This week’s “Spotlight” interview shines on Amy Obssi, our new Clinical Research Coordinator in the Memory Disorders Division. Obssi talks to us about his role in finding treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias at Duke and his previous role at Toronto Western Hospital. She also talks about the fun of building therapeutic bonds and relationships with patients, adjusting to life in the Triangle from her old home, and enjoying kayaking, the outdoors, and the occasional episode of reality TV when she is not at work.
What are your current responsibilities within the neurology department? What does a typical day look like for you?
I have just joined Duke Neurology as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Memory Disorders Division, where I will work primarily in memory research clinical trials. As I am relatively new, I have resumed my daily activities by immersing myself in the trainings, getting used to the workflow, reviewing study-specific protocols, and attending meetings.
What were you doing before entering the neurology department? How does this compare to your current role?
Prior to joining Duke, I worked at the Toronto Western Hospital University Health Network Memory Clinic, as a research coordinator in the Department of Neurology. A large part of my duties involved conducting various clinical trials and observational studies in people with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as administering a wide range of neuropsychological assessments to people with conditions such as cognitive impairment mild, vascular cognitive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, Parkinson’s disease, as well as healthy volunteers.
Much of my duties in my current position overlap with my previous work at Toronto Western Hospital. However, despite all the experience I have gained, I have already learned a lot during my short stay here, and there is still so much to do in this area. I’m excited to keep exploring and learning something new every day.
I have always enjoyed working in the field of neurology, especially in the Memory Disorders group, and I was fortunate to have this opportunity to continue contributing to the field and to this research organization; while doing what I love here at Duke.
What do you like most about your job?
In other words, it depends on the people I meet. I enjoy interacting with this patient population. Building trusting therapeutic bonds and relationships with patients has always been the most rewarding feeling. In all ways, big and small, making a difference in the lives of patients is the most rewarding feeling of this job. I have had many heartfelt and rewarding experiences with those I have met while working in this field and in clinical trials that have played a huge role in why I love my job and this career the most.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Given the complex nature of Alzheimer’s disease, not having more effective therapies to cure this disease is the hardest part of my job. The time commitment required and the sacrifices patients and families make when joining a trial are often overlooked.
It is important to remember that not only do people join research studies to try to help themselves, among other reasons, but they also share a common goal, in the hope that one day their participation will revert to clinical research as a whole. Whether it’s finding effective therapies, contributing to future scientific research, or hoping that in the future, people with the same or similar disease won’t have to suffer as they did. Research on Alzheimer’s disease has come a long way, but there is still much to learn.
You come to Duke from Toronto. What has surprised you the most about your time in the Triangle so far? What do you miss most about your old home?
Well, first of all, I don’t miss any of Toronto’s winter weather, that’s for sure! Coming from a huge city like Toronto, one thing that surprised me the most during my stay here was that I didn’t see as many buses, cyclists and pedestrians on the roads, which are the main means of transportation as you would typically see in Toronto. That, coupled with the Toronto traffic, is something I’ve become accustomed to. Although there can be quite a bit of traffic here in the Triangle too, I found driving here to be a bit easier.
I would say the hardest part of my job right now is being away from home. I was born, raised and lived in Toronto all my life; Canada is at home. My parents and my boyfriend back home have always been the most supportive people in my life and it’s been hard not to be around them as much as I used to be.
However, we talk daily and they continue to support me and help me get stronger every day. I’m so lucky to have family here in North Carolina that makes me feel like I have a piece of home here. Moving to the US was a huge transition, but everyone in my department was amazing and went out of their way to make me feel so welcome!
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?
When I’m not working, I spend most of my time with my family here in North Carolina; they are the most important thing to me. Otherwise, I love being outdoors and staying active, whether camping, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, among others. If I’m not active, you can probably catch me relaxing at home watching reality TV.
Obssi enjoys a visit to Old Baldy Mountain in Shawnigan Lake, BC.