Vanderbilt Consortium LEND trains future leaders in IDD interprofessional care

Trainees today, leaders tomorrow. The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND program is cultivating future specialists in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to become effective leaders in their respective practices through customized monthly leadership classes.

The Vanderbilt Consortium Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program includes faculty and trainees from Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College, Milligan College, Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University, as well as affiliates from Family Voices of Tennessee.

This year’s participants in the program– 17-from Middle Tennessee and 11 from East Tennessee –are training in fields of audiology, deaf education, dentistry, medicine, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, pediatrics, physical therapy, psychology, public health, social work, special education, and speech-language pathology. Trainees voluntarily take on the LEND coursework in addition to their professional studies.

LEND trainees come together on the Vanderbilt campus for 2-hour sessions once a month. Trainees from the East Tennessee area connect with the Vanderbilt campus via Zoom, a teleconferencing platform. During these sessions, the trainees divide into small- and large-group formats to discuss that month’s assigned reading and to tackle real-life scenarios that an IDD professional might encounter in his/her career.

“These leadership seminars are an essential element of the mission of the LEND program,” said Tyler Reimschisel, M.D., M.H.P.E., LEND director. “We assign readings from business and organizational management literature, which is a unique experience for the trainees since they are typically exposed just to health care literature. We want to teach them the difference between leadership and managerial traits and how to be an agent for change.”

Reimschisel also serves as associate professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, director of the Division of Developmental Medicine, and Vice Chair for Education for the Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics.

“We discuss the frameworks for leadership, how to be a transformational leader, negotiation skills, conflict resolution, mitigating implicit bias, and recognizing and valuing different perspectives,” he continued.

During orientation at the beginning of the academic year, the trainees had a chance to experience those different perspectives as they played the game in which they assume the identity of a person with a different race, level of education, ethnicity, and background from their own.

“It is a great opportunity for the trainees to see what life might be like for some of the people they will encounter in their professional lives, to see what daily struggles one might encounter as a person who speaks limited English or someone who doesn’t have a reliable mode of transportation,” said Reimschisel.

During the monthly leadership sessions, trainees are assigned to interprofessional small groups in which they work through a series of case scenarios that prompt them to address potential challenges in establishing a hypothetical new Down syndrome clinic. Two LEND faculty are on hand in each small group to facilitate discussion within the group.

After each leadership session, the trainees write a Critical Reflection about how they applied what they learned from the LEND readings and leadership seminar to their personal or professional settings. They submit their reflections to the LEND faculty in their small group, who read and provide feedback to each of them.

“The challenge for us as facilitators is to teach leadership skills to those who are not yet in a leadership position,” said Reimschisel. “Fortunately, most trainees already have leadership experience from their past with which to work: they were members of student government, or they served in an executive position in their fraternity or sorority. The LEND Program’s goal is to expand upon those experiences through small and large group discussions, role playing, critical reflection, and guidance from our LEND faculty in order to equip them to lead health care services for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families.”

For more information on the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND Program, visit

Lead Photo Caption: Tyler Reimschisel, LEND director, presenting to trainees.

Elizabeth Turner is program coordinator for VKC Communications.



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