UAMS Receives $710,000 to Train Health Professionals to Improve Services for Children with Developmental Disabilities

By ChaseYavondaC

UAMS has directed the Arkansas Regional Leadership Education in Neuro-Developmental Disabilities (LEND) Project since 1994, funded by grants from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

As many as 15-18 percent of children have developmental and/or behavioral problems. This grouping includes autism spectrum disorders, which impact one in 65 children in Arkansas.

Eldon G. Schulz, M.D., of the UAMS Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine, is principal investigator of the program and administrator of the grant.

“Too few health professionals have the necessary skills to diagnose and provide the proper treatments for developmental disabilities,” Schulz said. “Participants in this program emerge with a better sense of the entire system that these children face and the barriers to care that they encounter.”

Thirty-two postgraduate trainees from 14 disciplines – ranging from audiology to nursing to psychiatry to health administration – complete a two-semester, 300-hour curriculum that includes classes, problem-based learning, clinical rotations and research and leadership projects.

“Our trainees are the cream of the crop in their fields, and we want tomorrow’s leaders in health care to already be thinking of ways they can intervene – be it as citizens or as professionals – on behalf of these families and children, with the ultimate goal of improving their treatment and their access to care; improving their lives; expanding their future possibilities for joining the workforce and participating in society,” Schulz said.

UAMS partners with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Central Arkansas and the University of Southern Mississippi for the program. These institutions host the trainees’ coursework and provide faculty and mentors for the participants. Partners for Inclusive Communities, which is the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Center on Disabilities program, organizes and administers the program.

“Traditionally, our health professionals have not gotten a lot of training on how to work in interprofessional teams,” said David Deere, executive director of Partners for Inclusive Communities. “For a lot of the complex conditions that kids with disabilities have – autism being an increasingly common example – it’s really important to be able to coordinate services, understand what other professions do, make referrals to other services when necessary and work collaboratively on everything from screening to diagnosis and interventions.”

Schulz said the LEND program “fits in beautifully” with UAMS’ overall mission as the state’s primary health sciences university.

“This really is a model interdisciplinary program,” Schulz said. “Increasingly, ‘interdisciplinary’ has become a key word in health education, and it’s been a major part of what we have been doing with LEND for years. It’s no longer enough for medical professionals to think about the traditional list of medical professionals that everyone knows. The treatment world has expanded, and they need to know how to take advantage of it and connect their patients to the right service providers and work interprofessionally to coordinate their care.”

LEND trainees have access to 25 different clinical rotation options, including some in rural Arkansas. Schulz has taken trainees to Marshall, Mountain View and Dumas, for example.

“They are experiences that are very much based in the real world and can be quite eye-opening,” Schulz said.

Part of the learning structure is for the trainees to learn by teaching. They take turns at periodic meetings teaching each other about things they’ve learned, and they also partner with a faculty mentor to teach students at Hall High School about different health care professions.

Portions of the program are also available to health professionals and state disability services professionals as continuing medical education.

More information is available from from Partners for Inclusive Communities at 800-342-2923,

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and eight institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and the Institute for Community Health Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.