The Next Generation
When today's Kennedy Krieger Institute first opened its doors in 1967, its leaders were expected to continue and improve the state-of-the-art treatment services already available to children with cerebral palsy at the Children's Rehabilitation Institute, the original facility that became Kennedy Krieger, and to extend those services to children with a variety of other neurodevelopmental disorders. But this new organization had another mission: to provide the intensive training necessary to prepare professionals in a wide range of disciplines for the challenges they would face in caring for children with neurological disabilities.
The training program established at Kennedy Krieger aims far beyond imparting the skills and knowledge needed in a qualified caregiver. "Our formative grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau directs us to provide pre- and post-doctoral candidates with the interdisciplinary training and clinical expertise they'll need to assume leadership positions in the field of developmental disabilities," says Dr. Bruce Shapiro, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and vice president of training at Kennedy Krieger.
Each year, more than 400 individuals come to Kennedy Krieger for professional training in a broad spectrum of disciplines. Most are already accomplished professionals in the final phases of their educations. In addition to these pre- and post-doctoral interns, a number of college undergraduates and sometimes even high-school students spend time at Kennedy Krieger, gaining the knowledge and experience that help them decide whether working with children with disabilities is right for them.
Kennedy Krieger's Behavioral Psychology Department welcomes about 30 pre- and post-doctoral trainees each year. Virtually all provide direct patient care under the close supervision of faculty members. "The contributions of our trainees enrich the care we're able to offer because these are professionals who bring a wide range of experiences with them," says Dr. SungWoo Kahng, the department's training director. "Plus, because they're still closely connected to academic settings, they're familiar with the most innovative solutions to problems."
By allowing trainees to have extensive interaction with patients, Kennedy Krieger helps ensure that the next generation of experts in neurodevelopmental disabilities develops an intimate understanding of the issues facing children with disabilities and their families. "Our trainees learn to appreciate the issues of healthcare delivery and its impact on the human level," says Dr. Shapiro. "It helps them develop ideas about ways to improve the healthcare system."
Kennedy Krieger trainees also participate in vital research projects. While trainees learn from the researchers they assist, their fresh perspectives help the Institute conduct more thorough investigations. "The synergy that occurs between our trainees, our clinicians and our research teams is crucial to the projects' success," says Dr. Shapiro.
Most trainees stay at the Institute for six months to a year. Some choose to continue their careers at Kennedy Krieger, but most assume faculty positions at prestigious institutions across the United States and in other countries. In sharing their experiences with the global community of developmental experts, these professionals ensure that the groundbreaking work done at Kennedy Krieger improves the lives of children with disabilities throughout the world.