When I was a Wisconsin LEND trainee, I recall viewing a TEDxTalk, “Leading with Lollipops,” by DrewDudley during our final Leadership Development Workshop that year. Dudley described leadership perceptions that affect our comfort considering or referring to ourselves as “leaders,” despite where or what we have or have not accomplished in our professional or personal trajectories. The perceptions that “leadership,” or calling ourselves “leaders,” is attained or deserved if we do something monumental, or, “changing the world,” as he described, diminishes things we do daily that makes us all leaders. Dudley described a “lollipop moment” as “…a moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better” (TEDxToronto - Drew Dudley "Leading with Lollipops" ). He shared a personal story of a young woman who approached him on his last day at a university he attended, and she told him about the first time she met him. She was a new student who was very anxious and unsure about her fit at this university. On registration day, she decided it would be best to quit, and as she was about to inform her parents of this decision, she saw Dudley walking out of a building with a bucket of lollipops as part of his charity work. As Dudley approached her, he stopped to speak to a man standing next to her and asked him to give her a lollipop. The events that unfolded after that moment not only helped her change her mind and remain at this university, but she also formed an important relationship stemming from this interaction. She thanked Dudley for approaching her that day, and because of this encounter (i.e., “lollipop moment”), her life changed from that point forward.
I recently attended the 2019 Making Lifelong Connections (MLC19) conference, with the theme, “Let Opportunity Lead You….” I was one of the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) plenary presenters and a panelist for the current and emerging MCH professionals panel as a current MCH professional. In preparing for the panel, one question was, "What brought you to MCH?" I return to this idea of a “lollipop moment” whenever asked these kinds of questions. This moment is my quintessential "lollipop moment." My MCH journey began in 2006 when I was invited to apply to the MCH Pipeline Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UW-Milwaukee) by the training director at that time. This person would also be one of my trusty suppliers of “lollipop moments” for many years to come. During my quiet drive to Madison, Wisconsin for the conference, I tried to find ways to describe how pivotal that invitation was to me. I felt like I had shot out of a rocket; this was when I felt I took off and my MCH journey began. This invitation, or “lollipop moment,” changed my life and greatly influenced my future professional accomplishments after that (e.g., my research interests, my publications, my career as a pediatric occupational therapist, participating in Wisconsin LEND, being a 2018 TAG Ambassador, and now continuing for a second term in the 2019 TAG).
Attending MLC19 provided an environment to showcase my MCH leadership through the TAG plenary session on cultural competency and the MCH professional panel. MLC19 represented the vastness of skills, experiences, and enthusiasm for various niches within MCH. This event also fostered networking, discussions, and learning to support continued MCH leadership development. The presentation on “Imposter Syndrome,” by Cecilia O. Macias was especially captivating and resonant as my Ph.D. training winds down in the next few months. As I explore new paths to take with a Ph.D., I know my MCH training is an integral part of my professional identity and work I want to continue regardless of where I land. I also know I have a responsibility to turn around and help future MCH professionals in line, as was done when I received my very first “lollipop,” and create those moments for others in impactful and valuable ways to support the proliferation of the MCH field.
Sarah Garcia is a Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND ) fellow and PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Sarah's research focuses on the intersection of health, disability and society. Sarah's MNLEND project uses nationally representative data to examine explanations for the low prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) among Hispanic/Latino children in the United States. She finds that while Hispanic/Latino children born in the U.S. have lower rates of NDD than white children, Hispanic/Latino children who were not born in the U.S. have even lower rates of NDD than Hispanic/Latino children who were born in the U.S.
Sarah is presenting preliminary findings of this project at the annual American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) conference in June. She also has a co-authored paper from this work with Drs. Jennifer Hall-Lande (MNLEND alumni) and Kelly Nye-Lengerman, both of whom are University of Minnesota ICI (UCEDD) Research Associates. Their collaborative paper is currently under review at the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. MNLEND has given Sarah new knowledge of NDD, from the barriers and issues surrounding screening and interventions to a deeper understanding of the importance of policy for families and people with NDD. Sarah plans to pursue a tenure-track faculty position in Sociology after the completion of her PhD and will use the knowledge gained during LEND to become a leader in the field of disability studies.
As part of her MNLEND project, Predoctoral Fellow, Doaa Elgaali, is supporting a local parent and teacher, Abdulkadir Diriye, who began an inclusive Dugsi (Sunday School for Muslim youth) for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) / intellectual developmental disorders (IDD) in the Twin Cities metro area. In this project, Doaa is listening to families’ needs and wants, developing evidence-based classroom materials for the school children, and planning community events for the families to share their stories and evidence-based resources. Fluent in Arabic and a former Dugsi teacher herself, Doaa hopes to support the many families in the Dugsi project. She is planning a community event that will feature a film from the series “On the Autism Spectrum: Families Find Help and Hope" that seeks to raise awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and services available to Minnesota families within the following communities: African American, Hmong, Latino, Native American, and Somali. These films were produced with funding from the Minnesota Department of Human Services by the University of Minnesota’s Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC-CL), housed in the Institute on Community Integration (ICI-UCEDD). The films provide support, encouragement, and direction for families experiencing ASD within communities who have historically lacked full access to available resources. Each 15- to 20-minute film features interviews with parents, advocates, medical professionals, educators, and community leaders speaking in the language of the specific community, with subtitles available in English.
Doaa set a LEND goal to support and learn how to better provide evidence-based care to children with NDD from underprivileged communities. In her project, Doaa helps to ensure children have access to resources and social supports that can enable them to lead successful, independent adult lives.
The Dugsi project is led by two RTC-CL (ICI-UCEDD) Diversity Disability Fellows, Ashwak Hassan (MNLEND alumna and mental health therapist) and Sheyhan Gelle (parent and county-level social worker). With their and Abdulkadir’s mentorship, Doaa is excited to complete a project that benefits the children at the inclusive Dugsi school. Doaa is completing her first year as a Master of Public Health graduate student with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. She is originally from Iowa.
Nasteha Mohamed is a MNLEND Predoctoral Fellow based in the University of Minnesota’s Master of Social Work program. As a social worker, she provides services tailored to the needs of culturally diverse healthcare consumers and their family members. She works closely with the Minnesota Somali community addressing healthcare disparities and social determinants of health. This community has a lot of preconceived notions around vaccines and autism and, as a result, was hit the hardest by the measles outbreak. The Somali community has been targeted by anti-vaccine messages, which has affected vaccination rates among Somali children. The Somali community, per Nasteha, is uniquely vulnerable and is looking for answers. As part of her 2018-2019 LEND project, Nasteha uses her social work background with community healthcare to mitigate the gap between healthcare professionals and the community. Her project involves three different components related to research, psychoeducation and resources for the Somali community to educate the community and dispute the link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines and autism.
A new podcast series for families with newly diagnosed children with autism and developmental disabilities is under development by current Minnesota LEND Fellow Tera Girardin, as part of her LEND project. The podcast will be hosted by a former LEND Fellow, Dr. Beth Dierker, now Executive Director of Communities Engaging Autism (CEA). Both Beth and Tera are autism parents themselves. Tera is also the author & photographer of the book Faces of Autism. The podcast series is a way to provide helpful information to families, conversational in tone, yet at the same time grounded in research. The podcast is meant for families who are wading through the information and decisions that come along with an autism or developmental disability diagnosis. The podcast, entitled The Oxygen Mask Podcast, will include six episodes for its first season.
Per Tera, the title for the series comes from the idea that, just as you are instructed to do before an airplane takes off, families will need to put on their own masks before assisting others. In the same way, family members need to learn to take care of themselves to be able to better help their newly diagnosed children. Tera said, “We want to provide families an oxygen mask, or a breath of fresh air and a pause, for parents who are navigating their families’ journey with autism or other developmental differences.” Themes for the planned podcast include self-care while caring for others, person-centered thinking, relationship strains, avoiding burnout and information overload, and learning to trust your internal compass. The first episode launches in April 2019 and will be distributed through the Communities Engaging Autism website , Tera Photography website and other podcast and social media platforms.
I am currently working as a Speech Language Pathologist for a school on Long Island, NY for children/adolescents with disabilities. The students I work with have varying degrees of disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome. I also work closely with other disciplines, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and classroom teachers. I keep in touch with parents on their child's progress and any information they would like to know.
I would not be as confident in my skills as a Speech Language Pathologist if it were not for my experience in the LEND program. I learned how to be a successful, professional public speaker, which has impacted me greatly in my career. I had the opportunity to learn about all disciplines, many of which I work with on a daily basis. LEND has also given me opportunities for continuing education, including the Making Lifelong Connections conference and introducing me to the Sibling Leadership Network. I am grateful for my time in LEND and hope to continue to keep in touch with the program.
I have dedicated my life work to caring for vulnerable children and their families. My connection to these children runs deep. I am a former orphan, cared for by the Sisters of Charity Foundling Home in New York. In 1869, three Sisters of Charity opened the doors of this home to save the lives of babies abandoned on the streets of New York City. The Sisters’ ministry evolved into a comprehensive spectrum of community support services designed to empower vulnerable children and families. With their support, my story is a happy one – a wonderful Brooklyn family adopted me. Though they were never able to graduate from high school, my parents instilled in me a great love for learning and a strong moral compass. Today, I describe myself as a “fighter” who advocates for children whose neurodevelopmental conditions might keep them from speaking for themselves.
My nursing career started in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) taking care of some the sickest children in the world with severe cardiac anomalies. Over the past two decades, I have cared for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families as a nurse practitioner. I had the great opportunity to participate in the LEND fellowship training at CHOP from 2001-2002. This training provided me with an excellent foundation for understanding my responsibility in a multi-disciplinary team of providers and becoming a strong leader in the care of vulnerable children. I am delighted about my role as Clinician Educator – Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing. This role allows me to combine teaching, practice and research to improve care delivery to these children. I am a nationally and internationally recognized clinician caring for children with ASD and a renowned sleep researcher and collaborative scientist contributing the body of evidence I use to better their lives. I am also the Director of a Minor in the Integrated Nursing Care of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the University of Pennsylvania and I am thrilled to teach undergraduate and graduate students about ASD. In 2016, I became the Nursing Discipline Director for the LEND Program at CHOP and I annually recruit talented trainees for our fellowship program and oversee their LEND Nursing fellowship. It has been a great honor to work with the dedicated LEND Nursing Fellows.
I currently practice in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department at CHOP. My students from the Minor in the Integrated Care of ASD participate in my clinical practice. I conduct two new comprehensive autism diagnostic evaluations a week and provide my students with state of the science diagnostic experience, including a genetic dysmorphology assessment. I also have one full patient panel each week and provide follow-up care to eight families. Ongoing care includes anticipatory guidance for health maintenance, behavioral care and medication management for co-occurring psychiatric disorders. In addition, if a child with ASD has insomnia I am able to provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Over the past 3 years, I have been able to directly help over 700 families with children with neurodevelopmental disorders fall and stay asleep with evidence that I have generated from my research endeavors at the School of Nursing. I am thrilled that my practice affords me the opportunity to translate cutting-edge knowledge, such as the identification of genetic syndromes associated with ASD and tailored behavioral treatments, immediately into direct patient care.
I completed my LEND fellowship at the E. K. Shriver Center at UMass Medical School in 2005 and am now the Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center at the Shriver Center, and an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School. My extensive background in insurance issues related to autism has played a major role in passing several significant pieces of autism insurance legislation in Massachusetts, including the groundbreaking 2010 ARICA law. This law requires health insurance to cover medically necessary treatment for autism. I also serve as a Commissioner on the State's Autism Commission.
Following a successful career in real estate and banking, I decided to merge my personal passions and professional experience. I joined the Shriver Center’s LEND program in 2004-05 where I researched and incubated my ideas and work on expanding insurance coverage for autism services. I served as president of the outreach organization of the Lurie Center for Autism at Massachusetts General Hospital for two years prior to being appointed Chair of the Insurance Committee for Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM).
My work has been recognized through numerous awards including the Federation for Children with Special Needs Martha H. Ziegler Founders Award, the Margaret L. Bauman Award for Excellence, the Massachusetts ARC’s Distinguished Citizens Award, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation Essential piece award, and the Northeast ARC’s Edward C. O’Keefe Memorial Award.
I did not begin my education with a desire to work in public health, much less maternal child health or with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. In fact, I did not know that public health was a field you could get a degree in until at least a year after I began college. I had a broad and eclectic set of interests that did not fit neatly into any major: I enjoyed biology, but had no interest in being a physician; I loved history, sociology, psychology, performing arts, and political science, but I couldn't commit to any one field without feeling like something was missing.
That changed for me when I had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Ghana, Accra. I lived in Ghana for 5 months and completed an internship with a school for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. I saw the challenges that faced their families and the complex ways that they navigated the infrastructure and systems of care around them. I learned from children and families what it is like to have a disability in a place with limited codified protections for people with physical and neurological differences. I saw the work that advocates and activists were doing to influence the rapidly changing infrastructure of a previously colonized country to make it easier for all people to live to their highest potential.
My time in Ghana and the people I met there had a profound influence on me, and I knew that I wanted to work to improve the lives and circumstances of children with disabilities and their families. After returning to California, I pursued a Masters in Public Health and found the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. As a LEND Trainee, peers and faculty taught me about the seemingly endless disciplines, infrastructures, and systems of care that must be taken into consideration when determining the best way to support children with disabilities and their families. My LEND experience made me a better public health professional and I recently sought out opportunities to give back, which led me to join the 2019 cohort of MCHB’s Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG). I am looking forward to facilitating the growth of future leaders in the field!
Yetunde and Melanie are both second year students in the coordinated Master of Public Health Nutrition program at the University of Minnesota. They serve as Nutrition Coordinators for the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic and organize the nutrition volunteers for the clinic. This is both Yetunde and Melanie’s second year volunteering at the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC) as student nutrition clinicians.
Located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC) is an entirely student-run clinic – supervised by licensed clinicians – that operates out of a local church two evenings a week year-round. The clinic is completely free for the uninsured and underinsured residents of Phillips, other areas of Minneapolis, and additional surrounding communities. The PNC’s mission is to increase accessibility to comprehensive, patient-centered, quality health services for those with unmet needs regardless of their insurance situation, citizenship status, or financial background. The clinic also works to support community partnerships and promote overall health and wellbeing in the communities it serves, and develop passionate, culturally sensitive health professionals through an interprofessional learning environment. The clinic participates in numerous outreach activities, provides specialty services and is able to perform full medical visits.
One of the specialty services that the clinic provides is nutrition. A student nutrition clinician is available every night the clinic is open to offer nutrition information and counseling directly to patients. Nutrition clinicians are equipped with a variety of education materials focused on topics such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight management. Though the PNC sees more adult patients than children, the health of parents and grandparents ultimately affect the health of the children in their lives. Because of the large Spanish-speaking population in the Phillips neighborhood, Spanish interpreters are present every night to translate nutrition sessions. Food access resources designating food shelves and food banks in the area are also available for patients. Clinicians also have “fast passes” to give to patients—patients can bring them back to clinic and see a student nutrition clinician with no wait time. Lastly, the MOVE ‘N’ EAT Program is held twice a month and provides free cooking and exercising classes. Classes range from yoga to Zumba, and those who participate are served a healthy dinner.
Particpants at the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic of Mineapolis, MN
In today’s world, the ability to attain a healthy life is a privilege. With dietary and health recommendations changing and new fad diets coming out monthly, it can sometimes be difficult to discern the best way to create a healthy lifestyle for oneself and one’s family. At the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC), we have the privilege to serve a diverse range of people with varying health related needs. The PNC is located just south of downtown Minneapolis, nestled between a variety of large employers and small businesses, and is home to people of many different nationalities.
As nutrition clinicians at the clinic, we do our best to advise on many different nutrition related topics, oftentimes using interpreters because many of our patients do not speak English. The areas we cover are vast. During some visits we could be explaining what carbohydrates are to a person recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or encouraging consumption of fruits and vegetables. Other nights, we may be helping a person who works the night shift come up with an eating plan that will better provide the nutrients they need to feel their best. The topics may be different, but one thing is certain: we are privileged for the opportunity to do our best to find innovative, sustainable, and culturally relevant solutions to nutrition struggles for our patients. There is hope that we will take what we learn as clinicians at PNC into our future professional roles, continuously seeking to grasp the specific and unique needs of any population we may serve. To best serve a community, one must first seek to understand a community’s people and their needs, and the clients of PNC graciously allow us to do just that.
Whether it be listening to someone’s story, providing them with community resources, or helping with a specific goal they have in mind, the opportunities to learn, grown, and better connect with the community and their needs are endless. Knowledge can truly be powerful and life changing, and there is no doubt that the clients we work with use strategies discussed and learned to create healthier lifestyle habits and improve the nutrition of their children and family members.
Samantha and Jessica, pictured above with their preceptor, are currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition while also completing their dietetic internship. This blog highlights their experience at their community nutrition rotation for the dietetic internship at Perspectives, Inc.
Having nutrition focused backgrounds, Jessica and Samantha are aware of the concerns around food access and food insecurity and wanted to take part in making a difference in the community. Through their Coordinated Master’s Program at the University of Minnesota Jessica and Samantha were partnered with Perspectives, Inc. for the community nutrition rotation of their dietetic internship. Perspectives Kids Cafe is a commercial kitchen/dining classroom that is available to homeless and low-income families and children in St. Louis Park, MN with the purpose of improving access to nutritious foods. The program is designed to increase healthy food consumption for the children while providing a hands-on nutrition curriculum that addresses healthy food choices. With the objectives of having healthy, USDA approved snacks and dinners served after school and healthy breakfast and lunches served during the summer program, the kitchen is constantly working to provide the children with the adequate nutrition they need to live happy and healthy lives.
In addition to exposing children to a variety of nutritious foods, the Perspectives Kids Cafe provides them with a hands-on opportunity to learn skills in food preparation and kitchen safety. Each day a group of kids help out in the café preparing dinner for their peers under the direction of Chef Dan Tobias-Kotyk who is also a licensed teacher. Chef Dan and Perspective’s registered dietitian Kay Guidarelli educate students on making healthy food choices. Jessica and Samantha interacted with the kids and shared healthy nutrition information while preparing and eating meals. In addition, parent engagement is encouraged. Moms have the opportunity to come to the cafe for cooking groups, where they can learn how to cook new recipes or create their own recipes from the ingredients provided. Through these cooking groups, Jessica and Samantha were able to get to know the moms and become more familiar with their needs in the program. This allowed time for discussions around making healthy food choices. Developing relationships with the moms was also an integral part of creating monthly newsletters for them, which provide healthy recipes and education on various topics of nutrition. Recipes included in the newsletter focus on availability of foods, finances and ease of meal preparation, including reference to meals that the children had previous exposure to in the Kids Cafe. The goal of the newsletter articles is to bring the hands-on experience of the Kids Cafe home for mothers and their children to enjoy together.
Access to nutritious food is something that many people take for granted but the reality is that many struggle with this. Perspectives Kid Cafe provides an opportunity for homeless and at risk mothers and their children to have access to at least one nutritious meal and snack a day. This program is taking one step towards improving the lives of these families and Jessica and Samantha feel very fortunate to have taken part in such a great program.
My name is Lucy Berman. I am a first-year student in the coordinated MPH Nutrition program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. My approach to improving child nutrition and contributing to obesity prevention begins at the source. With a substantial background in food production and agriculture, I have a mission to educate children about exactly where their food comes from. My aim is to talk about the trickier questions that go beyond the concept of planting seeds in the ground to produce fruits and vegetables. For example, how does food get to the grocery store? Where does meat come from? Do cows have to have given birth to produce milk? What exactly does it mean when we say, "processed food?"
My intention with this approach to nutrition education is to first and foremost create an understanding of what we are truly consuming and attempt to convey the beauty and awe of food production. Since food is a huge part of a human life, it’s only natural to be fascinated by its source. I strongly believe that this understanding can set a solid foundation for further nutrition education and in turn may help kids feel connected to what they eat and eager to learn about healthy nutrition habits.
I was given an opportunity to discuss where food comes from with a fourth-grade class at Chanhassen Elementary School during my time in my school food service rotation with Eastern Carver County for my dietetic internship. For an hour and a half, I went through 70+ pictures describing everything from different cuts of meat to the production of Oreos. The presentation was completely discussion-based, with multiple students asking questions with each new picture. At the end of the presentation, we continued our discussion as students tasted different fruits and herbs, compared dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, and ate raisins as they watched a video about how raisins are dried and harvested. The level of engagement from the students was incredible. It showed me that children have a natural curiosity about what they are eating and when shown the source, may be more inclined to try new foods. I am grateful for the experience I had with these students and look forward to my next opportunity to show children the wonders of food production.
Kalia is a second year MPH Nutrition student, a MCH Nutrition Trainee, and a MNLEND Trainee. She completed her undergraduate degree in Nutritional Science from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK and her dietetic internship through Iowa State University. She is currently working as a Nutrition Educator for WIC. She has found a passion in helping underserved populations as well as learning more about individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and helping them with their needs.
As the semester began in September, I was fortunate enough to have been selected as a trainee in MN LEND. What exactly is MN LEND? MN LEND stands for Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities. When I first heard about it, I didn’t know exactly what I was signing myself up for. With my experiences so far as a LEND trainee, it really has allowed me to view things differently from other disciplines outside of nutrition for individuals who may have neurodevelopmental disabilities. During undergrad, I always wondered why nutrition choices were so limited for certain individuals with disabilities and why these individuals tended to be so “picky” when it came to meal times. With what I’ve learned so far, I can see a small glimpse of what these individuals see – how their daily activity is affected by their surroundings, what their lens is on their surroundings and their thought process on their surroundings, early signs of developmental delays and more. Being a fellow and with the year continuing, I only hope to continue to learn more about individuals with neurodevelopmental or related disorders.
As a LEND fellow and working with WIC, I am fortunate enough to be able to work on a project for both organizations. With the project, we hope to identify issues that WIC staff may have in addressing delays with families. We also hope to find partnerships with other programs and find interventions that help families with identification of possible developmental delays in their young children, oftentimes these delays can be overlooked. Offering support could be as simple as making a referral for other programs in Minnesota known as Help Me Grow or "Learn the Signs. Act Early." With the knowledge I have gained from being a LEND fellow, I have realized the importance of my experiences in MN LEND in working with young children and how important this could be in helping families.
For more information on MN LEND, visit the MN LEND website.
Veronica is a first-year graduate student in the Nutrition program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). Veronica also received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at UTK in 2014. She then went on to complete her dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Veronica worked as a registered dietitian in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in South Carolina, and served as a clinical dietitian on the island of American Samoa. Veronica has been a MCH Nutrition trainee since August 2018.
My earliest experience working with the MCH population dates back to my volunteer work as an undergraduate. I worked as a research assistant with Dr. Marsha Spence (UTK) for the Cardiac Club Program, which is an afterschool nutrition and physical activity intervention program for elementary school-age children in fourth and fifth grades. Additionally, I worked as a nutrition educator for the Healthy Kid’s Club program run by East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. For this program, I helped plan and teach weekly nutrition lessons and games that focused on movement and physical activity. My interest in working with this population grew throughout my dietetic internship, both in my community and clinical rotations, where I chose a concentration in pediatrics/pediatric oncology. My experience in public health nutrition further developed with my work as an RD for the WIC program.
So far, as a trainee, one of the projects I am leading is the diversity recruitment and retention committee. The committee is comprised of faculty members from both the Departments of Nutrition and Public Health at UTK. Currently, the committee is planning strategies to increase recruitment efforts of racially/ethnically diverse students into the dietetics profession. One of these strategies includes visiting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the surrounding states. Another strategy is to create an infographic to disseminate to Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges/universities that are further away. I am excited about the many opportunities the traineeship offers, and am looking forward to increasing my knowledge, refining my leadership skills, and better serving the MCH population.
A very wise mentor once told me that, after every clinic day, I should go home and eat a spoon of ice cream. Mind you – not a bowl, but a spoon – slowly savored. At first the advice was blindly (and sinfully) followed, but over time I learned why it was such a sacred rule. As a clinician taking care of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, my days are often filled with anxiety-ridden encounters trying to empower families to help their children achieve their best outcomes. As other professionals who care for children and families may agree, such days require bottomless empathy, conviction, and patience. At the end of the day, a sweet and slow moment at the kitchen counter, tub of ice cream in hand, has the ability to rejuvenate my spirit. I use such moments of quiet reflection often in my work, typically before I see my next patient.
There are several other ways to stay grounded when working with children and families. During my developmental and behavioral pediatrics (DBP) fellowship I’ve learned how to artfully manage complex diagnostic and treatment situations. Most of those strategies begin with active listening, the practice of being wholly attuned to the person in front of you. Such steadfast clarity of purpose allows me to understand my patients in a comprehensive way. My experience in Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) was integral in helping me appreciate this practice, and in general the importance of understanding the context of children’s lives. LEND emphasized interdisciplinary care; for example, from my occupational therapy colleagues I learned how sensory accommodations can improve attention and focus, and through collaboration with audiology I learned how even subtle hearing deficits can affect development. This has made me a better clinician and has also let me enjoy my work more.
Another important way to stay grounded is by being part of a community of like-minded professionals. The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) network is vibrant and diverse. The Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) has the privilege of building bridges so that individuals across training programs feel supported and celebrated, and that in turn can help trainees feel refreshed for their daily work. I am so grateful for the opportunities to be part of DBP and LEND, so now I feel well-equipped to make a difference for children who have developmental differences. As I enter my second term on the TAG, I look forward to giving back to this community that has nurtured my professional development for so many years. My first decree to my colleagues is, after reading this, please go enjoy your spoon of ice cream!
Julie is currently pursuing her doctorate in public health with an emphasis in public health nutrition. Her research investigates nutritional strategies for disease prevention and health promotion among infants. This blog highlights her experience becoming a Certificated Lactation Educator Counselor through the UCSD Extension Lactation Educator Counselor Training Program.
Breastfeeding is one of the world’s greatest public health interventions. As a registered dietitian and DrPH student, I knew of the benefits of breastfeeding but little about how to support and interact with breastfeeding mothers. In order to address that gap in knowledge, I enrolled in the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Extension Lactation Educator Counselor Training Program in fall 2018. Thanks to the generous support of the MCH Nutrition Trainee Grant, I completed the online course and am now officially a Certificated Lactation Educator Counselor.
The UCSD program prepares health professionals and other interested people to become breastfeeding educators. The program is comprehensive. In addition to providing education on how to promote breastfeeding, the program teaches students how to interact in the breastfeeding situation, assist breastfeeding mothers, identify and address breastfeeding issues, and provide emotional support to breastfeeding mothers. Topics include anatomy and physiology of lactation, prenatal education, hospital care during the postpartum period, common concerns and solutions, and breastfeeding equipment. Over the course of eleven weeks, students watch online lectures, complete homework assignments, take quizzes, visit breastfeeding classes and support groups in the surrounding community, and for the final project, create breastfeeding education lesson plans.
Breastfeeding is not a one-woman job. To succeed, it requires support from government, communities, the healthcare system, workplaces, and families. I would highly recommend this program. Although it is rigorous and time-consuming—ten hours per week for eleven weeks—it is worthwhile. There is a dire need for trained breastfeeding counselors and educators, and the UCSD program helps satisfy this need.
My time as an Ambassador on the 2018 Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) has been well served, and I enjoyed working closely with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau Division of MCH Workforce Development (DMCHWD). As I take a moment to reflect, this experience is one that I will never forget and I am truly honored to have been a part of this leadership development opportunity. For the past year, I have witnessed the collaborative efforts of my colleagues on the TAG. Each Ambassador offered a new and unique perspective that allowed the TAG to develop priority goals that we strived to accomplish throughout the year. Virtual collaboration and networking with my colleagues was a vital component for the success of the 2018-2019 cohort. Lastly, I want extend warm thanks to our mentors from the DMCHWD, for their time, willingness, and enthusiasm that allowed the ideas of Ambassadors to come to fruition.
In order to reduce health disparities in children at-risk for developmental delays in rural regions within Arizona, ArizonaLEND has joined forces with the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AzAAP) on a project to promote the CDC “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Campaign, as well as to increase the number of practices that use standardized developmental screening tools in their well-child visits. The two second-year LEND fellows involved in this project, Azucena Perry and Bianca Demara, hope to engage rural and community health practices from across the state and along the Arizona-Mexico border in an effort to reach not only rural providers, but also providers who serve individuals with unique socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic needs.
Azucena Perry (left) and Bianca Demara (right)
One of the main goals of the project involves recruiting practices statewide to promote and track the use of the CDC's “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” milestone tracker application, which not only enables parents to learn about the milestones their child should be reaching between the ages of 2 months and 5 years of age, in either English or Spanish, but also helps parents keep track of pediatrician appointments for their children and gives them the option of printing out milestone checklist results for their child so that they can discuss these results with their pediatrician in further detail. Bianca and Azucena will also work with each participating medical practice to design a workflow individualized to each of them and find ways to incorporate data collection on medical staff promotion and patient use of the application in ways that aim not to overburden the busy schedules of pediatricians and their support staff.
The second goal of this project is to engage more medical practices to use developmental screening and surveillance in order to aid in early identification of the 1 in 6 children with a developmental delay or disability, so they can benefit from early intervention services. By recruiting practices to enroll in the ArizonaLEND Developmental Screening Technical Assistance Program, not only will practices be engaging in crucial developmental screening and surveillance, they will be doing so with the additional assurance that they can count on ArizonaLEND to support them with the implementation and maintenance of these initiatives.
With this project, the goal is to reach as many underserved communities as possible within Arizona, including Hispanic families who, on average, obtain autism diagnoses--and therefore services for their children--later than non-Hispanic, white children. The ArizonaLEND trainees ultimately hope to support the empowerment of all families so that these families can learn about the various facets of their child's development from as early as two months of age and therefore feel more prepared to discuss any developmental concerns they may have with their child's healthcare providers. In sum, this project seeks to increase health equity by improving the early detection of developmental disabilities and delays in families from underserved and diverse communities across rural Arizona.
I grew up in Baghdad, Iraq in a very loving, supportive family with socially and culturally literate parents who are both physicians. My father is a psychiatrist who embraced mental health in a community that did not recognize mental and emotional health needs. My mother is an ophthalmologist in a community where few distinguished females have succeeded in balancing career and cultural demands. I always thought I was different, even back there. I wrote poetry, had loud opinions -when I could- and dreamt of becoming a journalist. Life took an alternate path or maybe I matured enough to realize that my best options to excel were what my culture then offered to me. Medicine became the smart cultural choice for me.
My generation was born in a war and came of age in two wars. Most of us graduated from professional schools during the fighting. I was never discouraged by these circumstances, because I was not any different from my classmates. After graduating medical school, my husband and I decided to come to the US. We willingly signed many legal documents to become “legally different.” Years passed and now we are both US citizens and have a wonderful two-and-a-half-year-old son, born here in America. I decided to become a developmental-behavioral pediatrician following my training in pediatrics.
There are times when it is challenging to explain that my experiences growing up were not ideal, but I am making the best of it. My heart and brain have learned new dialogue to accommodate the difference. However, living day-to-day is unconsciously exhausting. It is like constantly trying to belong, but despite many moments of achievement, there's the feeling of never getting to stop or have a break. My husband and I are privileged to have friends and work with people who understand diversity. On both professional and personal levels, we are accepted, acknowledged and appreciated. While we still have to check the “other” racial category on official documents, that feeling of support has removed much of our initial sense of confusion and fear of being classified as "different."
Our challenges shaped us well and made us the resilient people we think we are. I know in a few years I can share these personal experiences with my son and he should know it is ok that his parents do not speak as beautifully as he and his friends do, or have different beliefs in life, but he can still belong. It's now easy for me to talk about diversity, because I have known what it is to feel like “the other.” But through the years and particularly through my life in this country, I have come to know people who celebrate neighbors and colleagues of varied backgrounds, races and religions. From my point of view, diversity is a growing part of the American community and American experience and thanks to those who endorse and teach it, I am no longer different.
I was fortunate to work first at New York - Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, then at The Center for Children with Special Needs at Tufts Medical Center. In both programs, diversity is the culture. I couldn't hope for a better practice to nurture the diversity in me every day.
Embrace it if you have it, it is a gift.
Sincere love and gratitude to the culturally blessed hearts of W. B., L. S., C. C., R. L., M.B., C. C-G., K.M., M. U, C.S. and E.P.
You made me belong.
Returning to graduate school for a PhD mid-career is an interesting experience. To have a set of professional skills that are suddenly only marginally overtly useful, rusty math skills, no familiarity with contemporary academic technology, classmates (and some faculty) who are a generation younger, and a somewhat fuzzy career path after graduation is the perfect storm for imposter syndrome and existential angst. As a result, I am particularly grateful for the mentorship of faculty in two different MCH LEAH programs as I've embarked upon this path.
Prior to starting the PhD program in Health Services Research at the University of Washington, I had twenty years of experience working in health and mental health services, first as a medical and mental health social worker and then as a program manager in HRSA-funded HIV, school-based health, and maternal child health programs. I applied to the PhD program hoping to conduct research to assess and address gaps I was worried might emerge in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS care system after implementation of the Affordable Care Act. However, as I sat through presentations at the national Ryan White conference two weeks before the program started, I realized I was not alone in this concern - and that I was about five years too late in starting down a path to address it.
In envisioning a path forward, I reflected on how many people were focused on improving health and public health systems for populations with HIV, and how few were focused on populations with other stigmatized health conditions. I thought about populations with mental health conditions currently excluded from mental health parity laws, and how that may have affected me when I needed treatment for anorexia nervosa at 15, 17, 18 and again at 24; how I likely would not have survived to be this age at all, much less contributed to society in the ways I hope to have contributed. I realized that I might be able to bring a useful perspective to the research and public health communities interested in structural approaches to addressing barriers to care for eating disorders from my experiences working in public health systems. So, I decided to see if there was a way to forge this path during my doctoral training.
My first step was to reach out to my mentor at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. My mentor connected me to her colleague, Laura Richardson, a LEAH program faculty member at Seattle Children's Hospital (SCH). Dr. Richardson invited me to participate with the LEAH program as a medium-term trainee, allowing me the opportunity to attend LEAH seminars, meet with her to discuss research ideas, and participate in the redesign of their outpatient eating disorders program. I am so grateful that the SCH eating disorders team has embraced me as a colleague and an emerging scholar. I look forward to opportunities to grow and contribute to improving access to care for youth with eating disorders in our region. Also during my first year, I reached out to S. Bryn Austin, a social epidemiologist and the director of the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) at another LEAH program site, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital. I contacted Dr. Austin out of the blue, aware of her only through her research and involvement in the Academy for Eating Disorders. She responded that afternoon, and since then, she has encouraged my fairly constant stream of ideas, shared her time and expertise in working with me on papers, and embraced my professional skills. She has entrusted me to meet with state and federal epidemiologists as well as CDC branch chiefs in order to explore opportunities for primary and secondary eating disorders prevention in federal public health programs, provide public comments at a CDC Community Preventative Services Task Force meeting, and co-facilitate a breakout session during a STRIPED symposium. I am incredibly grateful for Dr. Austin's openness to working with me from afar and for involving me in STRIPED.
Through the mentorship and opportunities provided by my engagement with the faculty of these two amazing LEAH programs, I have been able to bridge professional skills that initially felt “only marginally overtly useful” with skills that will be critical to the next stage of my career – one filled with research, advocacy, and applied roles that I hope will help to bridge public health systems research with primary and secondary prevention of eating disorders.
Somali Development Center (SDC)
Since 1996, the SDC has been the lifeline to vital educational and social services for Boston’s growing Somali refugees and immigrant community. SDC was founded by a group of Somali-Americans who came to the U.S to obtain higher education. In 1991, when full-scale civil war started in Somalia, it forced millions of people to flee from the cities in Somalia into Ethiopia and Kenya. As a result, the United States, through its refugee resettlement program, settled thousands of Somalis in the US. My project is designed for the Somali community where intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and mental health issues are met with stigma. One goal of this project is to educate and work towards ending stigma surrounding I/DD so that my community can be more inclusive. A second goal is to help Somali parents learn what to look for in a child who may have a developmental delay, to promote early detection, and early intervention. In recent years, there has been a high number of Somali children diagnosed with autism. During my time at the SDC, I have been a housing search assistant; a strong support, especially for the families who have children with disabilities; and I have helped with interpretation, translation, and I also participated in newcomer and acculturation activities. I facilitated workshops and I created a parent support group, meeting monthly.
My goal was to expand my knowledge of disabilities other than autism and to push myself outside of my personal and current professional circle. Through LEND I found support (mentors) to increase my knowledge about disabilities and I learned about the services that are available to support families. I learned how ethnic organizations such as SDC give tremendous support to their clients and do so for less. I found helping African immigrants and refugees to be incredible and extremely rewarding.
What I gained from this experience
LEND completely changed my life in so many ways. It has been an invaluable experience. Through the weekly seminars, I learned a great deal about services, health policy, and other issues related to neurodevelopmental disabilities, as well as the disability community. Also, LEND gave me networking opportunities. I want to bring our voice to the community and teach the parents new ways to engage.
I had the pleasure of being welcomed into two wonderful organizations: Horizons for Homeless Children and The Somali Development Center. While volunteering for 6 months at a local homeless shelter for mothers and children experiencing homelessness, my role as a PAL allowed me the wonderful opportunity to re-learn the power of play by engaging with children in the playspace on a weekly basis. Through this experience, I learned more about the intersections of trauma, privilege, oppression and disability and influences they have on families. Simply having a safe space with toys to play with is something often overlooked. For these children, it was the highlight of their days, and I enjoyed opportunities for parallel play with the children as well as creating corrective experiences around mental health and expression of emotions.
The Somali Development Center allowed me to work in collaboration with our LEND Diversity Fellow Asha Abdullahi to normalize, raise awareness and reduce stigma of mental health disabilities in local Somali/East African refugee communities. I learned how to hone myself as instrument to outline a collaborative curriculum for a Somali parent support network that focuses on the importance of culturally sensitive and trauma informed self-care practices. I gained valuable insight around challenges this population experiences, including assimilation into American culture as well as the importance of culturally sensitive mental health services in order to validate varying lenses of understanding mental health disabilities (depression, psychosis).
The LEND Program at Boston Children’s Hospital has been a catalyst to personal and professional development as a clinician working with individuals experiencing developmental, intellectual and mental health disabilities. LEND’s holistic, family centered, social justice approach enriched my learning of the many valuable services available to children and families with disabilities as well as the gaps or challenges in service delivery.
Physical Therapy Residency Program
I was privileged to be able to participate in the LEND program in conjunction with the Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency Program. The residency experience provided me with the opportunity to achieve advanced and intensive training in pediatrics in a variety of clinical settings across the continuum of care. The LEND program was a perfect complement to the hands-on training I achieved throughout each of my rotations. Through my experiences in each clinical setting and the discussions and lessons provided each week during LEND, my awareness and knowledge of the varying needs of patients with disabilities and their families has increased. I am confident that the knowledge and experience I have gained will carry over into my career as a physical therapist and be a consistent reminder of the importance of working within a multidisciplinary team.
Threshold Alumni Program
My colleagues and I began a ‘Neighborhood Stroll Group’ through the Alumni Center of the Threshold Program. The Threshold Program is a college-based program at Lesley University for adults with learning challenges. Our meetings included weekly get-togethers in Cambridge where we engaged in a casual stroll for 45-60 minutes with the alumni members. During these strolls we would often engage in conversations emphasizing wellness but for the most part we discussed issues experienced in life in general. The lessons learned on our end were invaluable!
Linking Hands: Never underestimate what a family is going through. In a clinical setting we treat the patient’s needs, and often move on to the next patient. The experience of being welcomed into the home of an individual with a disability and their family outside of a clinical setting was powerful for me. It was life-changing to hear the stories of patients and their families, to hear their points of view and to engage in very candid discussions regarding active issues they have faced and are currently dealing with on a daily basis. The real life barriers they encountered and how we could change the system to meet their needs was very instructive and absolutely invaluable to my development of a better understanding of our health care system.
Resources: Being a resource for a patient and their family is a never-ending process. The most impactful thing I took away from the lecture series and talks was the importance of my own awareness of the vast amount of resources available and also where the holes in the system are currently. I hope to take the knowledge I have developed to inform and empower each family I come across in my career.
Policy: The power of your voice can be transformative. Attending the Disability Policy Seminar was intimidating at first; however, I learned how much the power of one person’s voice can bring about change. This experience opened my eyes regarding many issues surrounding disability, healthcare and other issues related to my profession.
My goal in LEND was to expand my knowledge about disability, as a parent of a child with a disability. I was surprised to discover that I got back my confidence and was able to return to my profession as a radio talk show and television host. As a Latina, I have reached out to many parents with similar issues to my own. I was also able to help more parents through the radio show.
On the radio show, I am raising awareness of families and people with disabilities and am continuing to educate, inform and share knowledge. It is important to me to be available to help others who may not know where to start or who have just received a diagnosis. My main goal is to reach out to people in the Latinos Communities who feel suppressed and intimidated by the barrier of the language and are afraid to reach out for help or assistance. Many are unaware of all the help they can get. I want to let them know that they are not alone and there are many resources to help. On the radio show, we talk about the community and resources that are available. We bring in various organizations, both public and private, businesses, and companies to share information about programs, products, and technology that can benefit people with special needs.
My time at LEND has been wonderful and an invaluable experience. The LEND program changed my life by giving me the opportunity to learn more about neurodevelopmental disabilities, and for giving me back my confidence in my profession in communication. As a mother of a child with cerebral palsy, behavioral issues and many medical needs, the skills I have gained in the LEND program have prepared me to better support my son with special needs, parents, and the Latino Hispanic communities.
I LEARNED IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO START, and to follow your dream!!!
PHOTO: Yetunde Akingbemi (left) and Noelle Yeo (right).
This blog post describes the experiences of two MCH nutrition trainees, Noelle Yeo and Yetunde Akingbemi, while attending the Making Lifelong Connections meeting in Tampa, Florida this spring. Noelle and Yetunde are second year students in the coordinated MPH Nutrition program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. They have both been MCH nutrition trainees since August 2017.
Making Lifelong Connections is a meeting for all MCH trainees to connect with current and former trainees, share and learn from each others' work, and practice and learn leadership skills. All current and former trainees are selected to attend this meeting to demonstrate a form of leadership through giving an poster or oral presentation, hosting a roundtable discussion, introducing speakers, or other forms of leadership activities. Noelle and Yetunde – along with Marissa McElrone from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville – originally applied to present their work on creating and administering the MCH Nutrition Trainee Blog . We were selected to host a roundtable discussion during the meeting entitled “Leadership Colors” where we led our respective tables in completing the activity to discover our leadership styles. We discussed how to apply our various leadership styles to our current work, and also examined how our strengths could benefit different work environments during our future careers. Here is more about our experiences at MLC:
Noelle: Attending MLC this spring was a great experience. We had the opportunity to meet and learn from so many people in different disciplines across MCH training programs. At the beginning of the meeting, we were all given a ring of cards with our information on it to hand out as we were talking to new people. It was immediately clear (as from the name of the conference) that networking would be a large part of the conference, but the cards and the activities made it easy and fun! I really enjoyed getting outside of the nutrition realm and learning about the work that current and former trainees are doing in other programs. Some of my favorite presentations were about about making public places (particularly restaurants and the Cleveland zoo) more accessible and welcoming for people with various mental abilities. We also were able to support two of our classmates from the UMN Center for Leadership in MCH who presented their work with the Lactation Advocacy Committee and researching sexual activity among LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness. Overall, the meeting was an awesome opportunity. I hope to attend next year and would encourage anyone interested in applying as well!
Yetunde: The MLC meeting far exceeded my expectations this spring. As soon as the conference began, I was astonished by the number of training programs that were represented, many of which I wasn't aware existed! It was wonderful to meet such a wide variety of people – of different races and ethnicities – that were involved in MCH in some capacity. As was mentioned previously, the networking ring of cards was a very creative way to get to know and connect with people! Many specific moments at MLC especially stuck with me. I really liked a presentation given by a social worker on how he applied his MCH training to reduce violence at the public school at which he worked. Another was about using mHealth (mobile health) interventions to improve prenatal care and birth outcomes in the US. Overall, it was clear that each speaker had a passion for the topics they were presenting, and many even told their personal stories and journeys, which was very inspiring to hear. Attending this meeting fueled my love for MCH even further, and I am already looking forward for the opportunity to attend next year!
2018 MLC Meeting Attendees
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a DMCHWD intern, see the Student Internship Opportunities webpage for more information. Applications for the 2019 summer internship should be received by 11:59 P.M. on January 25, 2019.
My name is Leila Raminpour. I was pleased to have the opportunity of interning in the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development (DMCHWD) in Summer 2018. During my time at the division, I was in the middle of my Master of Public Health program at George Washington University. With the help of my preceptors and supervisors, Samantha Croffut and Rita Maldonado, and the friendly and welcoming staff of DMCHWD, I felt very at home at the division. I worked on a range of tasks and projects from creating professional enhancement education content to assisting in revision of publicly available maternal and child health history.
During my time at the division, I presented on the impact of the opioid crisis on America’s children in respect to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the foster care system for DMCHWD monthly “brown bag” sessions. Along with a handful of other DMCHWD staff members, I attended the annual LEND meeting in Rockville, MD. I helped provide revisions for a relaunch of DMCHWD’s MCH Timeline and MCH Leadership Competency guide. I attended the West Virginia Block Grant Day and Maternal Mortality Summit on site. I attended a wide variety of division specific meetings and learned a great deal about public health work at a federal agency. I aspire to use the knowledge and skills gained from my time at DMCHWD to further my knowledge and career in working to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s mothers, children, and families.
When you’re a child your imagination runs wild, and I was no different. Though my imagination ran wild, my family tells me that the underlying theme was helping others. This came as no surprise to me when the time came to decide my major in undergrad – healthcare. Such a broad field, but the key focus remains the same, helping others. As I took the time to evaluate my healthcare interests, I naturally gravitated to the health of women and children. It wasn’t until later that I found the name of this interest, maternal and child health.
There is something so innocent about a child that it makes you want to protect them at all times. Aside from my parents one of my other prominent protectors while growing up was my pediatrician. Dr. Bellamy had a way with both my sister and I to explain everything in a way that we would understand, but also make us feel comfortable to share any concerns we had with her. That was what I longed for in my career, to make my patients feel so comfortable with me that they could view me as another protector looking out for them.
As I grew older, I began to research more healthcare topics that applied to me personally such as reproductive health. I found that as an African American woman my health outcomes for not only childbirth, but other health ailments were statistically shown to have greater adverse outcomes for my demographic than my counterparts.
As I came upon my junior year at Spelman, I began to research graduate programs that focused on public health and maternal and child health. These two areas of healthcare became my passion. Once accepted to the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, I began to focus on my maternal and child health interests with my class selections, assignments, and extracurricular activities. It was during this time that I found not only peers that shared my interests, but also professional organizations such as the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Association of Teachers in Maternal and Child Health (ATMCH). A maternal and child health professional world that I never knew existed. It was through my APHA Maternal and Child Health fellowship during the second year of my graduate program that I found out about HRSA. It became apparent to me that HRSA has a multitude of resources for public health professionals across the country, such as the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG).
Once accepted to the TAG program I was impressed by the background of my fellow ambassadors. When reading their bios, I began to make note of the many different avenues that the field of public health and maternal and child health could allow me to go in the future. I have worked with two colleagues to develop and present at the Making Lifelong Connections conference, collaborated to develop a social media strategy, and aided in the planning of an event at the Annual Meeting for APHA.
The TAG program has been an opportunity for me to work diligently with fellow colleagues around the country that share similar interests. I have been able to develop and foster professional relationships by sharing ideas, strengthening my collaboration and presentation skills, and networking. I highly recommend the TAG program to any current or former MCH trainees that have a desire to work among a group of their likeminded colleagues and develop professional relationships that will last well beyond their time within the TAG program.
The trajectory of a life can be altered by great and small events. After graduating with a Master’s in Social Work this May and passing my national licensing exam in September, I marvel at the profound shift in my life’s focus. Specifically, how one quiet, but significant book facilitated a second career in Maternal Child and Health.
Sue Gerhardt in Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain outlines why loving relationships in a person’s early years are the key to future emotional and physical well-being. She distills scientific research in neuroscience, developmental psychology and neurobiology into one salient truth – supporting mothers and young children is necessary for the social, economic and moral health of any culture.
At the University of New Mexico, I was fortunate to experience a hybrid of two DMCHWD-funded Graduate Education Programs: the Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND). New Mexico is a poor rural state with limited resources. Training health care professionals and supporting a diverse population, both geographically and culturally, requires sharing resources and working across programs and disciplines. New Mexico is a minority/majority state requiring a broad knowledge of distinct cultural practices. I am proud to say that both programs focused on cultural sensitivity in every aspect of training, from understanding the importance of including Native Healers in medical interventions to issues of historical trauma, and the profound effects of poverty on families and communities.
During my placement at the PPC, I worked directly with the pulmonary team to provide services for pediatric cystic fibrosis patients and their families from across our state. Having no background in medicine, being part of an interdisciplinary team was a crash course in an unfamiliar and demanding system. Through the generosity and support of team members, I was able to become competent and confident in my abilities as a clinical social worker in a medical setting. The educational support that I received through my practicum at the PPC augmented my academic program in expanding my professional skills and competency.
Sharing educational activities with the University of New Mexico LEND provided me with a solid comprehension of development and disability, and the unique challenges facing medically fragile individuals and family systems. The curriculum ensured a deep understanding of governmental and nonprofit supports, and public policy issues affecting families in New Mexico. Other skills were taught through academic team building projects, actual family needs assessments and action planning, and shadowing a state senator during a legislative session.
I am fortunate to be continuing my professional development through my tenure with the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG). Working with team members from across the country has given me the opportunity to develop new skills and expand my abilities to work in a virtual environment. My experience with MCH Training Programs and now the TAG have been among the most valuable in my social work education. I continually encourage students and established professionals to explore the possibility of participating in a DMCHWD educational opportunity.
There is a quote from Sue Gerhardt that I hold in the back of my mind when working with children: “If someone is a great human being, it can only mean one thing. They were loved.” MCH professionals understand that love matters. Early interventions which support mothers and their children can be quiet and small in contrast to policy discussions and political discourse, but human interactions alter outcomes and change trajectories.
The day my little brother was born was the best day of my life. Although he crashed my fifth birthday party with his early arrival, I quickly forgave him when I realized I was finally a big sister. My brother immediately became my best friend and I was proud of him, so proud I dubbed him “King of the Babies.” I would show him off to everyone, even strangers in the grocery store: “Guess what? My brother can say DOG! Say DOG!,” and he would. However, when my brother was two years old, he stopped saying “dog.” In fact, he stopped speaking altogether. Several months later, my parents came home after a doctor’s appointment and told me he had been diagnosed with autism, and he may never talk again. In that moment, I didn’t know what autism was or what this meant for my brother and family, but I told him not to worry because I promised to help him talk again. While I did not know it at the time, it was this promise that would guide me to the field of maternal and child health.
In the years after my brother’s autism diagnosis, I became interested in child development and how to optimize outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. I went on to obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Georgia State University (GSU) where my clinical training and research focused on pediatric neuropsychology and the early identification of autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. When I became a Maternal and Child Health Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) fellow during my graduate training, I was excited about the opportunity to expand my understanding of the health and educational systems that impact the children and families I work with to enhance my practice. Through my experiences as a LEND fellow, both at GSU and currently as a pediatric neuropsychology resident at Kennedy Krieger Institute, the experiential learning opportunities have not only enhanced my knowledge of systems, but have guided and shaped my values as a clinician, researcher, and advocate.
One of the greatest aspects of my LEND training has been the opportunities for learning through collaboration with colleagues and families. My work on interdisciplinary care teams has emphasized the value of care-coordination and the benefits of providing family-centered care in optimizing outcomes. The opportunity to work on collaborative community projects with family members and clinicians from a broad range of disciplines showed me the importance of reflecting on and learning from the process just as much as the outcome. These experiences have also encouraged me to work to empower others by finding the most effective balance of humility and confidence in the approach I take to my work; something I will continue to look to my mentors, colleagues, and interactions with children and families for guidance. My interactions with self-advocates and family member advocates have also shown me that being a good leader means sharing power, not withholding it, from the stakeholders impacted by the decisions made. Through school meetings and community leadership trainings, I have collaborated with parents and colleagues who have asked important questions, which have challenged me in ways that have enhanced my work.
My LEND experiences have also provided me opportunities to broaden the scope of my knowledge and skills within the realm of systems of care and policy. Through my fellowship at GSU, I was able to attend the annual meeting for the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD). Here, I observed collaboration and dissemination of ideas between leaders from various states to facilitate problem solving on a systems level, while also learning the importance of being intentional about making scientific writing and presentations accessible to a broader audience of consumers, stakeholders, and policymakers. Attending Disabilities Day at both the Georgia and Maryland state capitols with a group of self-advocates and family members also enhanced my understanding of the legislative process and showed me the power of sharing a story. I am looking forward to the fellowship opportunities I will have next spring working at the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities to follow legislation related to healthcare and education that impacts the families we work with at Kennedy Krieger Institute and partner with colleagues, self-advocates, and families in their efforts.
I am honored to serve as a current member of the Maternal & Child Health Bureau’s (MCHB) Division of MCH Workforce Development Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG). This experience continues to broaden my opportunities to learn from and collaborate with colleagues from various disciplines in a shared effort to strengthen the connection between trainees and MCHB. We have been working on some exciting new initiatives this year that will provide new ways to stay connected with MCHB.
Although I made a promise to help my brother, it was really he and all of the children, families, and colleagues I have encountered through my professional and personal endeavors who have helped me, guided me, and shaped my values in the work that I do. While my brother remains minimally verbal, his many strengths, including his ability to make any stranger smile with his friendly fist-pound in greeting, continue to make me so proud. His strengths and the strengths I see in so many of the children, families and colleagues I work with continue to inspire and motivate me to cultivate and utilize my own strengths within the realm of MCH.
Kiana Hardy, MCH Public Health Catalyst
Suzanne Stern-Brant, Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC)
Alyssa Bosold, Centers of Excellence in Maternal & Child Health (CoE)
You developed a plenary session with two other Ambassadors who you had never met before. What was your experience like collaborating virtually?
Kiana: Preparing to present at MLC 18 and attending the meeting in Tampa was a great experience. Suzanne, Alyssa, and I were on the same page from the very beginning - from scheduling planning meetings to developing the presentation. Even though we were on separate ends of the country, we still made it work!
Suzanne: Working across time zones and electronic media to develop the MLC plenary session was seamless, thanks to the commitment and competence of Kiana and Alyssa. It was apparent that our respective training programs encouraged and nurtured our basic collaborative natures, allowing for a process and product that illustrates the value of teamwork.
How did the skills you acquired in your MCH training program help prepare you for the TAG presentation?
Suzanne: Asking current and former trainees to make lifelong connections through a national meeting is a lofty goal, even among individuals who share a commitment to maternal and child health (MCH) and the values and objectives expressed by the family of Maternal & Child Health Bureau-funded training programs. Throughout my internship at the University of New Mexico Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC), I participated in activities to build skills for collaboration across disciplines. Although these exercises could feel like busy work during the academic crunch of exams or finalizing a research project, for me, developing the TAG presentation illustrates the importance of completing these interdisciplinary exercises during the traineeship.
What factors did you consider when developing the TAG presentation?
Alyssa: In line with the MLC 18 theme “Taking the Next Step”, our TAG presentation was an interactive session that helped people to reflect on their values (which we had identified earlier in day), and how those values drive our decision-making in professional settings. Kiana and Suzanne were amazing teammates, and with the support of the TAG, we were able to come up with breakout session questions that asked people to dig deep.
Kiana: When thinking about our TAG presentation at MLC it was important for us to develop an activity that meshed with the overall theme/topics of MLC and it was also great that we were able to build off of the MCHB presentation on values clarification earlier that same day. In my opinion, it made it easier for us to engage our audience. Hosting an interactive activity turned out to be very beneficial for engaging the group over the lunch hour.
Suzanne: Our shared commitment to a meaningful conversation between MLC 18 participants helped us formulate interesting and timely discussion questions on personal and professional values and the importance of mentorship. A shared interest in promoting dialogue on issues of ethnic diversity within the MCHB community was reflected in our presentation. Additionally, the results of the end-of-session survey highlighted a broad interest in issues of social justice. I am hoping our presentation will be the groundwork for a sustained and in-depth conversation about inclusivity and a deeper sensitivity among MCHB peers and for underserved clients.
What did you like the best about attending MLC 18?
Alyssa: For me, MLC 18 was a unique opportunity to learn from my fellow trainees. Both presenting on behalf of the TAG, and attending the meeting in general, helped me to grow, personally and professionally. Hearing the questions, and the responses of my fellow trainees at the meeting, who came from different backgrounds and academic programs, really encouraged me to think about how to live my values, through my work and in my personal life. MLC 18 came at an opportune time for me, as I am finishing a training program in June and thinking about the next phase of my career. Hearing the perspectives of people at different stages along their career and personal journeys, through informal conversations with my co-presenters, current and former MCH trainees at the meeting, and MCHB staff, sparked further self-reflection, and helped me to find both direction and inspiration.
Kiana: As a first time attendee of the MLC meeting, I thoroughly enjoyed the focus on maternal and child health as well as networking. Having attended larger meetings and conferences in the past, such as AMCHP and APHA, they can sometimes be intimidating and overwhelming, but MLC is the exact opposite. I was able to connect and talk with different people in the MCH field, but also hear about current research being conducted across the country.
Would you recommend MLC to other trainees in the future?
Kiana: MLC 18 reinvigorated my desire conduct research in the MCH field and it also introduced me to a potential research companion to begin discussing potential project ideas. If you would like to attend a meeting or conference that allows you to network with MCH contacts on a smaller/more intimate scale, I would highly recommend attending MLC.
Suzanne: Coming from an unrelated background to start a second career in social work has taught me to trust my process. The quality of programing and supervisory support provided by my PPC practicum guided me through a huge life transition. My PPC training was invaluable for assuming a leadership role on the TAG and in delivering more culturally sensitive services to my clients. Participating in MLC 18 was another supportive avenue for building leadership skill. For me, the value of attending MLC is the ability to be emotionally and physically present with like-minded individuals and share creative ways of deconstructing problems and constructing solutions. Technology allows us to build networks and alliances across disciplines and geography, but somatic connections cement these bonds across careers and lifetimes.
Alyssa: I think MLC is a valuable experience for MCH trainees throughout their careers, and attending the meeting at different times could provide different opportunities for growth and exploration. This time, I had a chance to develop friendships with my fellow TAG ambassadors, reflect on my values, and feel supported by new connections as I “take the next step”.
My name is Kacie McLaughlin and I had the great pleasure of serving as the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development spring 2018 intern in Rockville, Maryland. I was a graduate student intern while also completing my final semester of Masters in Public Health program at the University of Georgia. Under the supervision of Ms. Samantha Croffut, I completed a number of projects such as the analysis of LEND trainee data and maternal and child health timeline on the topic of infant mortality. I also supported the work of the MCHB workforce development committee reviewing staff self-assessments and training courses.
As part of my work, I assisted in the update of the DMCHWD website and developed a brown bag on adolescent health. In addition to my assignments, I attended a number of meetings and conferences to learn more about MCHB’s work throughout the country. I attended the PPC annual meeting, the Infant Mortality COIIN Social Determinants of Health meeting at the 2018 AMCHP meeting and the Children’s Healthy Weight COIIN meeting. I was also given the unique opportunity to intern with the Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Services. There I completed a number of additional exciting projects such as planning the HRSA Maternal Mortality Summit. Overall my time with MCHB was a wonderful experience. I was able to observe the practices and the implementation of programs I learned about in the classroom setting. My desire is to use all of the skills and knowledge that I acquired during my internship throughout my career to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s mothers, children, and families.
Throughout this experience, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for and understanding of the role of the self-advocate. This has been the most valuable component of LEND for me as a clinician and aspiring researcher. Learning from self-advocates in our seminars, at the Disability Policy Seminar, and also from self-advocate LEND fellows has challenged my own thinking and emphasized the power of the human voice. Additionally, I’ve gained a greater understanding of the federal and state governmental agencies and nonprofit programs that are designed to meet the complex and ever-changing needs of children and adults diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disabilities. And most importantly, I’ve greatly expanded my professional network to include a diverse range of colleagues with expertise in neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Overall, I was able to learn the ins and outs of disability: policy, community-based organizations, Title V organizations, and available clinics and resources for individuals and families with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Presentations from experts and families, visits to clinics and organizations, and home visits have allowed for me to view the larger scope of the disability world, and how we fit into that picture. I am grateful for having been a part of this LEND experience, and I strongly encourage anyone who wants to learn more about this wonderful world to enjoy the program as well.
As a doctoral student, I rarely observe how children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families interact with medical professionals and navigate the healthcare system. During my observation at the ASK and LEND Clinics, I was given the opportunity to venture outside of my professional bubble and realized the importance of an interdisciplinary team. It was amazing to see how a collaborative approach can positively impact individuals throughout diagnosis, treatment, and their entire lifespan.
Through collaboration with several members of the Social Work department, I was also given the opportunity to create a resource for families and children with neurodevelopmental disabilities as they prepare to navigate adulthood. Very often families are completely unaware of the services that are offered throughout the state as their child transitions from high school to post-secondary education, employment, or community settings. I was glad to help develop a resource to ease this period of uncertainty for families.
The LEND program has been an invaluable complement to my clinical work within the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. Through LEND I have had the opportunity to learn from the expertise of field leaders, family members, and, most importantly, self-advocates. Our seminars provided me with valuable resources and skills that I actively incorporated into my work with families in clinic. LEND has empowered me with the tools and confidence to effectively support my patients and their families. My participation in LEND has also expanded my network of colleagues and interdisciplinary team members with whom I am eager to collaborate in the future! I am grateful to have had this meaningful experience as I complete my postdoctoral fellowship training at Boston Children’s Hospital. Thank you to the LEND faculty and to my fellow fellows for this tremendous opportunity for learning.
I am on the autism spectrum and a proud mother of two adult sons, one on the spectrum. The list of lessons learned at LEND is extensive, a life changing experience for me. The best way to explain the impact is to visualize a journey of a caterpillar, coming out of a cocoon, into a butterfly. It displays the fight to come out of the cocoon and find my wings while learning to fly.
The whole LEND experience has been a part of my journey of becoming a better individual and self-advocate. It broadened my understanding of how all the disciplines need to work together to bring a more positive outcome for the patients and families served. At Boston Children’s Hospital, through my clinic visits and classwork I saw great collaboration of the doctors and clinicians providing tremendous care and assessment of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. This brought me to tears seeing incredible patient and parental care. When raising my children, I wished that was in place for us. The interdisciplinary team approach is beautiful. I am proud to have learned what I have and want to help bring other families that need the same kind of help and hope for their families.
A turning point in LEND came while working on my team project on stigma. Working and learning from my team, and the help of my family: Adam and Hannah, and then presenting our project was pivotal for me. I really learned what my role represented at the Disability Policy Seminar and the impact of using my story to bring much needed awareness. At the Disability Policy Seminar, the entire year of learning in LEND was brought together and gave me a chance to open my mouth, have a voice, and understand how each individual voice does matter. My desire moving forward is to be a part of research for those aging with autism, and advocate for adult services that are “necessary” that would better all our lives!
I am very grateful to the LEND faculty, my fellows, and MASS. Thank you for your part in my healing journey.
I am privileged to work with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families on a daily basis. I evaluate and treat children from 1-20 years who have genetic conditions, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and anxiety. As a clinical fellow in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, I work on a multidisciplinary team of physicians and psychologists to evaluate toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children with developmental concerns.
LEND has allowed me to more fully understand the complex infrastructure that supports so many of the programs my patients rely on for educational, social/ emotional, employment and recreational supports. It has been very informative to learn directly from leaders in the field as well as policy-makers and program directors. I have also learned so much from my LEND co-fellows. Throughout my training, there has been a strong emphasis on practicing interdisciplinary care in order to obtain improved outcomes for patients. Given the diversity, breadth of experience and knowledge that our collective group brings, I can clearly see how this approach can lead to tremendous benefits for those with disabilities. My time in the LEND program has allowed me to become a more well-rounded and informed developmental pediatrician as I finish my training and move onto independent practice.
Current Oregon LEND trainees and faculty traveled to the Oregon coast to screen the development of children ages 2 to 6 years of age during the annual Tillamook County’s Early Childhood Screening Fair, held April 18-20, 2018. Formerly known as the Multi-Modular preschool screening, this community-founded program has been a service of rural Tillamook County for over 45 years.
LEND trainees and faculty donated their time to offer this free service to the families and children of Tillamook County. Trainees collaborated with students of Oregon Health & Science University, community providers, and hospital and educational staff to screen children in 12 health and developmental areas, including motor development, communication, behavioral health, nutrition and pediatrics. In addition to screenings, trainees provided consults, resources and referrals for further service as part of this three-day event.
This collaborative effort to support the children and families of Tillamook County has long been a part of our LEND Training Program. Our trainees enjoyed the experience, especially the opportunity to see children from a different area of the state. They reported that this made them consider the need to provide this kind of service in other communities throughout the state.
Having worked in the social work field prior to my internship, primarily in substance abuse, I was excited to learn more about the healthcare field. I have been introduced to and taught so many real life topics since I began my internship. Topics such as cultural competency, ethics, healthcare literacy, critical thinking skills, family centered care, advocacy, and interdisciplinary teams stopped being just theories in a textbook. These concepts came alive in our weekly core curriculum meetings with various specialty interns, supervision, and interdisciplinary team meetings.
The staff, consisting of a rich combination of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, psychologists, and nutritionists, not only encouraged me to learn, but set the example in their quest of knowledge and excellence in their respective fields. Being able to observe and engage in thought provoking and informational discussions have not only enriched my learning experience, but have trained me to become a better professional and leader in the social work field. I would highly recommend the PPC program to any future intern because it will cause all theories and applications learned in the classroom to come alive in the functionality and application of real world experience.
Multimodal treatment for ADHD, including parent education, behavioral interventions, school-based supports and medication management, have been shown to improve outcomes for children with ADHD. The Interdisciplinary Comprehensive ADHD Program (ICAP) is a pilot project to improve access to multimodal treatments in ADHD and improve collaboration between primary care and child psychiatry in the UC Davis Healthcare System. As part of this project, a child psychiatry fellow/LEND trainee and a child psychiatry faculty member provided a three-part educational series to primary care providers on multimodal treatments for ADHD. A psychologist from the Health Management and Education Department offered a parent education group at each primary care office.
Following participation in the program, primary care providers reported improved familiarity with school-based supports and community resources for families and they reported increased likelihood of referring families to these resources. The project generated helpful dialogue about ways to increase multimodal treatment of ADHD using existing resources within the UC Davis healthcare system and in the community. It also fostered increased collaboration between primary care and other mental health providers.
Being an ArizonaLEND fellow has been a deeply meaningful experience, not only because of the caring, talented, and like-minded friends and mentors that I have met, but also because of the way LEND has helped me develop from a student of public health into an early career professional. When I started my undergraduate education in 2010, I knew I wanted to someday return to my hometown of Yuma, Arizona, a rural, United States-Mexico border community, and work with individuals with disabilities and their families. I understood all too well the family role as the eldest sibling of two autistic brothers. My mom and I have always been a team supporting my brothers, and I carry our lived experiences with me everywhere I go. After completing my undergraduate degree in neuroscience and cognitive science, I stayed in Tucson at the University of Arizona and completed a master’s program in public health policy and management. I realized that public health was the field where I belonged.
In July, I will be the coordinator for the Regional Center for Border Health’s Center for Children with Special Needs and Autism in Yuma. I will supervise interdisciplinary clinics for children with disabilities with teams from our three major Arizona universities. In addition, I will also participate as a second year LEND fellow as part of a team working to improve developmental screening and surveillance in our rural communities across Arizona. It’s been an honor being a part of ArizonaLEND, and I look forward to continuing the advancement of my formation as a professional in public health through the experiences I’ve had as a LEND fellow.
Beyond the classroom, beyond the clinic: partnerships between teachers and physicians- This final research project of my fellowship is a qualitative study that seeks to identify strategies that could facilitate collaboration between the disciplines of education and medicine. Our goal is to improve outcomes of children with diverse learning needs. Using semi-structured interviews of general and special education teachers and general and developmental-behavioral pediatricians we attempted to learn what teachers and physicians consider are the barriers to a strong partnership between them and what they consider are strategies to improve communication and collaboration. When we were preparing for the project, we spoke with a leader in elementary education at our university’s school of education to gain his perspective on the topic. He suggested that teachers would likely not value building partnerships with pediatricians because they spend every day with their students and pediatricians see their patients relatively rarely.
We have conducted 11 interviews so far and are beginning to code them for emerging themes. Both groups were interested in sharing knowledge between disciplines in order to facilitate the success of all children. Teachers wanted to have a definition of pediatricians’ role in the education of children and a better understanding of developmental expectations for their students. Physicians wanted to know about the processes schools follow in evaluating children and how individual teachers approach children in their classrooms. Several respondents suggested this knowledge be shared through meaningful, well-designed, in-person interactions between teachers and pediatricians. Time to conduct these interactions was a barrier mentioned by most everyone. The lack of a forum for direct communication between teachers and pediatricians was another significant barrier. As I finish my DBP fellowship and look toward my new position in a community health system, I look forward to collaborating with teachers and pediatricians. This project has underscored how children’s health is an important part of their learning and how education is an important aspect of their medical care.
Mama Frances was a force to be known in the South Bronx of New York City. She was the only grandmother I knew handing out condoms and encouraging people to get HIV testing. She was my grandmother, and I am proud of her decades of service helping vulnerable patients affected by HIV. In her final years, she could be found distributing condoms to individuals in her Catholic nursing home. As a Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) fellow, I feel I am continuing the legacy of my grandmother’s work as an advocate for vulnerable patients. I work as part of a phenomenal interdisciplinary team with physicians, nurses, and social workers to provide comprehensive medical care to youth in Baltimore. I am surrounded by a dedicated clinical team and scientists with tremendous passion for improving the lives of teens though great clinical care, research and advocacy.
My career as a scientist started as an undergraduate at Columbia University in Dr. Rae Silver’s neurobiology laboratory. My research skills were developed while working at the Weill Cornell Medical College Belfer Gene Therapy Core Facility with Dr. Neil Hackett and studying child abuse with Dr. John M. Leventhal at Yale Medical School. I entered adolescent medicine fellowship to develop my clinical, leadership, and research skills.
During my fellowship, I participated in adolescent health rotations in substance use disorders, neurodevelopmental disabilities, eating disorders, endocrinology, sports medicine, and psychiatry. I worked in an adolescent medicine clinic and supervised residents at Johns Hopkins. In the community, I saw patients at Baltimore school-based health centers. I was interviewed on topics of adolescent and sexual health for the 90.5 WKHS radio show and the Dragon Digital Radio show entitled Get the Facts: Teens and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). I worked as a buprenorphine prescriber at the SPARC women’s center in Baltimore. Both the LEAH and adolescent medicine fellowships enhanced my leadership skills as a clinical educator and team facilitator.
My primary research as a fellow examined the prevalence of Mycoplasma genitalium and Trichomonas vaginalis infections in urban adolescents and young adults in the Women’s BioHealth Study. My primary mentor and the principal investigator for this research was Dr. Maria Trent. As a result of this research, I published an article entitled, “Clinical and sexual risk correlates of Mycoplasma genitalium in urban pregnant and non-pregnant young women: cross-sectional outcomes using baseline data from the Women’s BioHealth Study” with Dr. Trent as the first author. Also, as the first author, I published an article entitled “Does the Sex Risk Quiz Predict Mycoplasma genitalium Infection in Urban Adolescents and Young Adult Women?” I presented abstracts at the 2017 and 2018 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine conferences and they were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. To disseminate the findings of this research, I have given lectures on the topic of sexually transmitted infections.
I am excited to continue my career as a physician-researcher next year at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). I will be an Assistant in Internal Medicine and Assistant in Pediatrics at MGH and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. I will work in the MGH Everett Family Care and MGH Adolescent Medicine clinics. I will continue research on vulnerable populations and sexually transmitted infections under the mentorship of Dr. Trent. I am very grateful for the incredible opportunity to participate in the Hopkins LEAH fellowship. The mentorship and diversity of the Hopkins LEAH faculty stand above and beyond what I have received at any other point in my physician training. The LEAH fellowship inspired my lifelong career in clinical care, research, and support for adolescents.
I’m not exactly sure when I was introduced to MCHB. I feel as though it has always been an underlying presence in the work I do by nature of my profession. However, the roles and opportunities that MCHB provides became much clearer to me during my Adolescent Medicine Fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The amazing people I work with do an excellent job of looking at each individual holistically as well as trying to understand how they fit into a larger public health conversation.
As an adolescent medicine fellow, I have a slightly unique perspective of MCH. While I acknowledge the traditional constructs of mothers and their relationships with families to develop healthy children, I also work within a field that acknowledges that some of my patients are simultaneously both mothers and children. And it is for this reason that my major interests within this field are reproductive health for young women and men as well as caring for adolescents with HIV. Working with the older pediatric populations really inspires me because I know that if we as health professionals can keep them healthy and help them develop autonomy and self-advocacy, they can change the world for future MCH populations.
As an adolescent medicine fellow at UAB I have also had the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) program. Working intimately with a multitude of providers who all provide services essential to the healthy maturation of adolescents has been a great experience. LEAH has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding into the diverse perspectives each specialty uses when they approach a patient. It has also helped me refine my skills in team building and leadership.
My fellowship has also afforded me the opportunity to return to school. I am currently working on an MPH in Public Health with a concentration in MCH Leadership and Policy and thus also represent the MCH Centers of Excellence (CoE). This experience has allowed me to integrate my skills as a clinician with my desires to affect public health and policy. I have gained a better and more thorough understanding of the processes and thoughts that go into enacting certain policies and focusing on certain subpopulations within MCH. I have also been able to delve deeper into my interests in a unique way that isn’t necessarily part of my clinical training. In addition, I have become a mentor to recent college graduates as they seek to find their niche within health care and policy.
Now as a member of the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG), I get to continue developing my understanding of MCH and how MCH initiatives work to inspire and train the future workforce. I look forward to the connections I will make serving as a mentor on the TAG-developed virtual mentoring platform, MCH Connects. I am also enjoying collaborating with all of the other TAG members that represent the multitude of MCH training programs and feel privileged to be a part of discussions that involve connecting MCH professionals from across the country. This experience adds to the continued emphasis on holism among health professionals that I have been receiving with my adolescent fellowship, LEAH, and CoE opportunities.
When I was a teenager, I sat in the back row of a packed lecture room for a highly anticipated talk by a world-renowned physician and humanitarian. I remember running up to the podium afterwards to ask a question, waiting in a terribly long line, and only being able to exhale one phrase before they were rushed off the stage. I had asked, “I want to be like you; what can I do to change the world?” The reply was simple. “Start with the family.” I admit that I was at first disappointed with this seemingly trite advice, but over the following years of my professional development, I began to appreciate its wisdom. The family both grounds and uplifts individuals. I believe that is the foundation of maternal and child health (MCH), and it has permeated every professional experience I hold dear. As an adaptive aquatics instructor for children with developmental disabilities and as a volunteer in the Special Olympics, I learned from my families that courage is more powerful than even the most despairing medical diagnosis. As a caregiver in a facility for children with severe behavioral problems and as a counselor in a camp for children with terminal illnesses, I appreciated, if only for a short time, how overwhelming it can be to be the support pillar of a family. I’ve worked abroad strengthening communities in the Philippines and Tanzania, where I learned that by supporting mothers in their health, education and financial wellbeing, the entire family’s health can thrive. Through my residency projects to promote healthy eating habits and early childhood literacy, I learned how partnerships between local government and community members can sustain meaningful family health initiatives. I am glad that I was able to have such diverse early career experiences surrounding MCH.
Now, I am a board-certified pediatrician currently in fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I also had the tremendous opportunity to be a fellow in the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program last year. I’m grateful for these interactions with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) that have continued to shape me into the MCH-focused clinician and researcher that I always wanted to be. The children I care for have complex medical and genetic conditions and developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and global developmental delay. Working alongside their families, I have learned about the daily struggles and the daily joys that are unique to this population. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of physicians trained to care for these children, even despite the growing prevalence of ASD. Through DBP and LEND I feel capable to contribute to this field and help fill the healthcare need. In the next steps of my career, I plan to support public health policy that improves the lives of children with developmental disabilities and their families and decreases disparities in health delivery. Ultimately, I view my role as empowering families and connecting individuals to crucial services. The MCHB has supported me in these goals in many ways. My MCHB mentors have helped me navigate career questions; I’ve attended various seminars in MCH that have armed me with practical skills; and I’ve presented my research and community work at conferences where I could network with key stakeholders. My current research, which I began in LEND, explores trauma, adversity, and resilience in families of children with developmental disabilities. I aim to learn how we can address the effects of stress on child development and behavior, so we can optimize the outcomes for all.
I am honored to serve on the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) for the 2018 cohort. It is exciting to partner with like-minded people to foster a deeper relationship between MCHB and trainees in programs across the country. I think the greatest strength of the MCHB network is the interdisciplinary collaboration that breeds innovation. I enjoy the opportunity to highlight the work of current and former trainees and facilitate greater communication among early career professionals committed to MCH.
Making Lifelong Connections (MLC) has played a major role in my development as an MCH professional. I first attended MLC in 2013 as a College of Public Health - Social Work trainee. That year I was fortunate enough to meet Shannon Haworth, a family trainee, who shared her personal journey of navigating the educational and health care systems as a mother of a child with autism. Her story stuck with me and guided how I approached family-centered care as a new social worker.
I attended MLC again in 2014 and 2015, this time as a former trainee and an emerging professional in my field. I was inspired by the work that others were doing across the nation with various MCH populations and across disciplines. The heavy focus on leadership development these years helped me build the skills to take a much more proactive role as an MCH professional. I left both of those years with an excitement and energy about MCH, as well as new professional connections and friends!
At MLC 2015, I met Zipporah Shackleford, another family trainee who shared with me her experiences as a mother of a child with special health care needs. This echoed much of what I heard from Shannon two years prior and reminded me of the important role we play in MCH to advocate on behalf of the families we work with.
I once again attended MLC in 2018 as a more seasoned professional, where I was able to co-present with Zach Goble, a friend I made at MLC 4 years earlier. Despite being in different states, Zach and I have been able to use our experiences as MCH professionals within school systems to collaborate on projects and case consultations to benefit the students in our schools.
As the name suggests, Making Lifelong Connections is about connecting MCH trainees and professionals so that we can strengthen our network and work collectively to benefit the communities/populations we serve. I am so fortunate to have made the close personal and professional connections at MLC each year!
Audiology Fellows from (respectively) Northeastern University, University of Arizona, and University of Washington
During our year as Audiology doctoral externs, each of us rotated through different clinics within the Boston Children’s Hospital Audiology system—the Boston main campus, Weymouth satellite, and Waltham campus—which provided us opportunities to solidify our diagnostic, hearing aid and cochlear implant acumen and develop into independent, confident pediatric clinicians. Some of our patients were seen in conjunction with Otolaryngology, our multidisciplinary Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, Cochlear Implant Program, Down Syndrome Program, Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic and more, allowing us to be part of interdisciplinary care teams for our patients. Often, our patients were medically complex, exposing us to the challenges and joys of working with developmentally involved patients who must manage their hearing loss.
In addition to our clinical work, we also designed a research project that investigated the current role that audiologists play in the identification, screening, and referrals for children with suspected autism Spectrum Disorder. Based on the survey that was sent to audiologists across the nation, we found that a majority of audiologists are not performing screening for children who are seen for audiology services when autism is suspected, as they do not view it as in their scope of practice. However, of the most commonly reported red flags for suspected autism were things unique to an audiology clinic. This leads us to believe that having proper education and training for audiologists on administering autism screening tools can allow us to play a vital role in early identification of autism.
We also designed and executed a Self-Advocacy Workshop for the annual Middle School Transitions Workshop. This workshop is a day of educational lectures and activities for families of elementary school children in 4th and 5th grade that addresses issues unique to children with hearing loss and the educational and logistical changes that come with transitioning from elementary school into middle school. Through activities and role play, we taught the children about the importance of self-awareness, self-advocacy and effective communication about their hearing loss, how their devices work, and how their hearing loss affects social and learning situations.
Being a part of LEND this year was invaluable to our education, offering tools and strategies to best work with these unique populations.
Occupational Therapist, Boston Children’s Hospital
My participation in the Boston Children’s Hospital LEND program has been in collaboration with the Boston Children’s Hospital Occupational Therapy Fellowship. This experience has nicely aligned with my clinical practice. Throughout the program, I have:
Throughout the year, I observed multiple clinics within Boston Children’s Hospital, including the Down Syndrome Program, the LEND program, and the ASK program. I also had the pleasure of meeting with the director of the Pediatric Palliative Care program, one of the many Title V programs in Massachusetts. In addition to my program observations, I had the opportunity to participate in two home visits with a young man diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and his family in Charlestown, MA through the Linking Hands Program. Each activity was a valuable experience that has enhanced my practice as a pediatric occupational therapist.
For the past seven months, I have also had the pleasure of collaborating with The Threshold Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts with several other LEND fellows. Every Sunday, the fellows led a walking group called the “Neighborhood Stroll”. This group consisted of young adults of all physical and cognitive abilities. The group size averaged about five participants each week. The club shortly grew into a small community. The group had great conversations and a lot of laughs. The group participants taught me about the importance of community while also sharing with me some of the challenges that they face on a daily basis and how they persevere to live their lives to the fullest in the greater Boston area.
Clinical Developmental Health and Psychology, Tufts University
Through my LEND experience I had the great experience of working with the Threshold Program at Lesley University. This is a two-year on-campus college experience for students with diverse learning challenges. This consists of a two-year core curriculum program and other optional programming to help with transitions into the working and academic worlds. I was able to work one-on-one with students on life and study skills. Moreover, I participated in group social outings that provided me the opportunity to talk and engage with current students and alumni. This allowed me to get a peek into their social lives and their community.
Working one-on-one with an alumni in the Threshold Program was the most salient experience for me because it allowed me to work directly with someone who is going into their professional career and needed help in course work completion. It was a rare opportunity to work with a peer, which provides a whole new perspective that I am not usually privy to. With this new growth and knowledge I believe I am truly prepared to enrich my field in ways that I would not have without this leadership training.
The year before I applied to public health school, I didn’t even know maternal and child health existed. It was 2010, and I was living in Chicago making a career change, though I had no idea what career I wanted to transition to. At the time, I was unemployed.
Because the job search post-recession was both daunting and exhausting, I decided I needed something else to occupy my time and boost my morale to get through this difficult period. I remembered that during my volunteer years with AmeriCorps, I had heard about a position as a doula, a person providing emotional and physical support to pregnant women, volunteering with teenage mothers. At the time, I had no idea what a doula was, but the more and more I learned, the more and more I knew it would be the perfect job for me.
I can’t say how or why supporting pregnant women attracted me so much, but I do think it has something to do with having grown up with a very loving mother myself. As I worked in Chicago and witnessed the amount of income inequality and the diverse struggles of low-income families and families of color, I became aware of my privilege as a White female and began to not take for granted the stable home I had grown up in. I wanted to give back, and I felt one of the best ways to do that was to make the world a better and healthier place for mothers and babies. Being a doula seemed like a great place to start.
Eventually, I was trained through DONA international, audited a Bradley childbirth course, and began to support women through my time with the Chicago Volunteer Doulas, where we worked out of four major birthing hospitals in the city, offering our services on call and for free. Being a doula turned out to be just as wonderful, challenging, and rewarding as I could imagine, and perhaps more so. After one year and over 20 births, I began to wonder if there was a way I could make maternal and child health a more formal aspect of my life.
After attending graduate school conferences with Idealist, I became aware of public health and also the Centers of Excellence around the country. One definitely stood out: Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). Not only did I feel wholeheartedly welcomed when I visited, but I noted that Dr. Gene Declercq was a professor at BUSPH, and I had seen him on the provocative documentary that is a must-watch for doulas, The Business of Being Born.
In 2012, I began my studies at BUSPH with a concentration in maternal and child health and enrolled in their Center of Excellence as a trainee. I became a department fellow in MCH as well as a fellow for the MCH section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). And yes, I was able to study alongside Dr. Declercq, and helped to spread the reach of his website, birthbythenumbers.org, both online and through social media.
It’s been four years now since I have graduated, and I am again feeling very lucky and blessed to have had the privilege to pursue MCH at the graduate level. It has come time to give back.
It was the key connections that I made in the MCH world, starting with my becoming a doula in 2010, that led me to where I am today, and I hope to help others make connections so they can pursue their desired paths. The Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) aligned with this vision. One of the major goals of the TAG is to foster connections between current and former trainees across the country. Since joining the TAG in January 2018, I have been able to work with other current and former trainees to make the training and post-training experience the best it can be for graduates and alumni. Given my past experience with MCH-related websites and social media channels during my time at BUSPH, I volunteered to serve as the TAG’s MCH Connects liaison for the first quarter of this year and am beginning discussions with my fellow Ambassadors about how we can better communicate information about the TAG, MCH Connects, and other MCH resources with current and former trainees.
Each person on the TAG has his or her own story of how they came to MCH. Oftentimes, it came through a series of events or unexpected relationships or opportunities. I have enjoyed hearing all of these stories of my fellow TAG members, and I hope to be a part of the story for trainees well into the future.
TIPS for Kids has been a wonderful experience for me. Through this grant I was able to further my learning about pediatric therapy. Working with all different disciplines has helped me learn much more about the different resources that can help children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The collaboration between students has given me a greater understanding of what they are learning in their profession and helped me understand when a child would benefit from their services. I have loved being a part of the TIPS for Kids experience! (Note: Grace Powell is in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program, Class of 2019, University of Missouri, Columbia and is a trainee in TIPS for Kids, Missouri LEND.)
I was introduced to MCH as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UW-Milwaukee) in 2006 through my involvement in the Maternal and Child Health Pipeline Training Program (MCH Pipeline). At this time, I was not aware of MCH or any MCH training programs. In MCH Pipeline, I was exposed to a curriculum with an emphasis on working with families, children with disabilities, and interprofessional teaming, which paved the way for many of the experiences I had later in graduate school and then as a pediatric occupational therapist. It was through my involvement in MCH Pipeline that I worked with children with autism spectrum disorders for the first time, and alongside other undergraduate students from various health-related disciplines. I knew, at that time, I wanted to continue this work in my professional career. This experience also was the catalyst for my research interests in maternal health and children with special healthcare needs.
As a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee, I completed my master’s thesis on the health-related quality of life in mothers of children with autism. This particular research interest was a direct result of my time in Pipeline. I was very interested in the health of mothers, and specifically, mothers of children with autism since this was the specific population of children within the special healthcare needs realm that were, and still are, of great interest to me. This work led to my very first publication, and then the eventual invitation to write a chapter on the quality of life of caregivers with autism in a comprehensive guide to autism.
When I was applying for jobs as an occupational therapist, I applied to the same facility where I had my very early experiences working with children with autism back when I was in MCH Pipeline. This was a very full circle experience, and I have been employed at that facility since 2008 as an occupational therapist in their public charter school. I have had the opportunity to work with many children and families, not only with autism, but various developmental disabilities supporting children’s participation in the school setting.
I began my second MCH training in 2013 in the Wisconsin Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (WI LEND) program. I completed WI LEND as a 1st year trainee and then went on and completed another year as a 2nd year trainee. This opportunity was even more transformative, and brought a fresh perspective to my work as an occupational therapist supporting children and families. I participated in an interdisciplinary clinic experience with an emphasis on autism diagnostics. Being on the other end of autism services as a therapist providing skilled intervention, it was an incredible experience to see the autism diagnostic process and the complexity of this process. During this time, I also began my doctoral work at UW-Milwaukee. I am currently working on my dissertation focusing on the American Academy of Pediatrics medical home and the association with access to educational services for children with autism.
Now in my third interaction with MCH training programs through the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG), I am very excited about expanding my collaboration with MCH training programs at the national level. I am able to network with current and former MCH trainees throughout the country and with professionals within MCHB. I hope to continue to develop my leadership skills as an MCH professional through my involvement in leadership development activities and advancing the work of former TAG Ambassadors to support the mission of TAG and MCHB. I am also very grateful for the emphasis on mentorship that has been integral in every MCH training program I have participated. This has been an important aspect of my MCH development and has fostered my continued involvement in MCH activities since the very beginning of my career.
Prior to starting my graduate studies, I worked alongside diverse, MCH populations both domestically, as a Minority Health Promotion Coordinator and as a Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) nutritionist, and internationally, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa. These experiences shaped my professional ambitions to work with culturally diverse, underserved MCH populations in the field of community and public health nutrition. Motivated to make a greater impact, I sought out graduate and training programs that would increase my knowledge and refine my skills in MCH nutrition.
As one of only six programs in the country for nutrition leadership education and training in MCH, the University of Tennessee Public Health Nutrition graduate program offered the education and training necessary to fulfill my ambitions. As a funded trainee with the MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education, and Training Program since January 2016, I have had opportunities to explore various avenues in MCH nutrition and find my niche in the field. Working on various diversity and cultural competence programs and initiatives through my traineeship, I have recognized my passions for these topics and how they relate to health and nutrition equity in marginalized communities. Interactions that Make a Difference (ITMD), targeting Tennessee Title V Personnel, and Cultural and Linguistic Competence Express (CLCE), targeting graduate students in health-related disciplines, are two daylong cultural and linguistic competence workshops facilitated by University of Tennessee MCH Nutrition faculty and funded trainees. My facilitation skills, overall understanding, and passion for the subject has evolved over the last few years and has permeated into my research.
My research interests include development, implementation, and evaluation of culturally and linguistically relevant community-based interventions targeting food security issues in culturally diverse, vulnerable MCH populations. More specifically, my current dissertation research focuses on the impact of dietary acculturation on the food security status of Sub-Saharan African refugee families, and community based participatory research approaches to develop, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically relevant programming for this population. The opportunities through my traineeship have led me down an exciting and fulfilling path, and have better prepared me to accomplish my professional aspirations.
As a TAG Ambassador, I look forward to building a stronger interprofessional network, collaborating with peers, and advancing my leadership in the MCH field. TAG is utilizing the diversity of knowledge, skills, and perspectives across professions to more holistically address health and nutrition inequities across MCH populations. I hope to bring my experiences and skills, developed throughout my traineeship, to the TAG and aim to break down professional silos to better serve diverse MCH communities now and in the future.
I’ve been honored to serve on the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) for its first two years. My journey began in my final year of graduate studies earning my MPH in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health while I was also an Interdisciplinary Fellow of the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) program in the University of Minnesota Medical School. That year, I learned of the Making Lifelong Connection (MLC) Annual Meeting and was provided the opportunity to attend as a current MCHB trainee. I was thrilled to meet fellow trainees from:
At the time, I wasn’t aware of the many MCHB training programs. I had been in the depths of my research on adolescent sexual behaviors. Once meeting trainees focused on neurodevelopment and related disabilities and developmental-behavioral pediatrics, I wanted to learn more. MLC 2015 was an eye opening experience where I made lasting friendships. During MLC 2015, a MCHB representative presented a new initiative, TAG, to which I applied for because I wanted to be more connected with current and former MCHB trainees after I graduated and completed my fellowship in the coming months.
In the two years of serving in TAG, I have had the opportunity to plan MLC 2016, present at MLC 2016 and 2017, and help develop MCH Connects – a virtual mentorship program for MCHB trainees. Along the way, I have built professional relationships as well as friendships among fellow members and staff. I know that if I chose to relocate, I will have connections to help me find the resources to get me settled in the local public health community.
Now, as a former trainee of both LEAH and Center of Excellence in MCH, I wish to help navigate current trainees through the system of opportunities. I am a current mentor for the University of Minnesota School of Public Health for maternal and child health students. It is exciting when I am able to share my passion of adolescent health or environmental health with my mentee or direct them to a colleague I’ve met through TAG or MLC depending on their area of interest.
I would recommend serving on TAG if one is interested in:
My name is Heidi Jonson and I am currently completing the final semester of my Master of Public Health degree in Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Additionally, I am finalizing my master's thesis at the Minnesota Department of Health, using data from the Minnesota Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program. My research objective is to determine the association between interpregnancy weight gain and subsequent child weight at ages 2-5. My major research interests are rooted in the “Life-Course Approach to Health." Specifically, I am interested in childhood obesity prevention at the federal policy level and intend to continue working within this area of research after graduation.
During Summer 2017, I had the opportunity to complete an impactful 10-week internship with the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development (DMCHWD) in Rockville, MD under the supervision of Madhavi Reddy, MSPH and Samantha Croffut, MPH, RD. I had a unique chance to work with the Division as they transitioned to meet the administration's new priorities in health—mental health, substance abuse, and childhood obesity. I was able to assist Meredith Morrissette, MPH in her research on childhood obesity prevention frameworks and guidelines, and present our findings at several nutrition-focused meetings with leaders across the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).
In addition to childhood obesity work within the Bureau, I attended the National Academy of Sciences' Workshop on Strategies to Limit Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption in Young Children and networked with fellow childhood obesity prevention researchers and policy experts. I also had the opportunity to attend the Autism CARES Meeting and the Meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee where I learned about current research and advocacy for the Autism Community.Overall, I was able to apply my skills and knowledge from the academic setting to the innovative projects and proposals MCHB was putting forward. I really enjoyed my time at HRSA and was able to improve my communication and collaboration skills, and gain a unique insight into federal, state, and local maternal and child health programming and professional training. I am especially grateful for the world-class mentoring and support I received from the DMCHWD staff during my time at HRSA. I highly recommend this internship to students interested in pursuing careers in Maternal and Child Health!
I came to the MCH Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) as a student from Vanderbilt's UCEDD and LEND programs. I'm not a traditional TAG partner with a background in public health or medical experience, but am committed to partnering across disciplines to serve children and families who experience disability. From 2010-2015 I lived in China and there I became immersed in the complexities of disability, community development, power, and privilege. When our family of 3 learned we were growing with twins on the way, we moved back to the US. I applied to graduate schools and landed at Vanderbilt to get my Masters in Special Education, with a focus on children K-12th who have severe disabilities.
As a TAG ambassador, I've developed a new set of lenses to see children and families. I'm digitally networking with partners who have perspectives that I need to hear. We have the privilege to work with children and mothers, many whose lives are marked by courage, and that requires our commitment to their flourishing. Resilience doesn't come easy for me. I oftentimes get overwhelmed by some of the hard realities I encounter with children and families, and in all honesty, have cried a lot in working with children who have lived through trauma. But leaning into professional partners has lightened my heavy load of feeling like I need to have the answers to questions I don't know.
I live in Nashville, TN in a zip code where 40% of my community lives in extreme poverty. Connecting with MCH through TAG has given me a heightened sense of my commitment to address racial disparities experienced in maternal and children health. I have partnered with Meharry Medical College on a grant through the CDC's REACH 2020 (Racial and Ethical Approaches to Community Health) initiative, which works to bring mobile markets of fresh produce into food desert communities here in North Nashville. I have also been able to use my training and experience in TAG to provide a weekly StoryTent to children at our local farmers markets each Saturday morning. Since we started the program in early June, over 375 children have come to read, earn book bucks, and use their bucks to purchase prizes or produce.
I am grateful that I have this opportunity to be developed through MCHB's TAG. Not only has it provided me with a team of professionals from around the country, it's opened my eyes to the value of collaborating to accomplish a practical goal: developing a mentor and mentee directory for connecting seasoned professionals to early career professionals. The potential of this sort of tool is incredible! This sort of tool will allow us to tap into the power of our professional networks, to advance them and use them to enrich our world. I also envision this tool as a golden opportunity to enhance the networks of professionals with mentees that are in places where they can glean guidance from those they find through the MCH Connects platform.
MCH Nutrition Leadership
In 2015, I became an MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainee at the University of Washington (UW). At the time, I was entering the second year of UW’s Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics (GCPD) – a program designed to equip future dietitians with the knowledge base to work both at the individual and systems levels. While the program highlighted many facets of nutrition, I was drawn to topics that served the MCH population. In particular, I was struck by the concept of the Life Course approach and the potential to impact health disparities early in life. This interest developed into a passion for breastfeeding and opportunities to empower breastfeeding families. With the encouragement of my MCH Traineeship advisor and GCPD peers, I took a deep dive into breastfeeding. I began to focus most assignments on topics surrounding lactation and completed my thesis on the drivers of breastfeeding policy adoption in Washington State Clinics. As an MCH Trainee, I continued to expand my understanding through participation in annual trainee conferences and collaborative discussions with fellow MCH Nutrition Trainees. Each of these actions, paired with my public health nutrition training, led me to value the impact of multilevel strategies upon breastfeeding and other aspects of MCH.
While my long-term goals to pursue higher education and research remained, I began to rethink my first step out of graduate school with a new appreciation for each level of the system. To influence breastfeeding at the policy level, I wanted to first experience breastfeeding at the individual level. With a new degree and credential in tow, I accepted a position as a Nutritionist-RD at a local community health center WIC program. I also joined the Maternal Child Health Bureau Traineeship Ambassador Group (TAG).
As a WIC Nutritionist-RD, I see the downstream effects of policies and the resilience of families. In particular, the topic of breastfeeding continues to stand out in my daily endeavors. I built a basic knowledge of breastfeeding through my training, yet I learn more each day from families who push beyond the aggressive marketing strategies, social stigmas, and lack of paid parental leave to provide the best start for their children. I am grateful for the opportunity to invest in future generations through these one-on-one interactions.
As a TAG Ambassador, I collaborate with peers who share a similar passion for the MCH population. Each of us brings a unique strength to the projects at hand and subsequently reinforce the value of interdisciplinary, multi-level strategies. The emphasis of the Maternal Child Health Bureau’s (MCHB) Division of MCH Workforce Development (DMCHWD) to build relationships and networks across professions has been a key driver in my professional experience and time with TAG. I look forward to maintaining and building additional connections with the MCH community.
Pipeline Training Program
Four years ago, I was introduced to the Maternal and Child Health-Pipeline Training Program (MCH-PTP). As an undergraduate student nurse passionate about addressing healthcare disparities within minority populations, in my eyes, MCH-PTP was the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about my field and to network with healthcare leaders. For the 2014-2015 academic years, MCH-PTP offered me the opportunity to learn under the mentorship of a well-respected clinical assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin— Milwaukee College of Nursing. I was able to collaborate with her on an extended research project and presented at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) Systems Symposium in April 2015. As a result of my experience, I fell deeper in love with research and interdisciplinary studies so much that it has greatly influenced my future career trajectory.
Furthermore, through the 2015-2016 academic year, MCH-PTP granted me and three other UWM students the opportunity to embrace our untapped talents. Through a well-respected strength-based psychology assessment, Strength Finder 2.0, we were able to magnify our natural strengths and work as a team to develop and participate in several group projects. Specifically, we developed an “MCH Project of the Year,” which essentially moved the pipeline back to the middle school level to mentor at-risk youth in hoping for their future and planning for college. Through this experience, we completed a “Student Inspirational Gallery Walk” and a public speaking video entitled, “Hearing our Words & Honoring our Grit.”
Recently, as a MCH Trainee Ambassador, I had the opportunity to travel to the 2017 MCH Making Lifelong Connections Conference in Seattle, Washington. I was able to network with MCH leaders from across the nation and able to share the work MCH-PTP completed with our students in Milwaukee. As a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee College of Nursing and a new Registered Nurse, reflecting on my experiences with MCH is quite humbling. In fact, I am reminded of the countless times I felt unsure of myself and questioned my abilities as a scholar. MCH-PTP continuous mentorship was not only uplifting, but also exerted a relationship that allowed me to excel in ways I would have never imagined! Acceptance into MCH-PTP and TAG has helped me cultivate my goals and has greatly influenced my career trajectory today. Collaborating with TAG members has connected me with future leaders and current MCH leaders and challenged me to embrace talents learned from the Strength Finder 2.0 assessment. This opportunity has been life changing! I am excited to continue growing and learning from my peers.
Prior to starting my Masters in Public Health at the University of Washington’s Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health (MCH), I had the opportunity to study and work on a variety of projects that eventually drew me to MCH. As an undergraduate Environmental Studies student, I researched in Vietnam with an organization called Project Gaia Inc., studying indoor cooking with ethanol fuel and stoves. After graduating, I worked as an AmeriCorps member on the Blackfeet American Indian Reservation and focused on building capacity through the Blackfeet Teen Pregnancy/Parenting Coalition. From there, I joined the Public Health Associate Program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was placed at a local health department in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where I focused on STI/HIV prevention. Listed on paper, my path to MCH seems winding, but as I was working in these positions, I felt that MCH was a common thread between them.
Through my experiences, I began to consider how healthy mothers, children, and families are the foundation of healthy communities, healthy societies, and a healthy planet. I also thought about the distribution of resources and the distribution of disease, and how good health is often connected to wealth. In contrast, income inequality, racial discrimination, and gender discrimination are often connected with poor health outcomes. For example, it is often the poorest mothers who cook with wood fuels because they cannot afford clean-burning alternatives. As a result, they and their children often suffer from the negative health impacts of indoor air pollution from wood smoke. In the US, adolescent women in general, and low-income or minority women in particular, often face stigma in the healthcare system. Understanding the importance of MCH and the disparities within it led me to a passion for health equity, and a desire to ensure that all women have the freedom, opportunities and resources they need to raise children in a healthy and supportive environment, if they decide to do so.
My time working with the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) has helped me to understand how other MCH professionals are working in different disciplines, including medicine, nutrition, and developmental sciences, to reach similar goals. Addressing issues of health inequity and promoting health across generations are difficult tasks that will ultimately require collaboration between people of different backgrounds, with different perspectives, and in different sectors and focus areas. I think the TAG has been an excellent way to start building those partnerships, and working to connect MCH professionals who will help to solve future issues in MCH and in public health.
Mallorie McKinnon, UF PPC Nursing Trainee: "Being a UF PPC trainee has allowed me to learn not only the importance of patient and family centered care, but also how to advocate for and apply it in my own clinical nursing practice. Working with my fellow PPC trainees, I have come to better understand the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration and communication within both outpatient and inpatient settings to provide superior care to our pediatric patients. It has been a pleasure learning from such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable faculty, knowing that they are passionate about their work and their responsibilities within the PPC, making them a wonderful sounding board for difficult decisions and an advisor to turn to in times of need."
Taylor Gonzalez, Nardley Docteur, Sonnie Mayewski, UF PPC Social Work Trainees: "As social work trainees, being a part of the interdisciplinary team has given us the opportunity to learn from other disciplines and in doing so, provide the best and most comprehensive care to our patients. We have experienced that attending to various aspects of an individual’s functioning improves health outcomes. We believe that our discussions in Core Curriculum meetings have helped us become stronger leaders and communicators outside of this traineeship as well as helped us become better members of the PPC team. This opportunity has allowed us to be immersed in the pediatric healthcare setting while having the resources of fellow trainees and professionals. Having had the experience of being PPC trainees will guide and strengthen our future practice as social workers. We have grown into practitioners who effectively collaborate with numerous team members from a variety of disciplines, sharing ideas and increasing knowledge."
Parent Attitudes Toward Enhancing Cognition and Clinical Research Trials in Down Syndrome - This research project is an exploratory study which focuses on understanding parent attitudes towards scientific efforts such as the use of drug therapies that target intellectual functioning and cognition in individuals with Down syndrome. We expect there to be many factors that influence the range of these attitudes and interest in clinical drug trials, and hope to gain insight on the complexities associated with this decision-making process. The goal of this project is to delineate family attitudes regarding clinical trials in order to inform and advance the development and trajectory of treatments for Down syndrome in a way that is consistent with parent values. The project will continue after the 2016-2017 LEND program is over, with data collection, analyzation, and manuscript write-up continuing throughout the summer.
There is a paucity of research relating to parent opinions on ameliorating or treating certain symptoms associated with developmental disabilities, such as cognitive impairment. Little is known about the factors that contribute to a parent deciding whether treatments such as medication to “cure” their child's disability are warranted, and the ethical and personal concerns pertaining to those perspectives and opinions. Multidisciplinary collaboration in both clinical and research work within the field of neurodevelopmental and related disabilities is imperative; this cooperative framework allows for a better understanding of the issues and treatment of the individual. Throughout LEND, I have learned the importance of continuing to act as an ally and advocate for individuals with disabilities, and to continue learning about the clinical, research, and policy work being conducted in this area.
Community Based Organizations Somali Development Center - At the Somali Development Center, I did a variety of legal work and assistance, as well as some other work for the organization. I was able to figure out legal issues from loan forgiveness to a cease and desist letter for a patent infringement. These are opportunities that are truly not available to many law students and I feel fortunate to have been able to experience this. I also helped produce a grant proposal that the SDC will be using to show the need for Congressional funding. I loved working at the SDC and look forward to helping there in the future.
I learnt the value of offering your time to an organization who truly needs it. It was very rewarding to help the Somali and African refugee community at the SDC.
Community Based Organizations Somali Development Center - Throughout the year, I had the pleasure of volunteering with Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) in their Access to Theatre program. The program included weekly acting classes that provided children and adolescents with the opportunity to develop skills in teamwork, selfexpression, and creativity. The participants, who have a myriad of disabilities, absolutely thrived in this setting, which was beautifully adapted to meet their needs. Each week, I was so impressed by the ideas and interactions of these participants. I always left with a smile on my face and cannot wait to continue my involvement with this organization in the future.
LEND completely changed my life in so many ways. First, through the weekly seminars, I learned a great deal about services, health policy, cultural competencies, and other issues related to Developmental Disabilities (DD). Second, because my colleagues hail from various disciplines, I gained a global understanding of the diverse resources available to individuals with DD and their families. Third, through the Disability Policy Seminar experience, I developed competency in advocacy at a political level and realized how powerful conversations with legislators can be. Finally, LEND has not only given me a new network of colleagues, but it has also given me a new group of best friends. The people that I have met through LEND are some of the most wonderful, compassionate, and enthusiastic professionals that I have ever met. I will always be thankful for what I have learned from them.
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) – Helped organize a sensory friendly Santa event at the Prudential Center, worked with children to make holiday cards for veterans, and worked on fundraising for the annual party for PYD.
Research - Practical Aspects and Implications of Variant Interpretation in the Clinical Setting investigated the implications of genetic variant interpretation and review in pediatric and oncology clinical settings to better understand the impact on medical management of patients.
Clinical - Genetic counseling intern at Seattle Children's Hospital (general pediatrics and pediatric oncology), Boston Medical Center (in oncology and prenatal settings), and Beth Israel Deaconess medical center (in the center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine).
My time at LEND has been an invaluable experience. It has expanded my understanding of the disability community and allowed me to become a stronger advocate for my patients and families. It has also highlighted the effectiveness of an interdisciplinary team and helped me understand how my role as a genetic counselor fits in. I’ve not only made some wonderful connections within the medical field, but developed lifelong friendships with all of the fellows! I couldn’t be more thankful to have had this opportunity.
Birth to Three Family Center, Ipswich, Massachusetts - Attended playgroups of children ages 0 - 5 years old, developed and presented a parent training entitled, “Letting Go of Their Little Hand: Preschool A Child’s First Step Towards Independence.” This presentation was geared towards parents of rising three-year-olds both transitioning from Early Intervention services and typically developing children.
Before LEND, as a mother of a child with communication, neurological, and learning disabilities, as well as, using my education background as a special education advocate and educational consultant, I was doing my part to help families on their respective IEP/504 journeys. In many cases, I was learning as I was navigating the school systems and doing my best to learn about Medicaid, DDS, DMH, etc. as needed. Throughout LEND, my understanding of these programs has broadened to a deep understanding about referral, applications, and processes. I learned of DPH programs that I did not know existed and can directly benefit my family and clients. I have already connected two families with MASSSTART. Being a LEND fellow has given me critical information that will directly impact families in the community and has helped me to form a network of professionals that I will rely on in the future and I hope will rely on me if I can help them in any way.
Upon learning that BookShare, a program for individuals with print disabilities was a proposed federal budget cut, began to focus my efforts at the Disability Policy Seminar and beyond to advocate to save this invaluable program. This included speaking to staffers from Massachusetts Congress members and attending local town hall meetings.
Residency - My involvement in the Boston Children’s LEND program has been in collaboration with the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Occupational Therapy Residency program and places my participation throughout this year within the clinical track. The residency program is approved and supported by the American Occupational Therapy Associated and is detailed as an opportunity for advanced post-professional clinical experience, designed to develop clinical experts and leaders in specific areas of occupational therapy practice. The Boston Children’s Hospital’s OT Residency is specific to pediatric practice and has been an incredible experience for both my professional and personal development. The program, which I began in September 2016, is an eleven-month opportunity organized by a 5-module rotation. Upon completion, I will have spent time in each setting of BCH occupational therapy inclusive of inpatient, outpatient, early intervention, augmentative communication/assistive technology, psychiatry, and pain rehabilitation. I have had the distinct pleasure and incredible fortune to work with and learn from esteemed mentors and leaders in order to advance my clinical skills and my ability to provide collaborative and all-inclusive care to the complex and unique children we see in practice at BCH.
The LEND program has been an invaluable compliment to my clinical work as the occupational therapy resident. The ability to work within an interdisciplinary team of enthused, motivated and talented individuals has facilitated a degree of vigor in my practice and opened lines of communication that will undoubtedly foster ongoing collaboration in the future. It has been a pleasure to return to a learning environment each Friday and to then implement new knowledge into my practice throughout the week. I recognize now, the power of the the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD) and how huge a difference a group of dedicated professionals can make for the children we work with. My clinical practice, research efforts, advocacy experience and community engagement across this year within the residency and LEND have taken my work to the next level and will continue to shape what I do and how I work for the rest of my career.
I recently had the privilege of connecting with many other MCH trainees and former trainees at this year’s Making Lifelong Connections (MLC) Meeting. I had the opportunity to attend the conference as a member of a team from the Trainee Ambassador Group that is working on a new trainee mentoring initiative. I must admit that I was not sure what to expect going in to the meeting, but after experiencing the event, I was inspired to comment on how meaningful it proved to be for me as a Developmental Pediatrician in training.
Prior to the MLC meeting, I did not have a full understanding of the different MCHB trainee programs or their various attributes. While at MLC, I had the chance to meet others in each of the training programs, to better understand our respective roles, and to consider how we can work together as an interdisciplinary force for maternal and child health. I heard about creative projects being completed by my colleagues, which led to the generation of new ideas that I could take back to my home program.
Getting the opportunity to consider issues alongside peers from different disciplines pushes one to think creatively and often introduces a new perspective. This can prove to be invaluable, and as one who practices medicine, I found that hearing from my colleagues outside of my specific discipline led me to consider approaches to problems or ideas that were "outside of the box." As I sat down at tables next to my peers, I discovered that, while our day to day schedules may look completely different, we were all working toward a common purpose, and this was extremely encouraging.
The strength of the MLC meeting is that it is a rare opportunity to bring trainees together in a way that generates meaningful ideas and important connections. I left the event not only with new friends and colleagues, but also with inspiration and energy after seeing such a diverse and committed group of trainees united behind a common purpose.
Almost two years ago, I embarked on the latest adventure in my academic life, beginning my studies in the Doctor of Public Health program at SUNY Albany. My previous schooling and training is in nutrition; I am a Registered Dietitian, and wanted to broaden my scope of practice with this degree. My interests have led me into the wonderful field of Maternal and Child Health (MCH), and I am excited to represent the MCH Catalyst program as a member of the 2017 MCH Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG). The School of Public Health at SUNY Albany is currently one of five projects funded as a Catalyst program, with the purpose of increasing public health students’ exposure to MCH content and careers, and elevating the focus on this content and its related competencies with the potential for an MCH concentration in the future.
Through my studies and involvement in the TAG, I have learned much about the history and future of MCH with regards to approaches, policies, and culture. The MCH field has come a long way, although there continue to be ongoing concerns and needs to be addressed. One essential thing I have come to understand is that, although it might seem counterintuitive, it is important that as MCH trainees we don’t overlook men’s health by only focusing on the ‘M’ and the ‘C’. We might at first consider the health of males to only be applicable to men and boys, but it certainly extends much farther than that. The MCH Bureau’s mission is “to improve the health of America’s mothers, children and families”, and given that June is Men’s Health Awareness Month we should pause and note that men are a vital part of families, networks, and communities.
The Division of MCH Workforce Development emphasizes community-based, family-centered, culturally competent practice among MCH trainees, and we would be remiss if we did not include men as an important part of the puzzle. Considering the Life Course Theory, in which health and disease patterns are thought to be impacted by both our life history and our ancestors’ history, it is important to consider the power of linked lives, including social networks and generational ties. Men’s health influences relationships, family economics, and community health. Men are often less likely to seek out health care services for themselves, and we need to find ways to help them make their health a priority.
The end goal is for all boats to rise, and it will definitely take the whole village to ensure equality. I urge you to take a moment to ensure that both you and other men in your life are taking care of yourselves - enjoying life, breathing some fresh spring air, getting adequate sleep, and of course, eating your fruits and veggies.
One's life journey is largely shaped by one's life experiences, and for me, my passions and career interests are in the broader context of life with a younger sibling with autism spectrum disorder. Seeing him struggle with some aspects of functioning while uniquely excelling in other areas has taught me that in the setting of uncertainty, setbacks, or perceived weakness, one can always find hope, potential, a change worth making or a goal worth pursuing. Experiencing this journey with him and my family fuels my desire to pursue better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, to seek effective treatments for these disorders, and to support patients and families in the process of living with their diagnoses.
Growing up I loved mysteries – taking the clues and trying to bring them together to solve a puzzle – so the study of medicine was an obvious fit. My love of investigation coupled with a passion for serving children and families led to a career in Pediatrics and ultimately to my current MCHB training program which is a fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. Within my MCHB funded training program, I have the opportunity to gain expertise in clinical diagnosis and management of developmental disorders while also formulating and investigating a research question relevant to the field. I am currently working to describe and characterize toddlers diagnosed with autism via the DSM-5 criteria and ultimately hope to follow these patients through school entry to determine their ability to access services and their functional outcomes.
I recently had the privilege of connecting with many other MCH trainees and former trainees at the 2017 Making Lifelong Connections Meeting. This experience afforded the opportunity for meaningful networking and exchange of ideas, and I left the conference excited about the connections I made and eager to further develop my ideas. In my experience as a Maternal Child Health Trainee thus far, I have been continually impressed and encouraged by the creativity and commitment I have witnessed in my interactions with other trainees. Among these peers, I sense a mutual drive to understand what we do not know or to take what we have learned and turn it into meaningful change, all with the common goal of bettering the health of children, mothers, and families. There are so many ways to serve and so many different career pathways that can lead to the successful promotion of the health of this population. The fact that the Maternal Child Health Bureau Training Programs bring together such a diverse group – both in life experiences and in educational background – united behind a common goal is a unique and valuable strength. I feel so honored to be a part of this team.
Five years ago, I was a health navigator in San Francisco's emergency shelter system. I was fresh out of college, bright-eyed and eager to help families find some semblance of stability during a frequently harrowing period of their lives. But, I soon realized how little good intentions meant when systems of care could not meaningfully communicate or collaborate to meet the medical, socioemotional, and basic needs of developing children and families. I was trained to help families optimally reach available services, but I began to wonder: how can we structure available services to optimally reach families?
These days, I listen to families more often through data than casework, trying to answer this enormous question. The work is just as precious, and I take particular pride in being able to shepherd facets of people's lived experience - from diagnosis codes to patient narratives - to shine a light on the needs of those at the margins. My time with LEND has allowed me to share tables and conversation with those who might use this light in their clinical decisions, their parenting, and their advocacy, which is a gift. And most importantly, I've been able to see with clarity how we can ensure those with lived experience are represented in these conversations, and support them in illuminating the issues that carry meaning to them.
Five years from today, I don't know where I'll be. Heck, even the next five months is questionable! But I hope to continue advancing these conversations where they may be lacking, keeping the voices of the families we serve always in the back pocket.
I have appreciated that people in GaLEND want to get to know me for who I am. I have seen that people with disabilities can be leaders and that there are many opportunities. My experiences in GaLEND and in the Georgia Tech Excel program have really opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist for me. I am open to the connections that I will make through the GaLEND Program that I may not even be aware of yet.
I see the GaLEND experience as an opportunity to improve lives in a community in which all might live, work, worship and play together. My passion for helping families impacted by disability is fueled even more by this rich interdisciplinary experience. It is stretching me at a time when most beneficial to my work as the Executive Director for Spectrum Autism Support Group (www.atl-spectrum.com) This quote says it all! "I want to make a difference doing something that makes a difference, with people that make a difference, at a time that makes a difference." --John C. Maxwell
What have I learned in these two short months at GaLEND? So much. Most fundamentally though, I have learned that it is time for a shift in the way we think about individuals with disability. It’s time to move beyond our focus on intervention and a few basic school supports. It is time to focus on equity. What does that look like? From the stories that individuals at GaLEND have shared thus far, it encompasses full inclusion into our communities -- our school settings, (child care, preschool, K-12 and universities as well), our neighborhoods, our work places, and our arts. And that means provision of the resources that will enable this inclusion, so all individuals, regardless of disability status, can have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations, to pursue love, family, and friends. Going forward in my career, I plan to leverage my skills as a researcher and teacher to advocate for this advancement by listening closely to the lived experiences of individuals, by sharing those stories, and by working collectively to address needs so equity can one day be achieved.
In five years, I hope to be fully engaged in connecting people in collaboration and helping them share their resources to address regional and national issues of importance to children with special health care needs, children with autism and related disorders and their families.
MNLEND 2014-15 Fellow, Jocelyn Bessette Gorlin PhD, RN, CPNP, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, Saint Catherine University, recently published an article in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing based upon her earlier MNLEND research project and dissertation. Her research examined the experiences of families living with a child with severe autism.
There is limited literature on the experiences of families when a child has severe autism as distinct from milder autism and that also includes the voices of multiple family members. She visited the homes of families to interview many family members who would share their story, including mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents.
Family members were willing and eager to talk. Many said they hoped to break the cycle of isolation by sharing their story and hoped to additionally improve health care. Gorlin states that several families expressed joy that finally their story would be shared with the public when she let them know of the publication. She would like to thank the families who opened their homes and lives to her and to the LEND staff who also ultimately assisted the families in telling their important stories. Her article can be located here.
John “Jack” Reagan, current 2016-17 MNLEND Fellow, recently co-published a brief based at UIC, based on the FINDS 2010 data surveying family caregivers. The data he analyzed within the FINDS survey focused on the emotional and physical markers affecting family caregivers. These markers have both positive and negative associations to their related outcomes for family caregivers. He helped assess how caregivers reported their respective health status based on these positive or negative markers. Within the caregiver group, he focused on sibling caregivers for this brief. He looked at how the reported disability group effects reported health status, stress levels, demographics, and living arrangement.
Overall, the families that completed this survey indicated that they experience a large amount of total stress, both physical and emotional. The most influential factors on the reported health status for family members were guilt, loneliness, physical fatigue, and costs of caregiving. Stress is only one indicator of the many markers that make up the negative effects of caregiving. In the future, it will be important to recognize the difficulties of caregiving in order to provide better family support. This report illustrates the need for improved services for families and it will be critical that we begin to provide basic mental health options for families to access. Click to view the UIC Fall 2016 brief.
Lisa is a current UR LEND trainee, a family advocate, and the mother of a son with autism spectrum disorder. She is employed by AutismUp as a Family Navigator and currently works full-time in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Rochester. Her time is devoted exclusively to working with families of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. She knows all too well the fear and shock that is associated with an autism diagnosis. This month, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics services will move into a new space designed specifically for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Lisa will be found in the Family Library in our new space, where she will be able to provide support and guidance.
“You hear autism and that's all you can think about. But I want to [. . .] tell [people] that it's not terrible. It's not awful. It doesn't mean your child won't be happy or won't have a place in the world. That feeling that you're all by yourself – it's not true. It's just that your reality will be a little bit different now.”
As part of their Arizona LEND leadership project, Page Buekelman, Whitney Mast, Joelle Fang, and LeAnna Lucero have been actively involved in helping the board members of the Autism Society of Southern Arizona organize the 11th annual Autism Walk in Tucson, AZ. The walk, which takes place on April 1, 2017, is the largest event for Autism in Southern Arizona, with an expected turn out of over 2,000 participants. There are also more than 50 community resources represented at the walk, providing valuable information for families of children with Autism, and many fun events for children of all ages to partake in. Each trainee has been working with a different board member throughout the planning process to organize different aspects of the event, including site coordination, volunteer organization, and entertainment. Trainees have attended bi-weekly planning meetings to consistently assess progress and determine future needs. Tasks have included but are not limited to: contacting local vendors for quotes and sponsorship, recruiting volunteers from various organizations, organizing registration set-up, compiling sponsor bags, promoting the walk via social media and flyers, and helping with informational booths at community events. Arizona LEND trainees have been encouraged to give their own input on new ideas throughout the planning process and have been actively engaged in all email communications with other board members.
As the tenth year of my post-undergraduate training draws to a close, I am able to reflect admirably on my past experiences. After attending medical school at the University of Oklahoma, residency whisked me and my fiancé away to St. Louis University. Three short years later, my now husband, a human baby (in addition to our fury ones) and I were westward bound for fellowship.
Arriving to the University of California at Davis was like a dream come true. All these long years working toward becoming a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician (DBP) had finally culminated. I could start focusing on what I am most passionate about, helping children and families with neurodevelopmental disabilities.
As I became embedded into the inner workings of the MIND Institute, I learned about the hard-earned federal grant funding that makes it all possible. My fellowship program is funded by the Maternal Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The UC Davis MIND Institute is both a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC).
When we learned that the MIND Institute would also become a training site for Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) in 2016, it was the icing on the proverbial cake. We had reached the quadfecta (yes, this is a word) which very few other institutions have been able to achieve.
I am exceedingly grateful for these programs, which sponsored, supported, and enriched my fellowship training. The combination of education and training in research, clinical skills, community outreach, and advocacy has enabled me to be well prepared for anything the future may hold.
With so many conflicting feelings, I face what comes ahead with my head held high and my family by my side. Confident, yet humble. Elated, yet anxious. Bittersweet.
Two years ago, I was afforded the opportunity to become a fellow in the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) training program at the Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine through the Maternal & Child Health Bureau’s (MCHB) Division of MCH Workforce Development (DMCHWD). This experience has impacted my life in multiple ways, through deepening my education in adolescent health, developing my leadership skills, and helping establish my connections with other adolescent health professionals.
As a second-year LEAH fellow, I’m nearing the end of my fellowship training within the LEAH program. Thus, it seems apt to reflect back on that experience now. Perhaps what stands out most to me from my experience is the bridge LEAH created for professionals from multiple disciplines. I have received my training primarily in the social sciences, and being able to collaborate with social workers, nutritionists, nurses, psychologists, and medical professionals gave me the chance to see adolescent health concerns through many lenses. While they were able to draw from my broad social perspective, I was able to apply my theoretical understandings to more clinically focused solutions. Throughout the program, I began to see how the research we conduct outside of the clinical setting can be applied to tangibly help improve adolescent health.
Next, the IU LEAH program has a strong emphasis on building leadership skills. Participating in the LEAH program has taught me that my voice and ideas are strong and valid, and that I need to speak strongly. But, as loud as I should speak, I should listen even harder. Leadership means portraying a strong sense of self, but listening to others. Particularly, our work with adolescents is our strongest display of leadership. By hearing their voices, we can help them with the many challenges they face. Finally, as someone from a health field that did not have a singular emphasis on adolescent health, I struggled to connect with other professionals in the research arena. As part of the LEAH program, I had the opportunity to meet several of my peers working toward similar goals, in similar fields, and with similar research interests. LEAH also gave me the chance to connect with other professionals from which to learn and develop. Some of my most influential and treasured mentors are former LEAH fellows/trainees; are currently involved in adolescent health; or are connected with MCH training programs.
My experience in LEAH has shaped the trajectory of my career and goals. By teaching me to work and connect with a variety of professional perspectives, developing my leading and listening skills, and giving me the chance to develop mentoring relationships, I am poised to continue conducting research in adolescent health.
I am an undergraduate student at the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland College Park currently pursuing a Public Health Science Degree. I have always been interested in Maternal and Child Health and had dreamed of having an opportunity to work at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Fortunately, I had the privilege of obtaining an internship at the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development during my Fall 2016 semester. Throughout my time at DMCHWD, I was able to gain knowledge on federal processes such as grant cycles, grant reviews and the outreach each program at DMCHWD has. I was also able to participate in several trainings that enhanced my knowledge on maternal and child health leadership competencies. These trainings have broadened my application of public health skills on a day to day basis in the health workforce environment.
I worked on several tasks and projects for the division. Specifically, I worked with the Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program (HTPCP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to develop a Diversity and Health Equity Guide for the program. I was able to analyze several progress reports and devise a thematic analysis on cultural and linguistic competence of specific programs under HTPCP. I also developed a data summary presentation for fiscal year 2014 of the Pediatric and Pulmonary Centers program through conducting research and statistical analysis on raw data and using the Discretionary Grant Information System, a federal electronic system. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend several conferences such as the Bright Futures Conference and AUCD Conference.
My experience at DMCHWD has led me to continue my education in pursuing a degree in Maternal and Child Health. The division shows great team leadership, mentorship and provided me with several learning opportunities to one day become an MCH leader. Thank you DMCHWD staff for being a supportive and inspiring team!
As a graduate student in the Master of Science in Nursing program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), it was a privilege for me to be the 2015 graduate nurse trainee at the UAB Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC). Through the traineeship, I gained valuable experience in regards to leadership, advocacy, professionalism, and family-centered care that I can now further utilize as a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
The PPC traineeship taught me the importance of utilizing the strengths of multiple disciplines and developing a holistic view of the pediatric patient and his or her family. Working among dietitians, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, nurses, physicians, and social workers demonstrated to me the strengths of each discipline and benefits of utilizing their fortes. It was a special privilege to work with leaders in each field who were previous PPC trainees themselves! Hearing firsthand from patients and families was also an honor, and the stories they shared revealed their struggles, triumphs, and perspectives what truly matters in health care delivery.
The traineeship highlighted the importance of quality improvement, research, education, and advocacy, and I was provided mentorship, resources, and experiences to enrich my growth in these areas. With multidisciplinary input, I helped initiate and lead a quality improvement project developing an educational tool to increase patient knowledge of cystic fibrosis related diabetes (CFRD). The tool increased patients’ knowledge of CFRD by more than 40 percentage points, and the findings will be disseminated through a poster presentation at the upcoming National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners national conference. The traineeship further revealed to me the burden of chronic disorders on patients and families, especially in pediatric pulmonary care. Through a literature review, I investigated theories and interventions to improve a patient’s self-management of his or her care and presented my findings in a formal presentation. I was able to later also present the information to both undergraduate and graduate nursing students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Lastly, I was given the wonderful opportunity to lead the development and execution of a continuing education event for area school nurses. This project allowed me to work with PPC trainees of other disciplines to provide a free opportunity for further education for frontline nurses in pediatric care. The professional growth that came from being involved in these projects and initiatives would have been impossible without the support and funding that the traineeship provided.
Finally, the privilege of working among patients with chronic pulmonary illness through the PPC has deepened my love for pediatric chronic care and desire to support those living with these illnesses in the pursuit of long, healthy, prosperous lives!
Physical therapists have a responsibility to treat each patient with respect, dignity, and compassion. Physical therapy can have a lasting impact not only on the individuals served, but also on the therapists as well. I plan to apply the knowledge that I have gained from my experiences and through my aspirations to actively make an impact on the lives of others. Most recently, my experience in the Maternal Child Health-Leadership Education, Advocacy, and Research Network (MCH-LEARN) at Kennedy Krieger Institute has influenced my perception of healthcare as related to health disparities and the importance of achieving health equity. For instance, although life expectancy and health has improved over time, some populations are treated inequitably due to cultural and socio-economic factors. During the summer component of my internship at Kennedy Krieger Institute, I participated in a research project at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where I contacted patients who attended their “After Care Clinic” to receive feedback on their experiences and necessary improvements. First, this revealed that providers were concerned about and valued patients' care. Second, I gained insight on treatment methods for sickle cell anemia and its unique prevalence among the African-American community. I conducted research on the feasibility of a rehabilitation program that could help manage pain in sickle cell patients to avoid overuse of prescription pain medicine. This is important because some health care providers suspect drug-seeking behavior when patients request pain medication. While this may be true, this perception of mostly African-American patients may not be the case for all African-American patients. In fact, one patient expressed that she felt the need to dress in business attire to appear more professional before going to her health care provider. Could these perceptions influence patient utilization of health care and contribute to health disparities? How can I as a health practitioner help reduce such perceptions?
Another experience that shaped my perception of healthcare took place in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The physical therapist took into account both the mental and physical aspects of her patients at her private practice, “Integrated Therapy.” My interest was to observe the techniques used to treat people in the Caribbean and compare it to my other experiences. Her integrative approach to physical therapy targeted the disability directly and also incorporated multiple therapeutic techniques like massage with natural healing oils to help her patients recover. I learned that diversity extends beyond the type of patients we treat and should also be included in the therapeutic treatments employed to meet the needs of specific populations. The United States has a growing and diverse population, and inclusion of people of varying cultures in healthcare such as physical therapy can offer innovative ideas, different perspectives, and increase cultural factors that can improve health outcomes within our nation.
In order to learn more about the role of research in addressing ways to prevent, treat, and aid people in recovering from rehabilitative conditions, I applied and was accepted into the MCH-LEARN program at Kennedy Krieger Institute and also accepted into ASCEND (A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development) training model at Morgan State University, funded by the National Institutes of Health. These programs have introduced me to public health and strengthened my understanding of health disparities. During my internship at Kennedy Krieger Institute, we discussed the social determinants of health such as living condition, workplace, and social environment that influence the health outcomes of a patient. It has instilled in me a sense of awareness and sensitivity to for all individuals. It has shown me that as a future health practitioner, it is my responsibility to contribute to health equity. My varied academic background in public health and physical education has contributed to my understanding of the holistic approach in treating an individual.
Upon receiving the Duke Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, I will use my academic, research, practical, and personal experiences to advance therapeutic approaches to help reduce health disparities in underserved groups. Like those before me, I plan to contribute to diversifying the field by mentoring students from underserved high schools to make them more aware of the physical therapy profession. I also want to organize my own sports camp for children including those with physical disabilities. The camp will utilize motivational speakers, introduce the children to health careers, and teach them the importance of fitness, adequate nutrition, and teamwork.
Jada is involved with the MCH Pipeline Program through MCH-LEARN at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD. She is studying for her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Pre-Professional Physical Therapy, and will graduate in May. Jada will begin her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program at Duke University in the fall 2017. She has received the Helen Kaiser Physical Therapy/Diversity and Leadership Scholarship, for a total of $60,000, to support her in the DPT Program.
I am a fifth year doctoral student in Human Nutrition and a third year LEAH nutrition fellow through Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH). In the field of nutrition, adolescence represents a transitional period during which young men and women begin to make choices and exercise control over the foods that they choose to eat. As such, it is a critical opportunity to establish healthy eating habits that both support active lifestyles and continued growth as well as prevent risk for developing chronic disease later in life. Being a LEAH fellow allows me to work with other health professionals with a similar focus on adolescents, and the multidisciplinary environment brings a broad perspective to adolescent health and reminds us of the importance of considering health through all dimensions rather than just our own particular fields of interest.
The Johns Hopkins LEAH fellowship has a specific emphasis on the elimination of health disparities, particularly among Baltimore youth. My research supports this overall mission but focuses on American Indian (AI) populations. Adult AIs have the highest prevalence of obesity and several other chronic diseases compared to any other ethnic group in the US. In addition to these disparities, they also suffer from extreme poverty and have limited access to basic health care. The same poor health trends can be observed among AI adolescents and children. My dissertation work evaluates the impact of a multi-level, multi-component obesity intervention program in five AI communities, under the supervision of Dr. Joel Gittelsohn. I have traveled to each site and see firsthand how families and entire tribal communities suffer the burden of nutrition-related chronic diseases, but have also seen resilience, hope, and determination to heal the communities and live healthy lives, especially amongst the youth.
As I assess the dietary and physical activity impacts of the intervention, I have had the opportunity to present preliminary results at several professional conferences. I presented my proposed analysis at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., and recently presented a poster at FNCE 2016: the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo annual meeting for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics summarizing the physical activity outcomes, for which I received an outstanding abstract award (Link to Abstract ). It is my goal to complete the analysis for my dissertation and defend in January 2017.
Being a LEAH fellow has been an integral part of my academic and professional training here at JHSPH. I have been able to engage with outstanding faculty mentors as well as other individuals like myself, just starting out in adolescent health and medicine. My writing, research, presentation, and professional skills have improved greatly from my involvement in the LEAH fellowship, and my experience in LEAH has helped me to shape my future goals. I genuinely hope to continue my involvement with the LEAH fellowship and the promotion of adolescent health through nutrition as I move forward in my career.
I am graduate student at the Rollins School of Public Health and a MCH Center of Excellence Fellow. I had the pleasure of completing my practicum experience at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau's Division of Workforce Development. During my 10 weeks with the division, I was afforded the opportunity to learn about MCH program administration and policy development and work on a variety of projects. I created program resources highlighting innovative and best practices of grantees for topics including transition, telemedicine, and distance technology. I assisted in updating the division website, including the curation of a quarterly theme package update, and analyzed performance measure data for one of the divisions grant programs. I expanded my knowledge of MCH program administration and policy development through attendance at conferences and work sessions including the LEAH Annual Meeting, a monthly policy work group, the MCH-WDC Panel Review, FY 2017 FOA Process & Materials Brown Bag Session, and HRSA's 2016 Research & Innovation Symposium. These experiences allowed me to enhance my knowledge of MCH programs, the federal grant cycle and budgeting process, and cultivated my MCH leadership skills. Additionally, I developed skills in communications, qualitative research, and data analysis. I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to work with the Division of Workforce Development, and I am inspired by their dedication to the health and well-being of women, children, adolescents, and their families!
The Alabama State University (ASU) Maternal and Child Health Pipeline Training Program (MCHPTP), is currently in its 10th year. The program, which began in 2006, was established with the goals of: (a) addressing the identified need to support efforts at the local, state and federal levels to diversify the national healthcare workforce; (b) providing enhanced academic opportunities and establishing a mentoring framework for undergraduate ASU students to explore careers in maternal and child health; and (c) to establish a sustainable undergraduate academic certificate program in maternal and child health. The MCHPTP program has had a great impact on the local, state and national levels. More than 200 students have benefited both directly and indirectly from the opportunities afforded through this grant. Many of the trainees have gone on to purse health or health-related graduate/professional studies or they are working in MCH related fields.
The program is most proud of its trainees, who are persevering despite all odds. One of those distinguished former trainees is Dexter Constant, a native of Montgomery, Alabama. Dexter became an MCHPTP trainee in 2009 with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist. Uncertain of the pathway he would take, he was still determined and dedicated to the process. Through his participation in the MCHPTP, along with the mentoring provided by the program staff, Dexter was able to find the path that led him to his ultimate passion. In May 2012, Dexter graduated with his bachelor’s degree in biology. Shortly after the commencement exercises were held, Dexter returned to ASU as one of four students to enroll in the University’s new Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) program in the College of Health Sciences.
Dexter felt prepared to meet this next step in his professional development because of the educational foundation afforded him as an undergraduate student at ASU. His participation and involvement in organizations such as the MCHPTP and the Biomedical Club helped him gain valuable insight into health and health-related fields. In the fall of 2014, Dexter Constant received is Masters of Science degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics from Alabama State University. He was the first undergraduate from ASU to be accepted and the first African-American graduate of the program.
Dexter is currently completing his orthotic residency in Memphis, Tennessee at the Center for Orthotics and Prosthetics, Incorporated. Dr. Steven Chesbro, former Dean of the College of Health Sciences commented, “We’re excited that Dexter not only pursued a professional degree in prosthetics & orthotics, but that he selected a residency program that focused on the needs of children.” Dexter Constants’ educational and career path supports the program’s objective of increasing the number of minority health care providers who are focusing on the needs of women and children. Mrs. Catrina Waters, project coordinator for the MCHPTP also commented of Dexter’s accomplishments, “We are really excited for Dexter, and knowing he is one of the few African-Americans in the prosthetics & orthotics field, and that he chose a residency focusing on the needs of children, is exactly what the MCH Pipeline Training Program at ASU was designed to do.”
Recently, Dexter was asked to reflect on the past eight years and the impact ASU’s MCHPTP has had on his personal and professional development. He replied, “The Maternal and Child Health Pipeline Training Program was very enriching in my professional development into a healthcare profession. I was exposed to many health disparities that plague our local communities. I was given the opportunity to explore health and health-related careers in detail and learn how they each work together to provide care to not only women and children but the community as a whole. The MCHPTP piqued my interest in the realm of prosthetics and orthotics and I am proud to have been able to successfully pursue a career in P&O with a focus in pediatrics. In my current professional residency, I'm able to apply what I have learned from the pipeline program by providing patient care at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. By participating in the Alabama State University Maternal and Child Health Pipeline, I'm able to understand how to better serve our multi-cultural communities and have an increased awareness of the challenges health professions face throughout their careers.”
In this end, ASU MCHPTP continues to work towards creating a more diverse and culturally prepared workforce.
The experience that I have obtained from Pathways for Students into Health Professions Program has shaped my desire to further my career in the field of health. After graduating UCLA in 2013, I decided to expand my education by attending graduate school at USC where I am earing a dual master in social work and public health (MSW/MPH). During this academic endeavor I interned for Lawndale Elementary School District. I work on a multitude of projects for the LA County Department of Public Health. My main projects were conducting community resource guides for the city of Los Angeles, providing psycho-education for adolescents’ sufferings from health conditions, as well as co-facilitating in social skills groups. As a completion of my MSW/MPH program I have also conducted research in Santiago, Chile. This past year I was an intern for IES Abroad -Health Science Program. My duties entailed conducting needs assessments for pubic and private medical institutions in Chile, meeting with health professionals on the bases of Chile’s healthcare system, as well as conducting research. I centered my internship around my research topic of “Tobacco consumption amongst Adolescents” in efforts to implement smoking cessation programs to reduce adolescent tobacco consumption. As I am approaching the end of my academic career, I plan on working in the field of public health in efforts to increase health and wellness in communities on a global, national, as well as local level.
Vanessa is a first year student in the Masters Entry in Clinical Nursing (MECN) program at UCLA that prepares students to be Registered Nurses, Clinical Nurse Leaders, and Public Health Nurses. She is currently involved in the Global Action in Nursing (GAIN) Club and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN), Los Angeles Chapter. She was awarded a 12,000 Disadvantage Scholarship from the School of Nursing and is a Nurse Volunteer at Ronald Reagan Hospital. She graduated from UCLA in 2013 with a major in Psychology and minor in Chicano studies and spent her time off working as a research assistant at Stanford School of Medicine. She participated in PSHP during her time at UCLA and is grateful for the summer internship that first sparked her interest in nursing.
As a University of Minnesota graduate public health student and MCH nutrition trainee I had the opportunity to complete my field experience practicum with the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development (DMCHWD). It was an honor to have had the opportunity to work so closely with the division staff on projects dedicated to improving health disparities within MCH populations. The 10 weeks I spent working with the inspirational and highly supportive division staff affirmed my passion for fostering health equality. I also developed a strong recognition of the importance of promoting health through innovation and collaboration between federal, state, and local efforts. During my internship I developed public health and professional skills and enhanced MCH knowledge in policy development, the federal budgeting process, the federal grants cycle processes and leadership. I attended many conferences and seminars on maternal and child health including the 2015 Autism CARES Meeting, WIC’s Impact on Periconceptional Nutrition meeting, and a state Title V Block Grant Review. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects. I really enjoyed working with DMCHWD staff to create and compile quarterly web items, draft Program Planning Templates and conduct background research, as needed, for Division Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). I plan to pursue a public health career in the area of MCH and cannot thank the staff enough for providing me with educational opportunities as well as their mentorship.
As a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, I had the privilege of completing a practicum at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Division of MCH Workforce Development. My time at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau was invaluable and allowed me to grow and develop as a public health professional. I took a leadership role in a trainee ambassador group planning committee and conducted interviews with project officers to assess family involvement in MCHB programs. I was also given the opportunity to create policy briefs, develop conference and webinar presentations, assist with focus groups, communicate with grantees, and conduct background research for programs. Through my practicum, I gained an in-depth understanding of the federal government’s role in protecting the health of mothers, infants, and children nationwide.
This experience has been the perfect complement to my master’s degree in maternal, child, and adolescent health and development, and it allowed me to hone my skills in an applied setting. This immersion in federal government health programs inspired my own master’s thesis focusing on federal and state laws around child health in schools. Being surrounded by so many passionate and dedicated public health leaders was inspiring and a truly wonderful experience. As I continue on into my career in public health, I will do so knowing that I am part of the supportive network of MCH trainees and professionals.
Maternal and Child Health Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Preparing tomorrow's health professional leaders to serve children and youth with disabilities and the families that care for them. Nicole Robinson came to the WVU-CED for a one-semester internship, three and a half years later she is still at the CED, leading a team of undergraduate interns, like herself, as a LEND trainee. As an undergraduate psychology major, Nicole was interested in pursuing a career in some form of counseling. "My internship with the iASD [intensive Autism Service Delivery] Clinic was the first time that I had worked with children with autism. Seeing the progress made by the kids in that one semester got me hooked. One child had only three words when I started and by the end of the semester... Read more on the CED website
My name is Rebecca Graves Ellison, and I am a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nutrition trainee at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I am pursuing a dual master’s degree to receive a Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition and a Master of Public Health with a Health Policy and Management concentration. Additionally, I will be completing the dietetic internship in Spring 2015 in order to obtain the registered dietitian credential. My long-term career goal is to work at the federal level addressing public health and policy issues, and I am specifically interested in public health nutrition and chronic disease prevention.
I had the privilege of spending seven weeks at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) during my last summer of graduate school, working most directly with Denise Sofka, MPH, RD, Senior Public Health Analyst, Division of MCH Workforce Development and Michele Lawler, MS, RD, Deputy, Division of State and Community Health. This placement as an MCHB summer intern was an invaluable and rewarding experience, leading to immense personal and professional growth. For my major service project, I planned, implemented and evaluated a nutrition-focused strategic plan for the Bureau. The purpose of the MCHB five-year nutrition strategic plan is to increase the visibility of MCHB nutrition-related initiatives currently taking place across all divisions, and highlight ways MCHB nutritionists can collaborate with other federal agencies, as appropriate, and use evidenced-based, culturally appropriate, and integrated methods to address national nutrition-related problems, without duplicating other federal efforts.
I could not have completed this project without the generous help and guidance of the MCHB staff. The welcoming environment and supportive staff made me excited to come to work each day. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the Bureau, and this internship certainly exceeded my expectations. I was fortunate to work with and learn from Denise and Michele, and I am grateful for the wisdom gained from their guidance. Additionally, I am very thankful for the Bureau’s investment in trainees and support for student internship opportunities. I want to pay it forward by mentoring others and by serving the United States MCH populations at the federal level. I hope that other students and trainees have similar opportunities to work and serve at MCHB in the future!
The MCH Pipeline Training Program (MCH Pipeline) helped me to figure out the next steps to further my career goals. Deciding on a major during undergraduate school was a challenge for me, and once I finally chose a major in psychology I had no idea of what to do next. After taking some courses in psychology, I decided on becoming a behavioral analyst as my career choice. Yet again, I made another big decision in my life without fully understanding how to make that goal happen. The MCH Pipeline gave me insight into what to do next. Within the program, I have been offered a lot of career networking opportunities. I have even worked with families who have children with autism, and through this, I gained a different perspective on the line of work I want to do in the future. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my time in the MCH Pipeline Program is the importance of including family in decisions. I have always thought the focus in my field would be solely on the child. After reading chapters from Understanding Families, and meeting with families, I have seen how knowing more about the family and including them in decisions can greatly impact results. The MCH Pipeline Training Program has been a big help in guiding my career. I have received one-on-one assistance in preparing for graduate school from not only the instructors, but also from students who have previously applied themselves. The MCH Pipeline Training Program has been a great experience, one I will never forget. I would recommend this program to anyone who needs more guidance in preparing for their future careers.
Ms. Benitez is currently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, pursuing a major in psychology and a certificate in autism. She is a hardworking and dedicated individual in both her studies and in her profession as a line therapist. She has been part of the MCH Pipeline Training Program for 3 months. She currently lives in Greendale, WI and commutes to Milwaukee. She has maintained a 3.5 or above G.P.A. in her years so far at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She is also president of Wishmakers on campus and serves the role of membership chair for the Mortar Board Senior National Honor Society.
I am a second year LEAH Adolescent Medicine Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. Since my pediatrics residency, I have been drawn to the challenging issues of the adolescent population. I was very interested in the ways that so many teen health issues—pregnancy, obesity, violence—were social or behavioral in origin. I cared for so many female teen patients whose life plans were derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. When looking at adolescent medicine fellowships, I learned about the multidisciplinary approach of the LEAH programs. During residency, I approached patients through an exclusively medical lens, and so I loved the idea of training alongside colleagues in social work, psychology, nursing and nutrition. As first-year fellows, we have the chance to write a review article on a topic of our choosing for a pediatrics journal. Because of my interest in teen pregnancy prevention, I chose to review the subject of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods, which have, in recent years, gained approval from the medical community as first-line birth control options for teens. Writing the review article so early in fellowship gave me an expertise in this area, and I was able to become a resource for others in my division who sought to learn about LARC methods. Furthermore, I have had the chance to speak about LARC methods, and contraception more generally, to audiences of general pediatricians from around the country. During fellowship I have been encouraged to think of novel ways of promoting health in the adolescent and young adult population. Along these lines, I will soon have the chance to teach about contraception in a whole new way, as I am designing family planning workshops for young adult women in the prison system.
For my research project, I decided to focus on the relationship between developmental assets and sexual health outcomes. Specifically, I examined the association between a young adult’s self-reported “sense of purpose” and several adverse sexual health outcomes. It was an invaluable experience for me to develop a clinical question, look at a national data set (the Growing Up Today Study), and design my study. I have had wonderful mentorship throughout the process. I wrote a successful grant for the Aerosmith Endowment Fund which allowed me to hire a programmer for the project as well. I was privileged to travel to Washington DC for the annual LEAH conference, during which I shared my research project and got to hear from other LEAH fellows from around the country. The wide variety of topics presented by the other fellows—such as community gardening in Seattle, and rural reproductive health clinics in New Mexico—made me think more broadly about the emerging issues of adolescent health.
My clinical training has also been comprehensive and varied. The majority of my patients are primary care patients in our Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine program. An important part of our training is also the management of two specialty populations: patients with eating disorders, as well as reproductive/endocrine issues. Because I came to fellowship with the ability to speak Spanish, and a specific interest in serving the Spanish-speaking population, I was able to have clinical time at Martha Eliot Health Center, a satellite of Boston Children’s Hospital in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood. Working at a community health center has been a wonderful complement to seeing patients on the main campus of Boston Children’s. Caring for patients at Martha Eliot has allowed me to think much more meaningfully about teen health issues such as teen pregnancy and violence; both are issues that require effective clinical care on an individual level, as well as population-based approaches.
Hearing my patients’ accounts of community violence has been particularly moving. So many teens have described losing friends to violence, and feeling the constant scourge and threat of violence in their everyday lives. I felt moved to explore the issue of gun violence prevention, and my fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to do that. I have been able to learn about and write about this subject, and most recently I had the chance to speak to state legislators about teens and gun violence.
My time in the LEAH fellowship has most certainly helped to shape my future career trajectory. Based on my experience exploring many aspects of academic adolescent medicine, I feel most committed to clinical care, as well as advocacy work for my patients, and so I hope to find a position that allows me to combine these interests. I have learned a great deal from this fellowship. I have been fortunate to receive attentive mentorship from a variety of disciplines that has hopefully made me a better clinician, researcher, teacher, and advocate. I have been well-supported by my division as I have explored issues that have grabbed my interest. This, in particular, has taught me that the highest-quality work that I can produce comes when I pursue projects that engage me intellectually as well as emotionally. I hope to have this luxury as I continue working in adolescent medicine.
As an Undergraduate student at James Madison University, I am working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health. This past summer (2014) I had the privilege of participating in the Pathways for Students Internship Program, working under for HRSA, in the Maternal and Child Bureau (MCHB), under the Division of MCH Workforce Development. While unsure of what I wanted to pursue specifically in Public Health, this opportunity has greatly shaped my desires of pursuing a Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health or Nutrition. I was excited that I would be able to acquire knowledge about a specific field within public health before I started exploring different focuses of public health graduate programs. While working in DMCHWD, I was provided with the opportunity of gaining many life-long skills for the professional work-setting. I was fortunate to be able to simultaneously work on many projects which shadowed what many public health analysts do on a daily basis. Through my work on various projects this summer, I learned that a huge number of meetings, conference calls, emails, and other vehicles of communication are necessary to accomplish any task.
Although my undergraduate education has taught me what public health is, this internship has directly exposed me on how to properly apply these educational skills; some of those skills including critical thinking to performing data analysis, enhancing my writing skills, learned how to use SharePoint, and increasing my cognizance on Maternal and Child Health through attending many meetings, conference calls, and life course perspective seminars guided by Dr. Lu. While one of my main long-term projects included collaborating with the SPH program officer within the division to revise a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Schools of Public Health grant competition for Fiscal Year 2015, I enhanced my ability to critically think and write by turning meeting notes into a 3-page Concept Paper on enhancing trainee engagement through various communication vehicles. While I worked on other small projects, the one project that was most intriguing to me was analyzing data through Excel on multiple Performance Measures of MCH Workforce Development Grantees to calculate the percentage of graduates of MCHB long-term training programs who are engaged in work related to MCH populations for updating the division’s facts sheets.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience as an intern with DMCHWD at HRSA. The DMCHWD staff allowed me to participate in a variety of different meetings & projects and always explained to me the often complicated governmental public health processes. I met many intelligent & experienced public health professionals who all helped me grow and learn over the duration of my internship. I am very grateful for this experience and am confident that it has prepared me well for a future career in the public health field.
As an undergraduate at UCLA, I participated in the Pathways for Students into Heath Professions (PSHP) program. As an undergraduate, I knew that I wanted to working in community health, specifically in MCH. However, I was not aware of the pathway and the knowledge based required for a professional MCH career. PSHP provided faculty mentoring, summer internships and various educational opportunities to cultivate my professionalism and understanding of maternal and child health. One of the biggest lessons I learned as a PSHP student is an understanding of the social determinants of health and their effect on maternal and child health. I believe having that knowledge foundation has helped me tremendously throughout my public health coursework and career trajectory. Likewise, PSHP developed my interest in obtaining a graduate education. In May 2013, I received a Masters of Public Health from the University of Illinois, Chicago, with a focus in community health. During my MPH coursework, my capstone research centered on childhood obesity in the 77 community neighborhoods of Chicago, IL. With assistance from the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) and the Public Health Institute of Metro Chicago, I was able to acquire data to better understand the impact of school-based obesity programming on community neighborhoods childhood obesity prevalence.
Since the completion of my MPH program, I have returned to UCLA to obtain my nursing licensure. My career goals are to work as a public health nurse with a focus in vulnerable maternal & child populations. PSHP has continued to help me further my training, career and MCH professional identity and I look forward to future collaborations with MCH Pipeline Program.
Natasha Graves of Pennsylvania is an alumnus of Howard University. She received a Bachelors of Science (B.S.) in Health Education in May 2012 where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude with a 3.81 GPA. Recently, Natasha became a Certified Health Education Specialist. Currently, Ms. Graves is graduate student working towards a Masters in Public Health at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, with a concentration in maternal and child health. Ms. Graves exemplifies the need and benefit of HRSA’s funding to encourage minorities to work in public health fields.
Natasha tells of her experience: “Participating in the MCH Pipeline Training Program at Howard University, entitled Howard University’s Pathways to MCH Professions, was the best part of my academic undergraduate career. The MCH program helped me not only enhance my skills in the field of public health and give me the knowledge I needed to pursue a career in public health, but also enabled me to realize that maternal and child health is my true passion. From the program, I realized I want to work on maternal and children’s health disparities, specifically addressing the issue of infant mortality. There is no reason for women and children to be dying, when the cause is preventable. The children who are subject to becoming an infant mortality statistic need advocates. Access to health resources, adequate nutrition, and clean water should not be reasons for infants to die before they actually begin to live. I want to work to give those women and children a chance to live their lives to their fullest potential. The program also gave me a wealth of both career and networking opportunities that have been extremely useful in both my professional and academic life. I participated in the MCH Program for 2 ½ years, which was a true benefit. Howard’s Pipeline to MCH allowed me an opportunity to travel to the annual CDC MCH Epidemiology Conference in December 2010, network with local, state and federal MCH professionals, learn about research being done in the field, as well as talk to faculty from schools of public health. I was also able to participate in a field practicum shadowing experience and meet MCH public health professionals from the DC area. The program has not only inspired me but also exposed me to concepts that I am currently studying in my graduate program. I have found my niche working towards my Masters in Public Health at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, with my curriculum focusing on maternal and child health because of the Pipeline to MCH Program.”
As an undergraduate student at UCLA I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that gave me the skills and knowledge to empower and build resilience within communities and individuals. I was fortunate to be part of the UCLA Pathway for Students into Health Professions (PSHP), which exposed me to the wide-range of maternal and child health issues. PSHP also opened my networking opportunities and allowed me to make connections with leaders in the field of maternal and child health. Learning about health disparities and the many factors that influence the health of mothers and children was enlightening and I knew that I wanted to be part of the movement that improved these outcomes. The connections and knowledge that I was exposed to as an undergraduate motivated me to pursue a dual Masters degree in Public Health and Social Welfare at UCLA.
Public health and social work issues are multidimensional and intrinsically related because diverse social factors affect a person’s well-being. I strongly believe that dual Masters in Public Health and Social work is a wonderful fit for my career goals because I would like to develop evidence-based intervention models that can improve the lives of women and children living in low-income communities. Specifically, I am interested in the field of family planning, and would like to work with Latina and African American teenagers and young women. The deepest satisfaction in all of my work is facilitating positive change within families and communities. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of Pathway for Students into Health Professions for giving me the knowledge and foundation on which my career will be built on.
Yesterday I was overwhelmed with joy as I heard three adults with autism speak of their successful college experiences and career aspirations (civil engineering, sports education, and childcare). They all shared how excluded they were in school and how few friends they had growing up. In college they found a niche and were all enjoying a more rich social life. One of the speakers spoke of how he was frequently bullied. I rarely hear the word “bully” without being flooded with numerous intense memories. One of the most poignant was when I was in the ninth grade. As I was gathering my books after school, a circular crowd formed around an escalating conflict, as furtive onlookers anticipated first blood. To my horror, an acquaintance, Jason (a fellow ninth-grader with cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, limited speech, restricted range of motion of both arms and legs, bilateral abductor lurch) was in the middle of the circle. What added to my shock was the starting fullback of our football team was pushing him, laughing and trying to get Jason to hit him so he would feel justified in pulverizing him. Impulsivity is often looked down upon, but as I left my brain at my locker with my books, my body and mouth was between Jason and our vigorous fullback. I told Jason to go home. I had to yell it over the din for him to hear me. After my third emphatic iteration he reluctantly walked away as I restrained his aggressor. My mouth then turned to Mr. Fullback and the crowd. Shame and ridicule were momentary companions and we thrashed until there was no more taste for Jason’s injury.
Why Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics? Perhaps it is because my impulse has always been to come to the aid of those in need. Maybe I watched too much Spiderman as a child. Or perhaps being taught frequently that true greatness comes through service to my brothers and sisters, which is everyone.
Why Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital? Research opportunity, diversity of mentors, diversity of served patient population, reputation, a positive interview experience, and local sports teams (GO RED SOX!) drew me to the program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
I am an active duty officer in the Unites States Air Force. When I am done with fellowship I will be assigned to work in a location based on the needs of the Air Force (most likely Germany, Alaska or England). My future job will be both clinical and administrative, with no protected time for research. My fellowship will have no direct impact on my immediate trajectory due to prior obligations with the Air Force, but will absolutely elevate my professional capacity to care for children. Due to the high quality of my training and my exceptional research opportunities, it will increase the likelihood of getting assigned at a residency program and training future residents for the Air Force. This training is clearly opening doors for opportunities in academic medicine after I conclude my full time service to our country.
I am tremendously enthusiastic about my research project, the part I fretted about most before I started fellowship. I’ve recently submitted my first abstract entitled, “Item-Level Analysis Demonstrates Significant Differences in Word Production and Understanding at 12 Months of Age in Children at Risk for Autism.” We’ve found that there are qualitative language differences measurable at 12 months of age when comparing typically developing and ASD children. We found that children with ASD have a significantly lower likelihood to produce “Hi” which may be early linguistic evidence of reduced social communication. We also found that children with ASD demonstrated a significantly higher likelihood of producing the word "block" as well as understanding words related to animals, toys and objects. This may be an early linguistic manifestation of restricted, repetitive interests or activities. We have recently formalized collaboration with the Infant Sibling Projects at the University of Calgary, University of Pittsburg, and the University of California San Diego. With this much larger pool of data will stabilize our initial 12-month estimates. Answering a novel research question and working with a lot of bright people is stimulating and FUN!
Biggest Lessons learned – Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics is awesome! Research can be fun once you’ve found a direction and have a good mentor. The more I learn the more I realize how little I know, and how much more there is to discover and do.
I became involved with Illinois LEND in the fall of 2010 as the first Self-Advocate trainee at the LEND at Illinois. By being a part of LEND self-advocates have a chance to experience leadership in a new way. We learn about the medical part of disability, which you would not get a chance to learn from any other leadership training, and to see how other health professionals interact with people with disabilities. Self-advocates can learn a lot from the clinical experiences in the LEND program. While self-advocates may have significant knowledge of policy, leadership, and how to advocate for issues that may come up in legislation, we don't have as much experience in the clinical setting. LEND provides an opportunity to see this side of disability. This experience gives self-advocates a way to learn more about other disabilities than their own so when they work with other self-advocates they will know how to include and support them in other projects or groups they do.
LEND also gives the other trainees a chance to learn from the point of view of a person with a disability. A lot of what people know about disabilities comes from books, rather than first-hand experiences with people with disabilities. I think it is important for self-advocates to be involved in LEND to help provide the perspective of people with disabilities. This way self-advocates and students can learn together. Not only can self-advocates be teachers, but they can also learn from the other trainees and presenters.
I hope other LEND programs will give self-advocates an opportunity to be a LEND trainee. Both self-advocates and other trainees learn from each other and are able to share their experiences with each other. LEND trainees are able to take what we learned, work together, and use that knowledge in the community to be more influential in changing policy and legislation. This will help make a better world for people with disabilities.
I have had the privilege of completing an MCHB-funded Leadership Education in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Before I left CHOP on my interview day I knew this was the right fit for me. Looking back there were really two reasons I felt this was the place to train, it was all about the people I met and the potential opportunities that were available for a trainee. The program provided me the opportunity to learn from a diverse and interdisciplinary group of faculty and other trainees and provided outstanding clinical and research training. Although I didn’t have a clear idea of what research or scholarly pursuits I wanted to pursue, the numerous doors for learning that were available along with experienced mentors to help guide my early career choices were all assets of the program that were unique and hard to miss.
During my three years of fellowship, I have worked with Drs. Thomas Power, Jennifer Mautone, and Nathan Blum on validating a new behavioral health-screening questionnaire to be used in primary care. I joined the cross-disciplinary study team and was able to learn about the inner workings of a research team and the integral role each member plays, organizing and running team meetings, as well as the nuts and bolts of data collection and management – most of which were fairly new concepts for me. As the initial phase of measure validation was concluding in the urban primary care offices, one of my mentors suggested applying for a Young Investigator Award through the Academic Pediatric Association (APA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which could potentially fund a second phase of the study. Grant writing was not something I had any familiarity with, but with the collaborative effort and support of the study team it ended up an important turning point in my early research training. Fortunately our team was awarded the grant and suddenly I now had to use everything I learned with the initial validation and apply it in a more supervisory role. Writing an IRB application, submitting it for review to the scientific review committee, interviewing and hiring research assistants, creating meeting agendas, coordinating finances for the study itself and the research assistants involved, reporting to grant funders, amongst other tasks fell initially to me yet mentors and supervisors were always available for guidance and feedback throughout this process. I could not have planned it better myself – to first have the opportunity to join a fully functioning research team and then quickly apply what I had learned and establish a new research team was a truly invaluable experience.
In addition to the research training, MCHB funding provided me the freedom to pursue other areas of study. I have an interest in Bioethics and expressed to my mentors my interest in pursuing a Master’s degree in Bioethics at The University of Pennsylvania. Mentors in the program encouraged me to pursue this degree and helped me to jump the many hurdles necessary to successfully complete this Master’s Program during a busy fellowship.
My MCHB-funded training program emphasized the importance of remembering the perspective of the family in providing clinical care. This was one of the most important lessons for me personally. Families come to see a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician with a preface to their story and that story continues once they leave our office. A host of challenges have lead families to this point and numerous more await them once they leave our office. Navigating school districts or service providers and insurance coverage issues all while questions of their child’s prognosis and outcome persist are commonplace for our patients and their families. As much as I want to provide a parent or patient the tools to be well informed and a better advocate I have to remember where they are in the process of understanding those differences and the implications they hold for the family. As a trainee I worked with talented parent advisors and advocates who were a valuable resource and who are best equipped to remind clinicians of the importance of the perspective of the family in caring for children. Ultimately understanding the preface to a patient’s story may not make a clinician’s final report but there is a value in understanding the whole picture and this can serve as a catalyst to promote the right type of change to the next chapter of the child’s story.
Currently, as I am in the early months in my new position at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and my experiences during fellowship have prepared me well to take advantages of opportunities in my new position. I have been recruited as a co-investigator and the prescribing physician for an NICHD funded study examining interventions for children with ADHD and Reading Disorders. Furthermore I am collaborating with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and hope to build on my current work in bioethics.
I am the parent of a wonderful 7 year old boy with high functioning autism. He has changed my life for the better. I am now involved in an education program and work that is fulfilling. I am able to learn about developmental disabilities, affect family centered care, and from relationships with healthcare professionals. I have become an expert in my field, and been moved to further my education because of LEND. I have been an advocate for my son since birth. At a young age he received early intervention for speech delay and some physical problems. I noticed he developed some other behaviors that resembled autism. I was constantly told, “not to worry”, or that “he does not have autism.” When he was finally diagnosed with autism at 4 years old, I felt unequipped to help him. I remember asking myself “now what?” “What are the next steps after a diagnosis?”
I looked for resources and learning opportunities to help me learn how to strongly advocate for him, and get him the services and supports he needed. I found the LEND through one of the many emails I receive about resources. At that time I was a stay-at- home mom. I had to leave my career to manage my child’s care and also any school issues he was having. My husband works full time as a software engineer and supports us. I always wanted to go back to school on a graduate level. This program looked like it would help me to gain needed information on neurodevelopmental disabilities, and also influence providers on family centered care.
Through the LEND program I feel empowered. I never thought as a parent that I had a real voice. I am the expert on my child and I am valued. Parents should know that they are vital members of their child's health care team. I have gained valuable relationships with practitioners in this program and it has been a mutually beneficial experience.
How has your training program experience influenced your future career trajectory?
I have learned that I can be a leader, and affect change. I am a graduate student in a program at another university. I am studying Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and will complete my program and receive my Masters Degree in the summer. I am going to sit for my Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam in May. I am finishing up my 1500 hours of fieldwork under the supervision and guidance of a BCBA. I feel I would not have pursued this course without being involved in LEND. I feel I can help many more parents of children like my own son as an advocate and a provider.
Through LEND, I have been able to be involved in research. I have completed a research poster on barriers that minority face in getting an autism diagnosis and treatment. I have also been able to present my findings at conferences in different states. I would not have had these opportunities without the program. I now have a survey under IRB review. I would like to be able send this survey out to families of children on the spectrum to find out specific barriers to treatment they face. It is my hope that with the data I will be able to publish my findings.
My hope is to use further develop the skills I have acquired through this program so that I can continue to be involved in research, community outreach, as well as be a subject matter expert on Autism and cultural competency, and health disparities.
It is my hope to be accepted to a doctoral program so I can research behavioral health, and health disparities. My ultimate goal is to work for a University and work on increasing cultural competency and decreasing health disparities for minority populations. My specific area of expertise would be Autism.
What is one lesson learned from your time in the LEND Program?
Through LEND, I learned that anyone can be a leader! I am a servant leader. My leadership evolved from my desire to serve others parents and children with autism. I believe in being an expert in your field and empowering others to develop their gifts. I felt I was “just a parent” before LEND. I feel I am a parent with a purpose and I have much to give. My work has not only affected my family, but others as well. I have been able to provide resources for others and be an advocate. I plan on advocating for my son until he is able to do it himself. I am an accidental leader, but a leader nonetheless.
As an incoming Masters in Public Health (MPH) candidate at Boston University School of Public Health, I worked as a summer intern at the Department of Health and Human Services/HRSA in the Maternal and Child Bureau (MCHB) Division of MCH Workforce Development. As a maternal child health (MCH) concentrator I was excited that I would be able to acquire knowledge about the field before I started graduate school. My primary area of interest was research in the prenatal care in minority populations. While interning at MCHB, I gained invaluable knowledge about MCH policies, the life course approach, current MCH initiatives, and technological skills. During this time, I developed stronger leadership skills and enhanced both my communications skills along with my ability to multi-task. I attended conferences and seminars on child health including the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality the First Focus Children’s Budget 2012 on Capitol Hill, and the Maryland Block Grant Review.
I worked on a variety of projects within Workforce Development. I collaborated with staff members in the redesign of the MCH Navigator website, which is a MCH professional supplementary learning website. I also added new learning opportunities to the website and cataloged existing trainings. In addition, I wrote the MCH Navigator monthly electronic newsletter. I worked with the Division of Research, Training and Education (DRTE) and wrote a literature review on autism spectrum disorder in underserved communities, which will be used in a paper for publishing. I updated the Microsoft Office Access database, of all currently funded MCH Training program, abstracts. On a daily basis I interacted with technical staff in transferring recent information to the MCH website. This experience was an excellent gateway to the MCH field. I was privileged to have the opportunity to learn about the MCH Navigator, which serves as a huge information resource for trainees and professional alike on targeted MCH information.
Soon after I graduated from Indiana University-Bloomington, with a Bachelors of Science in Public Health, I was given the opportunity to work as an intern at the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) in the Division of Research, Training and Education (DRTE). During my time at the MCHB I worked on a research project with the purpose to highlight the need to address disparities among Hispanics in the MCH workforce. Particularly, the research focuses on identifying MCH training programs and recruitment practices for potential MCH Hispanic trainees across disciplines to ensure a sustained commitment to the diversity of MCH faculty and trainees. I was also involved in other activities such as reading assignments, view various archived presentations and learn from distance MCH courses through which I gained a better understanding and appreciation of the field of public health at MCH generally and the Bureau specifically. As a part of the internship, I also had the opportunity to participate in networking activities with Hispanic Public Health leaders and Hispanic National Leaders in the Washington, DC area by attending luncheons, staff meetings, interviews and conferences.
Through these opportunities and my exposure on the different aspects of public health in the federal sector I discovered that my passion is in public health, specifically in improving the health and well being of women and children. I believe that my experience and the projects that I worked on during my internship at MCHB improved my knowledge, skills, and abilities so that I will become more competent in addressing health disparities among under-represented communities. Overall, my experience at MCHB was great, I had the opportunity to meet extraordinary people with a wonderful and positive attitude who worked with me and provided me with their guidance and support throughout my time at MCHB. I am very thankful for this learning experience and I am confident that my experiences at DRTE have prepared me to continue to pursue a graduate degree in public health with a concentration in Epidemiology.
This past year I had the honor of becoming the Rose F. Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) first LEND Law Fellow. As a student at Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, I heard of this great opportunity through a friend who knew I had my heart set on disability policy and advocacy. Looking back on my time with Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, (CERC) I can easily say that it was the most rewarding, and eye-opening professional experience of both my undergraduate and law school career. I was not only amazed by how much I learned about UCEDDs and the innovative research being done in the field developmental disabilities, but also by how many influential, and welcoming mentors I encountered – including attorneys, physicians, CERC directors (past and present), occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, administrators, LEND fellows, and the most motivated and inspirational self-advocates I have ever known. Thanks to my attendance at LEND lectures, team meetings, and various conferences in DC, NYC, Albany, and Delaware, I was able to experience the value of interdisciplinary collaboration firsthand, as well as learn about an array of research topics from top-notch experts and academic scholars.
Thanks to my wonderful supervisors - Ms. Sheryl Dicker and Dr. Robert Marion - I learned so much about myself as a writer, researcher, and, most of all, an advocate. During my time as a LEND fellow, I completed several projects - which included writing a series of memos on the legal issues surrounding transition from special education to adulthood, and the challenges faced by individuals with developmental disabilities during the process, as well as a memo to the staff at CERC about the right of parents to obtain independent educational evaluations relating to special services for their children. I also co-authored several articles on "Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Law" for the publication Autism Spectrum News. Lastly, this past May, I presented my final project to CERC staff, focusing on the housing options available for adolescents and adults with disabilities and the fight to support community living.
Starting in January I will be relocating to Washington D.C. to complete a one-year Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy Fellowship. I could not be more thankful for the support of my mentors at CERC, nor more excited, to have this once in a lifetime opportunity. At AUCD I will be working alongside Kim Musheno, Director of Legislative Affairs, and Dawn Rudolph, the Director of Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) Technical Assistance. In this role I hope to bring to light, and add to, the pool of knowledge I have gained from CERC. I realize that in the field of disability policy, I will never stop, or want to stop, learning, and will do everything in my power to advocate for positive change in disability legislation and policy.
Kristina Majewski was selected as the 2012 AUCD Disability Policy Leadership Fellow. In her LEND fellowship, she focused on research related to the transition of individuals with intellectual and other disabilities from special education to adulthood, as well as on the state of available housing options and deinstitutionalization efforts for this population. As the proud sibling of two adolescents with special needs, she has spent the past ten years working as an active member of various advocacy groups and volunteer agencies that specialize in developing community activities, administering legal aid, and providing various resources for individuals with disabilities.
My experience at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau Division of Research, Training and Education (DRTE) this summer was a period of valuable growth. As a Maternal and Child Health Masters in Public Health (MPH) trainee at the University of Minnesota, I am interested in policy and macro level work. I was eager to expand my knowledge in application of federal level policies and Title V programs -- programs that are funded and administrated through MCHB. Interning at DRTE expanded this understanding, allowing me the chance to work in a setting that aims to further professionals and trainees' careers. My main project at the Bureau was working on an online learning portal for MCH professionals, called the MCH Navigator. Through screening and summary write-ups, I was able to contribute to the preliminary launch of the site. This continued editing as well as implementing a vetting project for the site helped me to fine-tune my organizational abilities. The vetting project also gave me the opportunity to implement my first evaluation process, a skill-set I learned as a student in Minnesota. I most enjoyed organizing the preliminary data and presentations, which allowed me to see my work and collaboration with others assembled into one final output.
The staff and my mentors at DRTE have helped push my pubic health knowledge into application. They supported me in visiting other division heads, and participating in outside meetings, one including a Congressional hearing with the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) on autism funding reauthorization. I also had the opportunity to participate in HRSA level meetings. These, in addition to my main activities, have helped further my training, career and MCH identity. I look forward to continuing my studies and collaborating with the professionals I made contact with over future years.
As I was preparing for my fulltime internship with the Division of Research, Training and Education (DRTE) at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) one year ago, I thought a lot about the organization of the federal executive branch, the relationship between states and federal policies, and the challenges of working in government. As a Masters of Science in Public Health (MSPH) candidate at the MCH Training Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, I knew that my time at DRTE would allow me to explore potential career paths and better prepare me for the impending job search process. What I did not realize was how much of an impact my internship would have on my professional identity and confidence as I began a career in maternal and child health (MCH).
My primary responsibilities at DRTE centered on the MCH Navigator—a new web-based learning portal for MCH professionals. During my twelve months with the Division (six months full-time, the rest part-time), I contributed to a variety of aspects of this project, including searching for and screening online learning resources, coordinating workgroup meetings, developing and revising draft documents, and making suggestions about the structure and substance of the MCH Navigator system. I also participated in strategic planning activities for the MCH Training Program; a task which required me to draw both on my time at DRTE and my experiences as an MCH Trainee at the Johns School of Public Health. I was also involved in a number of smaller projects, including the drafting of materials for the MCH Training website and helping to brainstorm better ways of that DRTE could communicate directly with MCH Trainees. These experiences built not only upon the knowledge and skills that I gained in my academic program, but also allowed me to further develop my "soft" skills, including interpersonal communication, organization, and critical thinking. The individuals with whom I worked—both DRTE staff and professionals from partner organizations and institutions—were extremely warm and welcoming, making this past year both an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
As I leave DRTE, I recognize that the increased knowledge and appreciation that I gained for the field of MCH and the intricacies of the federal government. I know that the relationships I have developed—whether they be personal or professional (or sometimes both)—will stay with me as I continue to explore the field of maternal and child health.
As a graduate student in the Tulane School of Public Health, I was given the opportunity to work as an intern at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), in the Division of Research, Training and Education (DRTE). All of the DRTE staff were extremely welcoming and gave me many options for projects I could help with over the summer.
One of my main tasks was to formulate a draft of a HRSA Healthy Weight Strategic Plan. Working with two other interns in different Bureaus, we developed a background section about current obesity trends and initiatives. We also included information about HRSA's mission and goals, the functions of the many HRSA bureaus, and a chart based on the Recommendations in the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report laying out actions HRSA could possibly take.
I also compiled Performance Measure data from10 different grantee programs managed by DRTE. I edited and updated charts to display this information, to be used in presentations to the grantees as a record of their achievements over the past few years.
Additionally, I helped edit the Background section for the LEND guidance, helped prepare presentations for HRSA staff to present at national conferences, participated in many planning conference calls about the 75th Anniversary of Title V, Bright Futures publications, a grant proposal review, and upcoming meetings. I was able to attend many different conferences throughout the year, including the ASTPHND Annual Meeting, the Diversity Peer Collaborative Conference, and a Kaiser Family Foundation presentation about Global Health.
Through my work on various projects this summer, I learned that a huge number of meetings, conference calls, emails, and other communications are necessary to accomplish any task. I was impressed by the frequent cross-bureau communication and joint efforts undertaken by HRSA staff from different offices and divisions. Even though this wide range of contributors often slowed the process of accomplishing projects, the many viewpoints they all bring to the table seems to be a great asset to the work being done.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience as an intern at DRTE, MCHB. The DRTE staff allowed me to participate in a variety of different activities and always explained to me the often complicated governmental public health processes. I met many unique people who all helped me grow and learn over the duration of my internship. I am very grateful for this experience and am confident that it has prepared me well for a future career in the public health field.
The MCH Pipeline Training program has been a major help to me. All throughout my undergraduate career I was not sure of what my career choice was in healthcare. After becoming a part of the MCH program, I developed an interest for maternal and child health and nursing. Within the program, Mrs. Catrina Waters prepared me for moving into the direction to pursue a degree in nursing and work in underserved communities. The program offered a lot of career networking opportunities and ways to excel professionally. I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Glenda Smith, a nurse practitioner from UAB. I was able to have mock interviews and resume and personal statement preparation. The MCH Pipeline Training program has been a major help in assisting me in finding my passion in healthcare. I would strongly recommend it to anyone.
Ms. Caroline Stewart has been accepted into the University of Alabama at Birmingham Accelerated Masters Program in Nursing. Caroline is a very dedicated and academically successful young lady. She has participated in the ASU Pipeline Training Program for 3 ½ years. She is a native of Racine, WI. Caroline currently lives in Birmingham, AL. She is a biology pre-health major. She has maintained 3.0 or above G.P.A. in her years at Alabama State University. She is a member of Beta Kappa Chi National Honor Society and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.