At the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) Annual Conference, June 2-4, Tom Cheetham, M.D., FAAIDD, was honored with the inaugural Surgeon General’s Spirit Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service.
Cheetham is deputy commissioner of Health Services in the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; adjoint assistant professor of Psychology and Human Development, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University; and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) member.
AADMD recognized Cheetham’s work throughout his career to close gaps in health care disparities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The award is named in honor of former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. In releasing a landmark 2002 Surgeon General report on health disparities, Dr. Satcher charged the participants to “give the report some legs, otherwise it’s just another report on a shelf.” Many of the founders of AADMD participated in the conference and development of that report. The AADMD Surgeon General Award personifies the spirit of Dr. Satcher who laid down the impetus and encouragement to “close the gap” and memorializes the connection between AADMD and the Office of the Surgeon General.
“Being the inaugural recipient of the Surgeon General’s Spirit Award is an extraordinary honor, and Tom is the perfect choice for this award that recognizes dedication to reducing health care disparities for persons with IDD,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, VKC director of Community Engagement and Public Policy, and senior lecturer in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “Tom has been an essential partner and collaborator with the VKC UCEDD and the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND over the last several years in a series of projects aimed at addressing health care disparities, starting with the creation of Health Care for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Toolkit for Primary Care Providers, then the development of online training for physicians and other health care providers, and most recently a telehealth project. How perfect that this Award recognizes ‘Spirit,’ because in all that Tom has done in his long career, he exemplifies the spirit needed to bring about change.”
“Our LEND training program, like the LENDs nationwide, provides interprofessional education that emphasizes the integration of services from state and local agencies, organizations, and communities,” said Tyler Reimschisel, M.D., MHPE, director of the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND, associate professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, and director of the Division of Developmental Medicine. “Tom is passionate about interprofessional education and works across providers of all types so that children and adults with developmental disabilities are better served. We are so pleased that he has received this well-deserved recognition.”
Cheetham is a family physician with over 35 years of experience serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His publications include book chapters on physical health, and guidelines on the primary care of adults and the use of psychotropic medications in management of problem behaviors in adults with intellectual disabilities. He has held academic appointments in the Department of Family Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Western Ontario, and in the Department of Family Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. In 2007, he was selected Physician of the Year by the Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association and holds Fellowship in the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
AADMD was organized in 2002 to provide a forum for health care professionals who provide clinical care to people with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. Its mission is to improve the quality of healthcare for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities.
Jan Rosemergy is VKC deputy director and director of Communications and Dissemination.
Pictured top of page (left to right): Dr. Beth Malow, Jana Dreyzehner, Janet Shouse, and Dr. Tom Cheetham, collaborators on the IDD Health Care Toolkit and VKC UCEDD initiatives related to health and mental health. Photo by Elise McMillan.