Anthony Stringer fell in love with neuroscience when he was just an undergraduate and influenced by a young professor named Joe who introduced him to brain science in a course on physiological psychology.
“This course in physiological psychology was the most challenging and engaging psychology course I had ever taken,” Stringer said. “And I was hooked on the possibility of becoming a neuroscientist. The problem was that this young college professor was making so little money as a beginning neuroscientist that he supplemented his academic salary with a morning paper delivery route.”
Stringer’s dilemma was that he grew up in a single-parent home with limited means and he had already experienced waking up at the crack of dawn to deliver newspapers for extra cash. He didn’t want his future to be as economically challenging as his past. So he continued pursuing what he thought to be the more financially stable career in clinical psychology. It wasn’t until his second year of graduate school when he discovered neuropsychology – a specialty area within clinical psychology that combined neuroscience with clinical practice.
“I knew immediately this was the career I had been searching for. One that would let me wed my growing passion for neuroscience with the prospect of making a reasonable living through clinical practice,” Stringer said. “I was grateful someone had already invented the profession I was meant to practice.”
As for challenges, Stringer said his biggest challenges came early on in the way of his home life that included father’s death, his mother’s declining health, financial instability, growing up in what was deemed an unsafe neighborhood, and more, that made Stringer’s teen years challenging. But education was his lifesaver.
“It was my ticket to a different life – at least in the long term,” he said. “But it was also my short term escape. When you are hungry for it, knowledge can be totally captivating… Even in the worst of times, I made straight A’s in school because the worse things became, the more I was motivated to study.”
He also credits his dedicated high school teachers who were there for him, encouraged him, and believed in him that made the difference in his life.
Stringer, who has spent most of his career at Emory, loves his work and here are just a couple of reasons why. He said not long ago he diagnosed a patient with a brain condition in their adult son that had left their son totally dependent on others for basic self-care.
“They had been searching for an answer for four years and I was able to give them one [an answer],” he said. “There is a treatment for what he has with at least a 50 percent success rate. I gave them hope when they had nearly given up. I love being able to do that.”
He said he also loves that he’s still a student, and that after three decades in the field, his patients are still teaching him a thing or two about the human brain.
“I love that I work in a neurological rehabilitation setting where I get to observe the courage with which patients overcome seemingly life-altering medical challenges, reminding me of the resilience of the human spirit,” Stringer said.
His advice to those just starting out is to figure out the work you’re uniquely suited to do and then find a place that will allow you to do that work.
“If you can't do the work you are meant to do, you are in the wrong place,” Stringer said. “Satisfaction doesn't come from doing the work other people want you to do. It comes from doing the work you were meant to do.”
Because of his love for his profession and his dedication to his patients Stringer was recognized with a 2019 Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Healthcare Hero Award in the Healthcare Innovator/Researcher category. He said he was surprised and humbled to receive the award.
“When I tell people what I do, I usually have to explain my field to them,” he said. “Hence, my surprise at being recognized outside my immediate professional circle for work that I do. And humbled, because I consider it a lucky privilege to be able to do the work.”
And while Stringer knows just how important his work is, what matters to him most is his own family.
“As much as I appreciate the Business Chronicle's Healthcare Heroes Award, what matters most is knowing my wife, my daughter, and my granddaughter love me, and upon occasion seem to think of me as their hero,” he said.
CDC Federal Credit Union congratulates Anthony Stringer!