The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND Training Program prepares graduate-level health professionals in 15 professions – as well as family members and self-advocates – to assume leadership roles to serve children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities. We asked past LEND trainees about how the program has impacted their careers and current trainees about what they’re learning now.
Amy Weitlauf, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, VUMC; Associate Director of Research, VKC TRIAD
I became a LEND long-term trainee as part of my clinical psychology postdoctoral fellowship. It provided me with leadership training and structured opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration at a critical time in my career development. I now collaborate quite frequently with professionals from across the Medical Center.
LEND allowed me to collaborate with, and learn from, students with backgrounds in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and audiology across an extended time period that promoted shared understanding. As a matter of fact, I co-created an informational toolkit with an audiology student who, several years later, went on to care for my younger son, who was born with hearing loss. It was such a surprise to walk into her office with him! But a wonderful surprise.
By involving a family trainee, LEND emphasized to me the importance of family experiences across whatever care I provide or research I conduct. Now, in the dual role of family member and professional, those lessons are invaluable.
Tonya Bowman, M.S.
2019-2020 Family Trainee
Family Resource Specialist, Family Voices of Tennessee; VKC Community Advisory Council Vice-Chair
Family Voices and The Tennessee Disability Coalition have been involved with LEND for a long time. The Family Voices director serves as LEND faculty, and we are members of the LEND Advisory Council. Our ties run deep. I loved working with my LEND cohort. I learned from them and got to share my personal and professional experiences with them. I liked our group modules and sharing our ideas and thoughts. It made me a better family resource specialist.
Katelyn Rossow, M.D., MPH
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, Norton Center for Child Development; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Louisville
As a healthcare professional who works with children with developmental disabilities, I was excited to participate in LEND to learn more about the variety of other disciplines that frequently work with this patient population. I also wanted to learn more about developmental disabilities from perspectives outside of medicine, because understanding how children are doing in the context of their environments (school, home, community, etc.) is an important aspect while caring for my patients.
As part of the LEND program, I participated in research about supported decision making for young adults with developmental disabilities. I particularly enjoyed participating in this project as I learned about supported decision making from a legal, medical, social, and economic standpoint. I still use the information that I learned from that project when talking to teenagers and their families about options to support their decision making as they become adults.
Emily Gard, P.T., DPT
Pediatric Physical Therapy Resident, Vanderbilt University and Belmont University
I was led to the LEND program for the opportunity to gain a more holistic understanding of neurodevelopmental disabilities, both from the perspectives of other professionals and family/self-advocates. I wanted to grow in my knowledge and skills related to interdisciplinary collaboration, and I wanted to improve my leadership and advocacy skills so that I could better serve children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families.
Hearing from and learning alongside trainees from other disciplines as well as family and self-advocates has expanded my knowledge beyond my own discipline’s scope of practice and improved my understanding of interdisciplinary care. Participating in events such as a foster care review board meeting and the Educate to Advocate public policy workshop has broadened my understanding of advocacy and leadership to better serve individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Developing these skills and gaining exposure to other avenues of professional involvement will impact my involvement in areas of leadership in the future.
M.Ed. Student, Vanderbilt University Department of Special Education
I became a LEND trainee because I believe in the importance of promoting interdisciplinary teams to better meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. As a special educator, I could better serve my students and their families if I understood and had a chance to collaborate with other professionals that they interact with. Also, I wanted the opportunity to communicate with those professionals about the role special education has in the lives of students with disabilities.
I am so grateful that the family and self-advocate trainees are willing to share their stories and experiences with the trainees. It reinforces the importance of always including families and individuals with disabilities is the conversation. Their input is unmatched.
As a trainee, I have had the opportunity to attend meetings with individuals from the Tennessee Disability Coalition and Disability Rights Tennessee. In these meetings, I learned a great deal about the history and current state of policy and advocacy for individuals with disabilities. As I move into a full-time teaching position, I plan to use the resources provided by these organizations for encouraging families and students to participate in advocacy opportunities. I will also be able to better communicate with families and students about their rights and where to find support when needed.
Sara Francis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Psychology, VUMC
I participated in LEND as part of my postdoctoral fellowship with VKC TRIAD. I was fortunate enough to stay on as faculty with VUMC, and I value the relationships I started through LEND. I still reach out to key faculty from LEND for resources for families I serve now in pediatric psychology. The network of LEND is an important one to have your corner!
During LEND, I had the opportunity to learn the training backgrounds and day-to-day responsibilities of OTs, SLPs, PTs, and the developmental pediatrics fellows. I get to work on interdisciplinary teams quite often now, and I feel very comfortable partnering, learning from, and leaning on my teammates from other disciplines.
2016-17 Trainee (East Tennessee State University); Mosaic International Fellow, Building a Caring Community, Moshi, Tanzania
LEND was a brand-new program at East Tennessee State University when I was in school. My advisor recommended I consider participating as a trainee. For me, it was an easy decision. I was super grateful to work with and learn from a diverse and talented range of students and faculty from many disciplines and universities across Tennessee, united by a passion for disability rights, inclusion, and justice.
Recently, I heard a proverb from Ethiopia: “if you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other.” As humans, we are inherently interdependent and need each other. Our culture in America often encourages us to work in silos and think individualistically regarding our careers. LEND gave me the opportunity to think outside of my special education training about the many other factors that impact human development and disability. Learning from social workers, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, nurses, and more really broadened my knowledge and deepened my values toward inter-disciplinary collaboration. I’m very grateful for all I learned through my participation in LEND and the community I created there, which I still engage with today.
Jillian C. Hamilton, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow, VKC TRIAD
I’ve really enjoyed participating in rich discussions with family advocates and sharing interdisciplinary perspectives on relevant cases. There are several elements of the LEND training that will be helpful with whatever I do next. Most impactful may be the additional exposure to interdisciplinary work, the context gained from meeting with community agencies, the intentional focus on communication, and the knowledge and perspectives shared by self and family advocates.