able to learn about some of the latest scientific research in the field of dementia and highlight key information for affected families and caregivers to use. These resources will help families learn about healthy practices while also showing them which aspects of care and health outcomes CareYaya can improve.
Most recently, I have been working on another project where I interview affected families, caregivers, medical professionals, and other individuals involved with different aspects of dementia care to provide video resources for CareYaya’s website. When many families receive the dementia diagnosis for their loved one, they are often overwhelmed and don’t have a place to easily access information, so the primary purpose is to provide them with these free resources in the form of easily digestible videos to help them navigate their care journey. So far, it has been really interesting and enlightening to hear about the diverse perspectives on dementia care whether they are from families who have been personally affected, professional caregivers, or doctors who are experts in the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Additionally, once enough interviews have been compiled, there are even plans to create a documentary on dementia care in North Carolina! The hope is that releasing such a documentary will have an emotional impact on citizens and encourage a wave of private sector innovation.
My experiences so far have enabled me to learn about how evidence-based findings from research on the neuroscience of aging can be implemented to improve dementia care outcomes. Additionally, I have been able to learn about the nuances of the neurodegenerative disease process firsthand from affected families. I never would have thought that I could get such an opportunity to learn about neurodegenerative diseases outside of traditional lab-based research. Aside from learning about disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia, I am also learning about the qualities that make a good caregiver as well as what goes into the process of matching caregivers with care-seekers. It has truly been a unique experience that I think will serve to better prepare me in my pursuits to become a physician and enter the field of healthcare. I am so thankful for the Gil Internship program for providing me with such an incredible opportunity!