Vanderbilt Consortium LEND offers ‘mini-fellowships’ in pediatric developmental medicine to health care professionals

Young girl with mom at doctor's office

Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) is helping to address a need for more knowledge and experience in developmental disabilities by offering developmental-behavioral pediatric mini-fellowships to health care professionals interested in learning more about intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Participants in the 10-week program learn about common topics in developmental medicine while also gaining hands-on experience working in the Center for Child Development at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. During their clinical work, they “shadow” Vanderbilt Developmental Medicine faculty and build their knowledge in topics such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities, language and motor delays, learning disabilities, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In exchange for their time, mini-fellowship recipients receive 50 hours of continuing education credit required by their respective professions.

Tyler Reimschisel, M.D.

Tyler Reimschisel, M.D.

“There is a significant wait time for patients with developmental concerns or developmental disabilities to be seen in our clinics at the Center for Child Development,” said Tyler Reimschisel, M.D., MHPE, director of the Division of Developmental Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics & director of the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND. “Also, the training that most physicians and other primary pediatric health care professionals received in this field was not that rigorous. Therefore, in an effort to help ensure that those professionals have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively approach patients with developmental concerns or disabilities, we decided to offer this training in an effort to increase the capacity of well-educated professionals who could provide care to these patients.”

One of the advantages of completing the fellowship program is the opportunity to receive training in the STAT-MD autism screening tool in order to better recognize behaviors and characteristics familiar in a child who might be on the autism spectrum.

“The STAT-MD was designed to provide a way for primary care health care professionals to systematically assess patients who may have autism,” said Reimschisel. “Based on this assessment, they can determine the likelihood that the patient should receive a formal diagnosis of autism, make appropriate school-based referrals to help ensure that the patient is receiving the requisite educational services and supports so they can maximize their potential, and provide the necessary referrals to psychologists and other specialists in the field of developmental disabilities.”

There have been 14 participants in the mini-fellowship program since its first cohort in 2016. Among them have been general pediatricians, specialists in cardiology and internal medicine, and nurse practitioners. Those who took part in the fellowship program have had between 5 and 30 years of clinical experience. According to post-experience survey responses, health care professionals often take part in the mini-fellowships to be able to better assess their own patients, to learn more about local resources, and to increase their interactions with developmental medicine specialists.

“Learning from the provider-patient interaction is very organic and spontaneous. The providers were very open to questions and discussion,” said one participant. “I also really enjoyed the genetics and headache presentations as I was not really expecting to have those areas explored. Most of the providers are natural teachers.”

“Overall, this was a fantastic pediatric mini-fellowship,” said another participant. “I am incredibly grateful and thankful to Dr. Reimschisel for allowing me to take part in this pilot program that he put together for us, and also very much appreciate his sharing his knowledge and expertise with us. I am also very thankful to the pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Medicine (DBM) faculty who took time and energy from their own schedules to share their patients with us, to see their patients with us, to teach us, to answer our questions, to provide us with resources, and to give us their support.”

The next Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Mini-Fellowship cohort will begin Feb. 28, 2019, and run through May 2.

“Also, for the first time, we’re offering the mini-fellowship as a condensed one-week session,” said Tara Minor, medical educator for the Department of Pediatrics. “The format is essentially the same, but participants will come from 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. for a week, from May 13-17, 2019.”

For more information about the mini-fellowships or participating in the Spring 2019 cohort (currently full but with a waitlist) or the one-week session in May, contact Tara Minor at

For more information about Vanderbilt Consortium LEND, visit the VCL webpage.

Elizabeth Turner is associate program manager for VKC Communications

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