Even before she first set foot on Ursinus’s campus, Joy A. O’Grady has been fascinated with how the brain works and why people do the things they do. At Ursinus, she nurtured her passion and curiosity for these subjects, conducting experiments on topics such as peer pressure and eating disorders, and eventually majoring in psychology. Now a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in Neuropsychology, O’Grady continued her education with a master’s degree in psychology from American University in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Memphis.
In her nearly two decades as a clinical psychologist, O’Grady has amassed a breadth of experience, becoming an expert in her field. She has worked with all ages, assessing and treating patients with a variety of neuropsychological problems, including traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, developmental disorders, autism, ADHD and dementia. Her time working in university and children’s clinics gave her the opportunity to provide individual psychotherapy and psychoeducational assessments while simultaneously conducting research on cognitive remediation methods for childhood cancer survivors. Being around so much pain and suffering will take its toll on anyone, but O’Grady always gives her all to her patients and conducts herself with poise, professionalism and compassion. Longtime friend, Ursinus classmate and nominator Sara Jacobson ’94 admires this aspect of O’Grady’s personality. “She is warm, caring, funny and always brings people together,” says Jacobson.
While pursuing her Ph.D., O’Grady balanced coursework, clinical work, teaching assistant and research assistant positions and conference presentations. To date, she has coauthored two book chapters and five journal articles and presented at numerous professional conferences on topics as wide-ranging as schizophrenia and chronic fatigue syndrome. After her Ph.D., O’Grady served for two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville, where her exemplary work earned her a scholarship award and the position of chief fellow in her final year.
Though much of her early work was in pediatrics, O’Grady now works primarily with adults and seniors at her current practice in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to her private practice, O’Grady has provided consultation services for a Concierge Medical Practice and Westminster Canterbury, a retirement community in Richmond. She also participates in clinical trials for new medications for patients with dementia and is a rater for four international Alzheimer’s drug trials. O’Grady is active in her professional community, holding memberships in the International Neuropsychological Society, the National Academy of Neuropsychology and the American Psychological Society. She also continues to be an engaged member of the Ursinus community, serving as a class chairman in 2005 and as a 25th Class Reunion Committee member just this past year.
A single glance at her resume is enough to prove that Joy O’Grady is more than deserving of this award for professional achievement, but Joy is so much more than what she’s achieved in her career. She is someone who gives 100 percent every time—to her patients, her friends, her family and her community. Even in these trying times of COVID-19, she has found ways to provide comfort to those around her and to bring people together. Says classmate Sara Jacobson, “The Joy O’Grady I know—the one who can rally folks to come to Homecoming, lead a campaign of contributions to our class reunion fund, or successfully organize a disparate group of Ursinus alumni to meet for a virtual happy hour hangout when we’re trapped at home, miles apart—can do those things because of the person we know her to be, not just because of what she’s achieved. She is a person who values friendship, and her door is always open to anyone.”
Q&A with Joy O’Grady ’94
How is winning an Ursinus Alumni Award significant for you personally and professionally?
I feel quite honored to have been nominated and selected for such an award. It is so easy to get wrapped up and the day-to-day details of professional practice, I sometimes fail to step back and appreciate the potential impact of what I do as a psychologist.
How did Ursinus College prepare you for a career in clinical psychology and neuropsychology?
I have always appreciated how “spoiled” I was to have attended such a small college and the personal access I had to my professors. In one of my advanced psychology classes as a senior, I was the only student in the class! The professors knew our names, knew our interests and goals, and made sure we were well-prepared as we continued our educations or entered the workforce.
How have your Ursinus mentors shaped your role as a leader in your industry?
I have tried to emulate their enthusiasm, compassion, and empathy. Dr. George Fago was my academic advisor, and he firmly encouraged me to stay on track during my four years while keeping me laughing. Drs. Eileen England and Catherine Chambliss demonstrated how strong women with passion for science can lead other women to similar achievements. Dr. Ken Richardson’s interest in finding out why people behave as they do sparked my dedication to delving in even further. However, it was Dr. Bruce Rideout’s classes in biological psychology and neuroscience that really started me down the path to become a neuropsychologist. They were extremely difficult, yet I could not get enough!
What has been your proudest contribution to your professional community?
My primary role is a clinician working with individuals with cognitive difficulties, and many times I must have difficult conversations with patients and families. Any time someone thanks me for assisting in their care or tells me that the evaluation we completed made a difference in their or their loved one’s lives are my proudest moments.
What was your proudest UC moment?
Honesty, what I cherish most about my Ursinus days are the relationships I developed there. It is very difficult for me to believe that 25 years have passed since I lived on campus. The friends I made at Ursinus are ones for a lifetime. We continue to laugh together, celebrate milestones, and comfort each other in times of loss or uncertainty. I have a solid foundation of support which I will rely on forever. That has been the greatest gift.