Participants in two Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) training programs dedicate years of their careers to learning best practices to serve individuals with disabilities. We’re checking in with four trainees who are taking the skills they honed and are applying them in their respective careers.
The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) training prepares graduate-level health professionals in 15 professions from multiple universities across Tennessee to assume leadership roles to serve children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities. VCL focuses on preparing health professionals to assume leadership roles and develop interprofessional team skills, advanced clinical skills, and research skills to meet the complex needs of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.
The VKC’s University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) faculty and staff train university students, practicing professionals and direct care providers, individuals with disabilities and family members, disability advocates and policy makers. UCEDD training includes classes in degree programs, supervised clinical experiences, continuing education, conferences, workshops, and technical assistance. UCEDD training is done in close collaboration with the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND training program. UCEDD and LEND trainees are mentored to become leaders in the disabilities field.
Below are four updates from trainees who have taken their LEND and UCEDD training and put it into practice outside of the classroom.
Neely takes medical expertise to ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp
Katelyn Neely, M.D., is currently completing a three-year fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s Division of Developmental Medicine. During her first year of fellowship, she was a LEND long-term trainee, and she is currently earning a Master of Public Health degree.
Part of the MPH program requires a practicum experience, and Neely sought out disability-related learning opportunities at the VKC.
“My prior experience as a LEND trainee provided me with the education and training on how to work with individuals with developmental disabilities in a respectful, appropriate, and effective manner,” said Neely. “Primarily, I believe that my experience helped me to recognize the unique strengths of the campers and use these abilities to help me fulfill my duties of medication administration and addressing medical concerns. “
This summer, she provided medical coverage for the 2019 ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp for young adults with Williams syndrome.
“Dr. Neely’s experience as a LEND trainee furthered her knowledge of neurodevelopmental disabilities and her appreciation for interprofessional collaboration,” said Evon Lee, Ph.D., VCL associate director. “This was enhanced by the relationships she formed with LEND and UCEDD faculty that led to the opportunity to work in the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp.”
Neely’s primary job was to help supervise medication administration to the campers so that they could take their regular home medications. She would also examine and help treat any medical concerns with the campers such as scrapes, bruises, rashes, and sore feet.
“Dr. Neely was a wonderful addition to Music Camp! This was her first experience with adults with Williams syndrome, but she was a natural with our campers,” said Music Camp director Hailee Hunt-Hawkins. “She was compassionate, engaged, and thorough with the music campers. She was a vital and valuable part of our team and we are so grateful she was present to manage the medical care of our campers.”
Neely is currently working on integrating a mental health component called Strong Minds into Special Olympics sporting events in collaboration with the VKC UCEDD. Following her last year of fellowship, Neely plans to start work as adevelopmental and behavioral pediatrician.
“I hope to work in an academic center so that I can see patients for their developmental concerns as well as participate in research, teaching, and advocacy,” she said.
TRIAD Postdoctoral Fellows take on faculty positions at VUMC
The VKC’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) has a trio of Postdoctoral Fellows who have moved into or are moving into faculty positions at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) this year. Sara Francis, Ph.D., Liliana Wagner, Ph.D., BCBA, and Laura Corona, Ph.D., all served as Clinical Psychology Fellows and have completed the LEND training program. During their time as Fellows, all three assisted in several UCEDD projects, including one on supported decision-making for individuals with disabilities. They’ve each learned valuable insights from LEND and TRIAD that they will be taking into their new roles.
“We are very proud at TRIAD to have strong support of our post-doctoral training program from VKC and VUMC, said TRIAD director Pablo Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA.“We’re even more proud to have been entrusted by these three remarkable professionals as the organization to help finish out their pre-service training. Indeed, each have tremendous and diverse skill sets, each of which complement current and future services and research across TRIAD, VKC, and VUMC’s Department of Pediatrics. We really couldn’t be more fortunate than to be able to retain all of their expertise and welcome them to our faculty.”
“I prepared for a transition to faculty while I was still a trainee in LEND.” said Sara Francis. “The long-term trainee program included a monthly leadership class where we often discussed and reflected on our upcoming transitions and how to advocate for ourselves. In addition, we focused for the year on starting a hypothetical interprofessional clinic and considering all of the logistical elements required to launch the clinic within a medical center. That thought exercise was very beneficial to my new role where I will have opportunities to start and establish clinical services and coordinate with diverse teams to broaden the role of behavioral health in the department.”
Some of Francis’ work as a TRIAD Fellow, such as collaborating with TRIAD’s outreach team to continue working with and training Tennessee school districts and educators to better serve students with autism and related disabilities and conducting diagnostic assessments of potential autism spectrum disorder, has carried over into her new position. She’ll also continue to serve as the mental health coordinator for the Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis team in Pulmonary Medicine.
“I am thrilled to remain part of the VKC and VUMC organizations,” she said. “Obtaining a postdoctoral placement with TRIAD/VKC was an enormous accomplishment two years ago, and I was thankful to receive such high-quality training through the program. Now, I’ve been welcomed to faculty where I can continue to grow and benefit from a supportive environment with gifted colleagues. What more could I look forward to?”
Wagner credits TRIAD for developing her expertise through a diverse range of responsibilities as a Fellow.
“While at TRIAD I have had many opportunities to grow as a clinician,” said Wagner. “By being embedded in several different clinics, both at the hospital and in primary care, I have gained experience providing diagnostic services and therapy to children of many different ages and presentations. I have also gained valuable skills working alongside the behavior analysts and educational consultants at TRIAD, helping to develop and present content for professional development trainings, consult with school teams, and create and publish online training modules for educators and caregivers. Finally, I have been lucky enough to have received supervision from a range of highly skilled psychologists, whose advice will continue to shape the way I practice moving forward.”
As a faculty member, Wagner will be spending a large part of her time conducting diagnostic evaluations of school-age children with suspected ASD within the Division of Developmental Medicine. She will also be serving the community across various specialty clinics, research projects, and TRIAD-related outreach activities.
“I’m looking forward to continuing what has been an incredible year of learning alongside very talented colleagues,” she said.
Corona gives thanks to her graduate program and internship and her time as a TRIAD postdoctoral fellow and LEND trainee for building a strong foundation and experiences serving children with autism and developmental disabilities.
“I have appreciated the emphasis that the LEND program and TRIAD place on interprofessional teamwork, and I think that this collaborative approach is the best way to provide high quality care and support to the families with whom we work,” Corona said.
Like Wagner, Corona will continue conducting diagnostic evaluations within the Division of Developmental Medicine and providing support for some of TRIAD’s research activities. She will also continue to be involved in TRIAD’s outreach programming, developing and providing professional development and training opportunities for educators and community providers.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to work with such a talented, supportive group of colleagues. I feel very fortunate to be part of this team.”
Elizabeth Turner is associate director of VKC Communications.