The mission of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) has always been to facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families. This mission is lived out daily by the professionals who represent the Center as researchers, clinicians, trainees, and staff. Recently, several individuals were recognized for their dedication and service to people with disabilities by receiving prestigious accolades from local and national professional and disability organizations.
Elisabeth Dykens, NADD Research Award
VKC Director Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., was awarded the inaugural Research Award from NADD, an association for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health needs. The award was presented at the 2014 NADD Conference held in November in San Antonio, TX.
Dykens is Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair, VKC director, professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics, and co-director of the VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).
The 2014 NADD Research Award recognizes a scholar who has made significant scientific contributions toward the understanding and advancement of mental wellness for people with developmental disabilities, has disseminated research findings widely through both traditional and nontraditional (media) venues, and whose collaborative work has inspired and encouraged other research efforts in this field.
Lynnette Henderson, Autism Tennessee Volunteer of the Year Award
Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D., received Autism Tennessee’s 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award. Henderson is the VKC research recruitment coordinator, associate director of Adult Community Services for the VKC UCEDD, and research assistant professor of Pediatrics.
Henderson began volunteering with the organization in 2005 to facilitate their Education series, which is held at the VKC. She joined the Board in 2007 and has served in every office except Treasurer. Among her accomplishments are serving on the Education Series Advisory Committee and helping to revamp the Orientation Series, creating the Second Helping Series, planning workshops, and creating County Contact trainings.
Recently, Henderson and Autism Tennessee executive director Amanda Peltz wrote a Community Engaged Research Core Grant funded by Vanderbilt Integrative and Translational Research Center that, along with a Baptist Healing Trust Grant, allowed them to examine the impact of the Parent Information and Referral Program on the access to needed services, social isolation, and mental health of parents of children with ASD.
Elise McMillan, DSAMT Mollie Burd Gavigan Award
Elise McMillan, J.D., received the Mollie Burd Gavigan Service Award of the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee (DSAMT). The award is in recognition of McMillan’s “instrumental role in improving the lives of individuals with Down syndrome in Middle Tennessee.” The award was presented recently at the annual DSAMT Buddy Race.
McMillan is co-director of the VKC UCEDD, director of Community Outreach, and senior associate in Psychiatry.
The parent of a young adult with Down syndrome and two other adult children, McMillan’s “contributions to the Down syndrome community are truthfully too vast to list,” said Alecia Talbott, DSAMT executive director. “More than 17 years ago, Elise, Sheila Moore, and Joanne Drumright saw the needs in our community and created DSAMT. Since then, she has been instrumental in helping to start the Down Syndrome Clinic at Vanderbilt Pediatrics, the first Best Buddies Chapter at Vanderbilt, Down syndrome research at Vanderbilt Medical Center, and Next Steps at Vanderbilt. She has always been a part of everything that has led up to today with regard to Down syndrome in Middle Tennessee and continues to do so much for our community. She is a great parent, an advocate, a trailblazer, and friend to us all. Our families, self-advocates, schools, physicians and community members, not just in Middle Tennessee but nationwide, are truly fortunate and grateful for all that Elise has contributed.”
Jeff Schall, AAAS Fellow
Twelve members of Vanderbilt University’s faculty have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this year, including Jeffrey Schall, Ph.D., E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Neuroscience, professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and director of the Center for Integrative Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience and Vanderbilt Vision Research Center.
“We are very proud of the contributions of these outstanding faculty to discovery and learning, which enriches the entire university,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente said at the ceremony. “In addition to their remarkable scientific contributions, we’re additionally gratified that several have been recognized for their service to the scientific community, mentoring and efforts to increase diversity in the sciences.”
Schall was recognized by AAAS for groundbreaking empirical and theoretical work elucidating the neural substrates of visual perception, attention, eye movements, cognitive control, and decision making. He will be recognized on Feb. 14 at the 2015 AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, CA.
Zachary Warren, AUCD Young Professional Award
VKC investigator Zachary Warren, Ph.D., was honored with the 2014 Young Professional Award at the 2014 Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) Conference held in Washington, D.C. This award is given to professionals in the disabilities field under the age of 40 years who have demonstrated dedication and commitment to people with developmental disabilities and their families through their work as a bridge between the academic sector and the community.
Warren is associate professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Special Education and is director of the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) and VUMC Autism Clinical Services.
In the 9 years since Warren completed his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, he has become a recognized leader in Tennessee and nationally on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, clinical services, training for families and professionals, and research. Since 2010, Warren has directed TRIAD, the hub of autism work at the VKC and Vanderbilt University. Although his work is focused on ASD, the models of services and training that he has developed and leads also benefit children with other developmental disabilities and their families.
The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is very proud of these dedicated faculty members.