HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield Visits GA LEND

January 11, 2012

Dr. Wakefield with faculty and staff of the GA LEND
Dr. Wakefield with faculty and staff of the GA LEND

On December 16th, Georgia State University's Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (GaLEND) Program hosted Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Wakefield's visit provided her first opportunity to meet with trainees, faculty, and staff from a LEND program since she was appointed to her post by President Barack Obama in February 2009. During Dr. Wakefield's one-day visit to Georgia she also attended a ribbon cutting for a community health center in Palmetto, Georgia.

Donna Johnson, an advocate for families and GaLEND Program trainee said, "When I first signed up for this program, I knew I would learn more about leadership and working with professionals and other advocates. But it has turned out to be so much more. Having the chance to meet with Dr. Wakefield was just incredible. She was engaging, attentive, and showed a real interest in our concerns. I was so impressed that this national leader took the time to meet with us."

The GaLEND Program is an interdisciplinary training program for current and future professionals, family members, and advocates who work with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism and related conditions. In July, GSU received a $3.1 million, five-year grant from the HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the program. GaLEND is now in its inaugural year with the goal of equipping participants with knowledge and skills to support people with disabilities in achieving better health outcomes and fuller lives in their communities.

The first cohort of GaLEND of trainees at GSU began this fall. The trainees are a varied group comprised of advanced graduate students from GSU in nutrition, physical therapy, psychology, public health, school psychology, and speech-language pathology, as well as two CDC neuroscientists, three family members, a social worker, a lawyer, a SHLI fellow, a pediatrician, and an individual with disabilities who advocates for others. This range of backgrounds and disciplines is a strength of the program, offering the chance for networking and peer-to-peer learning as key components of the educational experience. "Having such a varied cohort of trainees provides a very powerful way to do leadership training," says Mark Crenshaw, Director of Interdisciplinary Training for the GaLEND Program.

Daniel Crimmins, PhD, Director of the Center for Leadership in Disability and the GaLEND Program said, "This was a tremendous honor to have Dr. Wakefield spend time with our program. And, what an opportunity for our trainees to learn from someone whose decisions touch the lives of millions of people, and yet be such a real, genuine, and caring person."

Dan Crimmins talks with Mary Wakefield
LEND Director Dr. Dan Crimmins describes the LEND training program to HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield
Mary Wakefield listens at the GA LEND
Dr. Wakefield and Lisa Mariani of HRSA learn about the LEND training program
Mary Wakefield with GA LEND trainees
Dr. Wakefield with trainees of the GA LEND