Felicia Greenfield, Cait Kearney, Leah Fein, and Meg Kalafsky at AAIC
By Meghan McCarthy
When Cait Kearney joined the Penn Memory Center (PMC), she was a recent college graduate without full-time work experience.
In the three years since, Kearney has had positions at PMC created for her, published hundreds of newsletters, led training programs, represented the center at an international conference, and most recently completed her master’s in professional writing from Northern Arizona University.
Simply put, our communications team would not be the same without her. As she embarks on her newest chapter, we’re looking back at her journey and incredible contributions.
This is Kearney’s PMC story.
From intern to specialist
After graduating from Allegheny College with a bachelor’s in psychology, Kearney had her sights on becoming a speech-language pathologist (SLP). Yet once in graduate school, the program didn’t click.
“About three weeks into my SLP program, I realized I was more excited about a blog I was running than the graduate work,” said Kearney. “I found I enjoyed communications work around the brain and human behavior more than the clinical aspects of being an SLP.”
Trusting her gut, Kearney took a leap of faith and applied for a content management internship at PMC. After interviewing with Terrence Casey, director of communications and outreach, and Jason Karlawish, PMC co-director, Kearney landed the role in September of 2020.
Kearney quickly demonstrated her gifts in writing, graphic design, and website management and became “indispensable” at the conclusion of her internship.
“A foundation of our training program is to find people who don’t necessarily have a background in this work but show a passion for creative and informed communications work,” Casey said. “And Cait really exemplified that as well as we’ve seen in the program.”
So, Kearney embarked on her new role as a communications coordinator and again, she thrived. In spring of 2023, she was promoted to communications specialist.
“It’s funny, looking back,” said Kearney. “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know this would lead to a full-time job, or how important my training here would be.”
Cait Kearney at Franklin Field running a race to raise money for aging research at Penn
Harnessing her voice and skillset
In her communications specialist role, Kearney oversees all content management at PMC. Specifically, she organizes the weekly newsletter, Insight, social media channels, and websites.
Kearney’s philosophy is simple: create content that is accurate, engaging, and inclusive.
“I always think about having an expert voice, using plain language, and incorporating stories to relay the information,” said Kearney. “I also love using creative multimedia options.”
Although Kearney spends a lot of time keeping up to date with news related to research and clinical trials, she’s not afraid to get creative with original ideas.
Over the years, a few of her favorite articles have featured topics on paradoxical lucidity, LATE, grief yoga, and this year’s Annual Alzheimer’s International Conference (AAIC), which she covered in her Brain Bites Blog.
Cait Kearney and communications intern Matthew Smith at an academic conference
Beyond content, Kearney has played a pivotal role in training the communications interns who followed in her footsteps.
Whether by educating interns on what makes writing digestible, or providing feedback about graphic design and accessibility, Kearney truly has paid her own training forward.
Reflecting on her role, Kearney most values the variety each day has brought.
“My job definitely keeps me on my toes,” said Kearney. “I love that I have to think critically about breaking news and am also able to do creative projects. It has fostered my artistic side while also allowing me to share touching human experiences.”
Continued Growth and Inspiration
Throughout her time at PMC, Kearney can clearly identify areas of professional and personal growth.
“In a very short amount of time, Cait became an excellent teacher regarding best practices in the industry,” Casey said. “I looked forward to our planning discussions because I was always learning something new from her latest studies.”
Since her start, Kearney has more than doubled the open rate of our weekly newsletter, Insight, through restructuring and cycling through strategic content themes.
This summer, Kearney represented our team at AAIC in Amsterdam. Beyond months of preparative content planning, Kearney documented her experience through a daily blog and more than 30 social media posts.
Kearney has also been a key contributor to our Committee on Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (CEID).
“Contributing to CEID and being lucky enough to collaborate with individuals with such diverse backgrounds has been incredible,” said Kearney.
Beyond professional growth, Kearney has felt extremely inspired by the many individuals that comprise PMC.
“We are a team of innovators,” said Kearney. “Our researchers always think outside of the box, and they don’t wait around for others. It’s changed my whole life perspective and problem-solving approach. I now think of myself as a doer who can make change.”
Cait Kearney spends her free time doing art and exploring Philly.
Long-lasting relationships and new pursuits
Looking back, Kearney attributes much of her growth to Terrence Casey.
“I had no communications experience, so Terry took a chance on me,” said Kearney. “He trained me in everything I do now, but also gave me the space to make mistakes and learn. He’s really instilled how to give others valuable, critical feedback.”
Clearly, the feeling is mutual:
“I tell every new hire that they are not just welcome but encouraged to challenge me on why we do what we do and to suggest change when necessary,” Casey said. “Cait questioned — respectfully — every corner of our communications operation, leading to improvements across the board. I’m grateful for her perspective.”
Outside of communications, Kearney values working with several powerhouse women.
“I’m so inspired by the strong women I’ve gotten to know through PMC,” said Kearney. “There are so many female researchers that are true leaders in our field. They are women who have awesome ideas, who are never afraid to speak up. They are wonderful role models.”
This fall, Kearney made to decision to develop her on independent contracting company, Pathos Communication Services (Pathos).
“It’s all come full circle ironically,” said Kearney. “PMC has instilled in me the importance of being someone with my own ideas and initiatives. Now, I feel confident enough to go out on my own to pursue my dreams.”
While Kearney is open to the projects Pathos takes on, her goal is to continue content creation, writing, editing, and graphic design in the realm of health and science. Pathos will also offer professional writing workshops to organizations.
The communications team, and entire staff at PMC, congratulate Kearney on this new endeavor and look forward to supporting her continued growth.