|WSU alumna Leah Ellenberg’s passion for neuropsychology has taken her from research to application.
Dr. Leah Ellenberg is a leader in the field of pediatric neuropsychology. Her passion for psychology started at Wayne State and has led her to a dynamic career in neuropsychology, a field that examines the relationship between the brain and behavior. Ellenberg serves as an associate clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, leads her own private practice in neuropsychology, and is actively involved in research on adult survivors of childhood brain tumors.
Ellenberg’s passion for neuropsychology started in 1969, when she took her first psychology class with Professor Melvin Schwartz. Her brother, Dr. Maury Ellenberg — who is also a Wayne State alum — suggested the class to her.
“Mel Schwartz’s class is what got me excited about psychology. He was great at explaining psychology in an incredibly scientific and innovative way. It sparked my interest to major in psychology.”
Dr. Ellenberg moved to California for her psychology internship at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Her expertise in pediatric neuropsychology gave her the opportunity to officially join the staff at Children’s Hospital LA after she completed her dissertation research at Caltech.
“I was part of the Psychosocial Program in the pision of Hematology-Oncology, providing services and doing research with kids with cancer. I was the only one in the group with training in neuropsychology, thanks to WSU, so I naturally was put in charge of the program for kids with brain tumors.”
Ellenberg maintains her interest in this patient group, and recently became part of the Childhood Cancer Survivors Study, which looks at what happens to survivors of various forms of childhood cancer.
Shortly after, she began her private practice in clinical neuropsychology, specializing in pediatrics. Over the years, she brought on four associates to work with her. Ellenberg is continuing her research in an article titled “Adult Neurobehavioral Late Effects of Pediatric Low Grade Brain Tumors,” which is expected to be ready for publication later this year. Ellenberg is also an associate clinical professor at UCLA, where she teaches graduate-level students and mentors neuropsychology students who are completing internships.
When she’s not in the classroom, office or lab, Ellenberg spends time traveling abroad. She has gone to Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Some of her favorite trips have been with Operation Smile, where she serves as a volunteer psychologist for children in third world countries undergoing surgery for facial deformities, such as cleft lip and palate.
Ellenberg spent the first two years of her undergraduate education at Wayne State. From there, she transferred to the University of Michigan, where she majored in psychology. After obtaining her BA from U of M, Ellenberg decided to come back to WSU for graduate school in 1972 and received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1978.
“Wayne State was fabulous in psychology. It was very innovative and still is.”
Ellenberg spent time at Wayne State studying at the different libraries on campus to research neuropsychology and picking the brains of psychology professors to gain more information. She had several externships in the area at child guidance clinics and the Allen Park VA. “The Wayne State faculty was excellent. They were passionate about what they did and cared about their students. Every psychology professor I had throughout my time at Wayne State I felt I could talk to, was interested in me and respected me.
“There is a lot to gain from Wayne State University’s open atmosphere. There are endless ways to learn, and being open to new ways to learn and new relationships is so important.”
Written by CLAS Communications Associate Christiana Castillo