Undergraduate Researcher Probes Autism

Lee Ann Santore ’19, a swim coach and undergraduate researcher in the field of autism, has some advice for students considering hands-on research at Stony Brook: “Dive right in!”
“I had done a lot of work in high school teaching kids on the spectrum how to swim,” Santore said. “So when I later came to Stony Brook and heard that there is a whole research lab dedicated to Autism Spectrum Disorder research, I wanted to join in.”


Lee Ann Santore ’19

Santore, a biochemistry major in the Honors College, has been an active team member of the Social Competence & Treatment Laboratory of Dr. Matthew Lerner for three years. She is currently completing her senior honors thesis on “Assessing Primary Care Providers’ Knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
She cares passionately about early intervention and improving the pipeline of ASD diagnosis and has been involved in designing and implementing a survey that will be distributed to 100 primary care providers with IRB approval and used to assess factors that impact timely diagnosis of ASD.  In addition to the hours she dedicates to clinical work with individual families/children involved with the lab, Lee Ann also worked her way up to being the lab’s Undergraduate Research Coordinator – a role that involves managing & training other research assistants in visit procedures, how to administer electroencephalograms (EEGs) and IQ tests, collect medical information, and administer and score various neurological and physiological assessments.
“My independent study looks at how much primary care providers know about autism spectrum disorder and how confident they feel they are in treating it,” she said. “Kids with autism spectrum disorder are able to get diagnosed by age two, but they’re getting diagnosed much later in reality. So our goal is to figure out why that’s happening.”
Santore has presented her research at the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in San Diego, CA and Washington D.C. (2017, 2018); the annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2018); and the annual URECA symposium (2018).
he has co-authored several academic poster presentations, and recently co-first authored a paper with graduate student Erin Kang on “Self Reported Social Skills Importance Ratings, not Social Skills themselves, Predict Sociometric Status in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder ”  (under review). Lee Ann is the recipient of several URECA travel grants, as well as URECA summer program award to support her research activities. She also was awarded the Michael P. Colbert Endowed Scholarship from the Department of Biology. Lee Ann gained additional clinical experience as a Geriatric Intern in Stony Brook Primary Care (August 2017-present); and by shadowing cardiologist Dr. Lloyd Lense in her junior year through her participation in the Premedical Access to the Clinical Experience (PACE) program. After graduating in May, Lee Ann will enter Stony Brook’s Renaissance School of Medicine.
Read the complete interview with Lee Ann Santore at the URECA site.

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