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Meet a Remarkable Postdoctoral Resident

The Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Training Program (MHTP) is thrilled to spotlight Carisha Kelsey, PhD. (she/they), who is beginning her second-year neuropsychology postdoctoral residency in Kaiser Vallejo with the Rehabilitation Services (KFRC) neuropsychology team. Dr. Kelsey was nominated to be featured in the newsletter by her first-year secondary neuropsychology resident supervisor Chelsea Vilinskas, PsyD due to her outstanding work with patients and families referred for neuropsychological services. We are honored to give Dr. Kelsey this spotlight in particular for her dedication to diversity and cultural competence as it relates to conceptualization when assessing and diagnosing her patients and working with families.

Dr. Kelsey graduated from Pacific University- School of Graduate Psychology in 2022 and completed her first year of neuropsychological residency with Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, seeing a wide variety of patients in the general outpatient clinic. Throughout her first year, she was supervised by neuropsychologists Dr. Chelsea Vilinskas and Dr. Gregory Jackson and saw a wide variety of patients from across the medical center. This diverse year of training encompassed referrals from psychiatry, primary care, neurology, oncology, and cardiology (to name a few). Referrals usually included questions about an individual’s cognitive status in the context of varying complex medical, neurodegenerative, developmental, and/or psychiatric/behavioral factors (TBI, dementia, MS, history of seizures, ADHD, etc.). She is eager to begin her second year of training at Kaiser Vallejo, where she will be transitioning into seeing inpatients who are recovering in the acute rehabilitation hospital, and therefore gaining knowledge and practice in a very specific set of neuropsychological skills.

One of the highlights of Dr. Kelsey’s first year in neuropsychology residency has been having the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of patients and their families. She acknowledges having “worked with some amazing and resilient individuals” and feels as though she has had good access to important resources (e.g., time, office/testing space, interprofessional consultation, supervision, etc.) to support them where they are. She describes one unique aspect of her role as having the perspective she can offer patients on their cognitive, mental, and physical health concerns. She elaborated, “I often hear from my patients that they feel “seen” and “understood” after an intake evaluation and/or feedback appointment. And I think that’s because there is a lot of condensed learning that occurs when you spend multiple hours over several days with a patient and their family”.

Dr. Kelsey shares that she has had the honor of learning from some wonderfully multi-faceted mentors and supervisors and feels inspired to work towards a career where “I can both supervise students in clinical neuropsychology and conduct research”. Her career dream is to develop an interdisciplinary clinic that connects providers who are multi-lingual and multi-culturally informed in providing rehabilitative care and neuropsychological evaluations to patients. She is also working towards her medical interpretive license in American Sign Language with the goal of becoming competent at administering neuropsychological tests to individuals in the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Dr. Kelsey attended an arts and communications magnet academy in 6th grade that included “many wonderful and creative teachers”. When reflecting on the origins of her interest in the brain, she stated My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Johannsen, was obsessed with the brain and would regularly use her knowledge and passion to educate her students on all the strengths that come with having a brain that “learns differently”. Dr. Kelsey elaborated that she was a “neurodivergent kiddo” who often struggled in a neurotypical classroom, and she became fascinated with this concept and was determined and excited to learn more about the brain and its potential. She followed this interest all the way to her junior year of college where she was majoring in psychology on a premedical track with the goal of becoming a neurologist. To bolster her medical school applications, she applied and was accepted for a research internship as a McNair scholar and happened upon the field of neuropsychology while looking for potential mentors. She described this occupational discovery as “love at first site”. Dr Kelsey changed her path that year and applied for graduate school instead of medical school. She stated, “I feel so lucky and grateful to have found a field that I am so incredibly passionate about”.

When she is off the clock, Dr. Kelsey and her husband spend a lot of their free time “nerding out and playing PC games”. She is also a major horror/true crime fan, “so I’m always binging related TV shows, movies, or playing jump-scare games”. Dr. Kelsey has two beautiful fur babies named Cody (Italian greyhound/chihuahua) and Xena (black lab/bulldog) who she and her husband love dearly.

On behalf of the MHTP and the neuropsychological community, thank you for all you have done for your patients and their families this year. We look forward to seeing you thrive in your second year at KFRC and look forward to watching you achieve all your career goals in the future!

Contributed by Dr. Chelsea Vilinskas

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