Graduate examines foetal alcohol spectrum disorder - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Graduate examines foetal alcohol spectrum disorder

23 May 2019

New USC Psychology graduate Jessica Doak is now using her knowledge of brain mechanics to help assess children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, Jessica recently graduated from USC with a Master of Psychology (Clinical) and has gained employment at Griffith University as a psychologist and senior research assistant while completing her clinical registrar endorsement.

“I see clients of the Queensland Health Child Development Service and conduct neurodevelopmental assessments of children who may have FASD,” said the 31-year-old Mountain Creek State High School graduate.

“I assist with larger FASD research projects and will soon start a day a week in private practice offering therapeutic services.”

It’s a dream career for Jessica, who has had a wide range of jobs (bar manager, body piercer, stable hand) and even wider range of hobbies (competitive roller derby, horse-riding, music, art).

“I wanted a career that was diverse, challenging, meaningful, and something that I could see myself doing 30 years from now,” she said.

“I wanted to understand the science behind why humans think and behave in certain ways. I find the mechanics of the brain and the mind pretty fascinating.

“My family also has a strong history of neurodegenerative illness which prompted me to understand the brain more.”

Jessica said she was enjoying the critical and divergent thinking required of her assessment role, and the opportunity to continue learning.

She said her knowledge of ethics, gained during the USC degree, was vital in the workplace.

“Identifying potential ethical dilemmas and planning how to manage or avoid them was drilled in from the get-go, and it is so important in psychological practice.”

She is pleased to be part of a FASD research project led by Griffith University’s Professor Sharon Dawe and involving USC Professor of Psychology Mary Katsikitis.

Professor Katsikitis supervised Jessica’s USC Master’s degree on FASD assessment outcomes for families, and Jessica’s USC Honours research on the fear of terrorism in the community.

Jessica also worked at USC in administrative, research and tutoring roles while she was studying – just like her mother, Annie Colless.

Ms Colless, a project officer with Student Services and Engagement, graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology), and in 2005 with a Bachelor of Business (Management).

Jessica, currently recovering from a knee injury, can’t wait to return to the USC-based Assassins team to compete in the Sunshine Coast’s Roller Derby league.

Jessica is employed at Griffith University under an initiative funded by the Commonwealth Drug and Alcohol Program: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Diagnostic Services and Models of Care Grant Opportunity.

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