The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) has received a $3.5 million grant over five years from the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to renew funding for the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (VCL).
The purpose of LEND programs – which stands for Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities – is to improve the health of individuals who have, or are at risk for developing, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities (DD). LEND programs do this by enhancing the expertise and leadership skills of graduate students, practicing professionals, families, and self-advocates who are dedicated to working with and improving systems of care for individuals with ASD/DD.
One of 60 LEND programs, the VCL includes faculty and trainees from Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College, Milligan University, Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as Family Voices of Tennessee.
“I am excited to continue working with our amazing LEND faculty and staff to train a new generation of leaders in health care and education,” said VCL director Evon Batey Lee, Ph.D., who also serves as associate professor of Pediatrics, Psychology, and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “Over the next five years, we will provide a balanced program of academic, clinical, and community opportunities for our trainees, and will continue our emphasis on reaching underserved populations.”
Each year, VCL long-term trainees from 14 professions complete an intensive interprofessional program requiring more than 300 hours of training. Training includes a rigorous Core Curriculum in ASD/DD; a monthly Leadership Seminar series; a Care Navigation Practicum in which trainees provide care management while learning about social determinants of health and community-based services; clinical experiences in various interprofessional, hospital-based, community-based, and public health clinics; individual and group projects; and a broad list of activities from which trainees can tailor their experiences based on their professional goals.
The VCL also coordinates intermediate training activities (40-299 hours) for graduate and postgraduate students in the fields of nutrition, genetic counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pediatrics, and speech-language pathology.
“We’re also very excited to include self-advocates in upcoming trainee cohorts,” said Lee. “When we have done so in the past, it has been a highly impactful experience for all of the trainees. The self-advocates gain leadership knowledge in addition to self-determination skills that assist them in becoming stronger voices in their own communities. And they bring perspectives and personal experiences to the program, which increases the understanding, knowledge, and levels of empathy for future practicing professionals.”
“The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND is an essential component of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center that provides a rich clinical and research training environment,” said VKC director Jeffrey Neul, M.D., Ph.D. “We know that access to health care is a significant problem for many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so providing training that includes disability content for our master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral level trainees is a highly effective way to address some of those barriers to care. The competitive renewal of the LEND funding is a tribute to Dr. Lee’s outstanding leadership.”