I wanted to be part of the North Carolina Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (NC-LEND) program as soon as the call for applications was issued. Prior to starting my graduate work at UNC in Healthcare Administration, I completed my medical degree and training at Ross University. During this time, I realized I lacked an understanding of the resources, continuum of care, and needs of children with developmental disabilities (DD) and their caregivers.
The LEND program was attractive to me because of its collaborative setting, extensive leadership training, broad range of learning opportunities, and access to dedicated faculty mentors to develop future leaders who will work to improve the health status of children with DD. I knew these resources would help me better prepare to serve the DD population, and I was fortunate to be accepted into the program.
NC-LEND brings together individuals with diverse backgrounds who are interested in improving lives of children with DD across the lifespan. Our 2016-2017 cohort is composed of parents, speech pathologists, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and self-advocates. The program provides multiple opportunities to learn from one another’s perspectives in classes, workshops, and sessions. As I think about my perspective during my medical training as a practitioner who saw children with DD occasionally, it is eye-opening to hear the experiences of parents who live with, care for, and love that child every day.
Leadership training is an extensive component of the NC-LEND curriculum, and emphasis is given to self-awareness. We learned our Myers-Briggs Type Indication (MBTI) as well as our collaborating and working styles. We also identified others’ MBTIs and learned how to use effective bridging for each type. We had sessions that focused on conflict resolution and peer coaching. All these exercises showed us to respect differences and taught us the skills to reach a common ground so that we can work together as a team to accomplish our goals in any situation.
NC-LEND provides learning opportunities through the immersion of available resources from the Carolina Institute of Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), UNC School of Medicine. Top professionals in the DD field present bi-weekly lectures and research seminars. We are able to participate in CIDD clinics, visit IDD policy groups, and volunteer at events hosted by local organizations such the Autism Society of NC and Arc of the Triangle.
Most importantly, NC-LEND provides access to faculty mentors who serve as mentors and advisors for our projects and career paths. I am currently working with Dr. Kristen Lich on an exciting endeavor to develop a prototype virtual interface to help pediatricians and caregivers of children with DD identify available resources. My fellow LEND trainee, Jackie Lawrence, MA, PhD Candidate, UNC School of Psychology, feels similarly. “There are numerous faculty and professionals to learn from. I have access to priceless training experiences, resources, and mentors willing to go the extra mile. My research has been autism-focused before I became a LEND trainee, now I have someone from the CIDD providing invaluable support.”
As a cohort, we are grateful for the training from NC-LEND and the other 51 LEND programs across the country. I am confident that as we graduate from the program, we will influence changes that will improve the delivery of healthcare and the health status of children with developmental disabilities into the future.
Jan Lee Santos, MD
Master of Healthcare Administration Candidate
Department of Health Policy and Management
Gillings School of Global Public Health
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities
UNC School of Medicine