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Toni Whitaker Receives $3.1 Million For UTHSC’s LEND Program


The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a University of Tennessee Health Science Center professor’s efforts to improve health outcomes in children with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Toni Whitaker

Toni Whitaker, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and division chief for Developmental Pediatrics in the UTHSC College of Medicine, has received a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, a division of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, for the UTHSC Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program.

The UTHSC LEND program, one of 60 in a national network, provides interdisciplinary training to enhance the clinical expertise and leadership skills of professionals dedicated to caring for children with neurodevelopmental and other related developmental disabilities.

LEND programs improve the health of children who have, or are at risk for, neurodevelopmental or related disabilities by preparing trainees from a wide variety of professional disciplines to assume leadership roles and to ensure high levels of clinical competence. LEND program trainees participate in a variety of academic, clinical, leadership, and community experiences.

“Clinical and leadership experience in interdisciplinary settings with faculty who are dedicated to serving the needs of children and families is critical to creating well-trained health professionals with expertise in neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Our goal is to increase capacity in our community and beyond to provide excellent care for children with developmental delays and disabilities.”

The UTHSC LEND program, housed at the UTHSC Center on Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics, will serve trainees and professionals in the UTHSC Colleges of Medicine, Health Professions, Nursing, Graduate Health Sciences, and Dentistry. Students and collaborating faculty also partner with the LEND program from other UT campuses, including Knoxville and Chattanooga, and with other universities (such as the University of Memphis).