Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) member Jeff Hine, Ph.D., BCBA, is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of Pediatrics who serves as director of Primary Care Outreach/Training with the VKC’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). His current research and clinical interests include integration of behavioral-health services into pediatric primary care practices, early identification, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders within primary care, and use of telemedicine to enhance treatment and support for children with behavioral-health concerns and their families.
In the interview below, Hine shares what inspires his research in developmental disabilities, what he has learned through his work, and how membership with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center helps him achieve his goals.
Tell me about your attraction to developmental disabilities research. Do you have a personal connection to disability?
I started working with adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities while in high school and college through summer camps and residential programs. These experiences presented important opportunities for me to learn about different professionals who help support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. This included working as a practicum student though the Koegel Autism Research Center at UC Santa Barbara and understanding the impact of combined service and research programs. I have always valued my clinical work and its impact for individual families; however, I quickly understood that studying the outcomes of larger clinical, or systems-based, programs can have a much broader impact. This theme has carried on through my current work: providing good clinical care and studying the larger impact of our team’s work at the same time.
What are your current research interests and what problem(s) or challenge(s) does it address?
Much of my current research involves working with other fantastic VKC members and Department of Pediatrics faculty to help increase access for families who have a child with a developmental disability. This most often includes studying programs related to primary care training models, embedded or telehealth diagnostic assessment models, and capacity-building interventions through early intervention and community providers. Many families experience challenges to accessing care for their child with autism, especially through primary care. So, my research has focused on how to best train professionals (or future professionals) within those settings to better support families throughout the continuum of care.
Do you have a story about a research participant or a breakthrough that illustrates the impact of your work?
I think what has been most rewarding for me is being able to share our team’s work and model with other centers and regions. We have worked pretty hard to decrease the amount of time families have to wait in order to receive a diagnostic assessment and access ASD-specific resources/services within their own region. We still have a long way to go, but most systems around our country struggle to support families as efficiently as we are. Being able to share our outcomes with other centers, and to see them very excited and motivated to implement similar models, has been good evidence for us that what we are doing is practical and impactful on a larger scale.
What are your reasons for becoming a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Member? How does the VKC enhance the work you do?
Being a VKC member allows unparalleled access to interdisciplinary collaboration, mentorship, and training/research support. The breadth of resources and research superstars here at VKC help push the envelope for our research group to continue to be innovative, first-class, and as impactful as possible.