Researching Treatments for Adolescent Eating Disorders

February 28, 2018

Tyler Sloan '17

L'Insalata at Stanford University's Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences building
L'Insalata at Stanford's Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences building, where she works in the Eating Disorders Research Program.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Alexa L'Insalata '17

A strong relationship with her mentor and field experience in college helped Alexa L’Insalata ’17 land her ideal first job as a clinical research coordinator for Stanford University’s Eating Disorders Research Program. She’s not complaining about the Bay Area weather, either.

Studying psychology at Oberlin, L’Insalata had the opportunity to coauthor and publish papers based on research she helped conduct. Now, she’s the point person for various research studies happening on her new campus at Stanford. In the Eating Disorders Research Program, L’Insalata’s work primarily focuses on adolescent eating disorders and treatment.

“My biggest project at the moment is running a randomized control trial funded by the National Institutes of Health studying an adaptation to Family Based Treatment (FBT), which is the gold standard treatment for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa and was originally developed by my boss and his colleague,” she says. “The job keeps me very busy and can be challenging, but I am loving every minute of it!”

In addition to gaining invaluable professional experience, L’Insalata is preparing to apply for doctorate programs in clinical psychology with a specific focus on child and family therapy. Though she isn’t applying to graduate school during this admissions cycle, she’s already considering what comes after her Ph.D.

“I’ve learned that what appeals to me is working with a university that allows for its clinicians to also be researchers,” she says. “It’s incredibly important to be at the forefront of producing evidence-based treatments and research to add to the literature so that the field is doing the best work possible because that’s what the patients deserve. I see our therapists who get to be a part of important research studies while also seeing patients as clinicians, and this balance is something I’m coming to realize I would like for myself one day.”

L’Insalata credits her multitasking abilities both to her academic experience and the time-management skills that come with playing a sport in college. Outside of the classroom, she was a record-setting goalkeeper for the women’s varsity lacrosse team and North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) standout. She was the first player in conference history to twice be named the Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2017) and she was also a three-time all-conference first-team selection.

“My time at Oberlin really prepared me for this job,” L’Insalata says. “I was very fortunate to have the privilege of Professor Meghan Morean mentoring me during my college career, as well as the rest of the supportive faculty in the psychology department. My experience as an Oberlin athlete also helped prepare me for this job because as a lacrosse player I had a lot of practice in time management and working as a collaborative team.”

As for her big move to the West Coast after growing up in New Jersey and attending Oberlin, L’Insalata is relishing the warm weather while spending time with fellow Oberlin alumni in the Bay Area.

“I am absolutely loving California,” she says. “I am so happy to be out here and cannot wait to see what other adventures are in store as I continue the post-Oberlin grad life.”

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