20021 Young Professional Award

Kaitlyn Ahlers, PhD, University of Washington

November 22, 2021

The Young Professional Award is presented to a person in the field of disabilities under the age of 40 who has demonstrated dedication and commitment to people with developmental disabilities and their families through work as a bridge between the academic sector and the community.

Kaitlyn Ahlers, PhD,  University of Washington

Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Washington

"Katie is clearly a ‘rising star'; her contributions as a clinical psychologist to the mental health, autism, and rare genetic spaces across multiple stakeholder groups are exemplar"

Dr. Ahlers took the lead of writing and publishing two important publications, first, a special issue report on adapting participatory action research to include people with IDD during the pandemic - a manuscript that involved multiple members of our AUCD network UCEDD and LEND Programs - and second, a book chapter on measuring psychiatric symptoms in individuals with IDD, building relationships with other members within the network . In addition to her continued clinical services to the UW clinics, she also found the time to present with the other Council Trainee Representatives at the virtual 2020 AUCD conference in November, as well as attend the annual IDDRC network meeting in December 2020 where she continued to fulfill our shared goal of broadening her mentor/network relationships. Finally, Katie embodies traits that are characteristic of successful leaders whom we have worked with as colleagues or current collaborators, as well as prior AUCD network next-gen leaders. For example, she was extremely detail-oriented and organized, able to propose changes and solutions especially with respect to all the communication and work-life changes that occurred during the pandemic, as well as the social injustice later in the calendar year. With respect to research acumen, she displayed a level of intellectual maturity and scientific curiosity that is beyond her current status as a postdoc trainee, and well aligned with faculty members of tenure track status. Finally, similar to my close interactions with Dr. Sheida Raley, a former awardee with whom I worked closely during her tenure as the AUCD Emerging Leaders Board Representative, I have also observed Katie's ability to bridge the gaps between our university and community partners in the RARE space; she is a gifted speaker, able to communicate conceptual and applied concepts to me, as well as other trainees, professionals and community members with whom I have observed in her interactions in her role at UW. Her ability to balance all these activities, maintain a positive attitude and also communicate well as both a convener and a leader gives me confidence that she will be an agent of true change.