When Vanessa Troiani, PhD, assistant professor at Geisinger’s Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI), returned to practice in the region where she grew up, she found a welcoming community, a stimulating job and a fun, challenging volunteer opportunity all in one place.

 

After earning a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Troiani, a native of Berwick, moved to Lewisburg with her husband James Connolly, MD, an emergency physician at Evangelical Community Hospital. Three years ago, she joined the staff of ADMI, a center for personalized autism care, research and education affiliated with Lewisburg’s Bucknell University. There she explores autism and other brain disorders, sharing her expertise in functional MRI, a technique for measuring brain activity by monitoring blood flow.

 

A meeting of minds

 

In 2016, at a cooking demonstration, she met Abby Gulden-Luthi, a mother of four who was developing something she believed Lewisburg needed: a children’s museum. Ms. Gulden-Luthi asked Dr. Troiani to join the fledgling museum’s board as chair of the grant committee.

 

“From the beginning, we wanted the museum to be a welcoming and accessible space for all children, including those with autism and other sensory issues,” said Ms. Gulden-Luthi. “Vanessa is such an advocate for those kids and so knowledgeable in her field that I knew she would bring something special to the board.”

 

Dr. Troiani, who now has a 15-month-old son named Quinn, has spent the past year helping fine-tune the museum’s business plan, review its lease, recruit local business sponsors and design educational exhibits.

 

“My specific contribution has been finding grants to pair with museum projects. It’s an area I’m comfortable with because I write grant applications to fund my work at Geisinger,” she said. She has also enjoyed event planning and fundraising.

 

Dreams become reality

 

When the Lewisburg Children’s Museum opened its doors on Sept.16 (see related story), Vanessa proudly attended with Quinn.

 

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was such an exciting experience to see everything we talked about become reality!”

 

Dr. Troiani looks forward to helping bring new exhibits to the museum, and she’s thrilled with her role in creating a community treasure.

 

“Lewisburg’s children, including Quinn, will enjoy the museum for years to come,” she said.

Geisinger's Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI) staff present the Lewisburg Children's Museum with a donation. Left to right: Vanessa Troiani, PhD; Abby Gulden-Luthi; Christa Martin, PhD; and Susan Mathias.