VKC Director Elisabeth Dykens receives 2014 NADD Research Award

By: Elizabeth Turner

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Director Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., was recently awarded the inaugural Research Award from NADD, an association for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health needs. The award was presented at the 2014 NADD Conference held in November in San Antonio, TX.

Dykens is Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair, director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, professor of Psychology & Human Development, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics, and co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

The 2014 NADD Research Award recognizes a scholar who has made significant scientific contributions toward the understanding and advancement of mental wellness for people with developmental disabilities, has disseminated research findings widely through both traditional and nontraditional (media) venues, and whose collaborative work has inspired and encouraged other research efforts in this field.

“For Elisabeth to receive the first-ever NADD Research Award is a great honor,” said Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., James G. Blakemore chair and vice chair for Basic Science Research, Department of Psychiatry, and VKC associate director. “NADD is the pre-eminent professional organization focused on the co-occurrence of developmental disorders and mental health disorders. Elisabeth is a leading national scholar in this field and has influenced the field.”

In addition to her work at one of the leading research centers on intellectual disability in the country, NADD recognized Dykens’ leadership as principal investigator of several significant grants and projects. Among them are an R01 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) on predicting phenotypic trajectories in Prader-Willi syndrome across the lifespan, and a U54 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rare Disease Clinical Research Center to contribute studies on Angelman and Prader-Willi syndromes to a rare disease clinical research network. Dykens also led the Parent Stress Intervention Project, which compared a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program and a Positive Parenting Curriculum as interventions to reduce stress in parents of children with disabilities. The findings of Parent Stress Intervention Project have since been developed into an electronic manual available for nationwide dissemination.

Dykens has co-authored three books and has served as guest editor for two special journal issues focused on behavioral phenotypes in genetic syndromes; has authored or co-authored dozens of chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles; and has conducted ground-breaking work on behavioral phenotypes of genetic syndromes including Down, Prader-Willi, Williams, and Smith-Magenis syndromes. Dykens was an early proponent of positive psychology, and her recognition and promotion of positive characteristics of people with disabilities has offered a new lens with which people view the field.

Upon accepting her Research Award, Dykens praised NADD, saying, “This organization has steadfastly filled a glaring gap that no other agency, university, or governmental office has yet stepped forward to fill. I have always appreciated that NADD ‘gets’ the importance of research, especially translational research that informs and improves the treatment of individuals with intellectual disabilities and co-occurring psychiatric disorders.”

Last Updated: 12/1/2014 2:59:11 PM

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