Training The Next Generation Of Leaders

The New Hampshire-Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program (LEND) is an interdisciplinary leadership program through a collaboration between the Institute on Disability/UCED at the University of New Hampshire, the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies/UCED at the University of Maine and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. It is designed for professionals and family members across New Hampshire and Maine, who are interested in working in the field of developmental disabilities. The 300-hour program includes 100 hours of Clinical Training & Preparation, 100 hours of LEND seminar, and 100 hours of Interdisciplinary Leadership Intensive with a capstone project and presentation.  

The partnership between LEND and our area agency began approximately ten years ago. NH-ME LEND Program Director Betsy Humphreys said a conversation with our CEO Dennis Powers and Area Agency Director Cynthia Mahar led to the conclusion that the LEND program and our area agency share many common goals and values. The University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability website reads, “the purpose of the NH-ME LEND is to improve the health of children and youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities by preparing leaders to enter the field of maternal and child health”. 

Betsy Humphreys, PhD / Director of NH-ME LEND Program 

Since the inception of our partnership, three program graduates have gone on to, and continue to, work for our area agency. Director of Community Partnerships Jennifer Bertrand, Marketing Director Alicia Buono, and Family Support Coordinator Cathy Wahl are all graduates. “The program significantly expanded my professional and leadership skills in the area of public policy and the maternal and child health field as well as my ability to work more effectively on an interdisciplinary team,” Jenn said. Her interest in furthering her leadership skills and joining a network of skilled leaders to improve the lives of children who experience neurodevelopmental and other disabilities allowed this program to be the perfect opportunity for her. “I had many years of experience in marketing communications to contribute to Community Crossroads but it was my experiences through the LEND program that exposed me to the clinical and case management work that are fundamental to my job communicating to the public about our work,” Alicia shared.

For Cathy, the LEND program was “life-changing” and was presented to her at a time when she was at a crossroads in her career. “Through the LEND program, I took opportunities to meet with different LEND staff and graduates to learn about their careers and what had led them to their choices….Presenters, classes, and all these experiences and a passion to determine where my journey would lead. I began to feel like I was on a train leaving the station but I still wasn’t sure where I was going. Ann Dillon (Cathy’s mentor) introduced me to person-centered planning and through that experience, I discovered I want to support other families who have children with disabilities,” Cathy said. 

Betsy explained how both the program and our area agency benefit from the partnership. Trainees have the opportunity to work beside and have conversations with professionals in our Early Supports & Services, Oral Health, Intensive Services, and Community Partnerships Departments. This allows trainees to see first-hand what our area agency does on any given day. In return, trainees sometimes end up working for our area agency, or one of our vendors. 

Another benefit of the partnership is Dennis and Cynthia can let Betsy know of employees they feel would be a good fit for the program and in return, Betsy can let them know about trainees she feels would be a good fit at our area agency. She said word-of-mouth recruitment from partners of the LEND program is the best strategy for getting people involved.

Dennis said, “Having been directly involved with the LEND program for the past ten years as both a Leadership Intensive and clinical rotation partner site, we have seen firsthand the quality of the curriculum and the impact graduates have had on the local, state, and national levels. Regardless of the professional discipline from which they come, the LEND program teaches participants the importance of listening to families in order to become partners with them, and thus become better professionals.”

Director of Clinical Services Jennifer Chisholm has been a mentor for those in the LEND program. She said, “I try to involve trainees in as many aspects as possible, to give them a well-rounded sense of the supports, services, and resources necessary to ensure everyone’s needs are met. I always make sure to include them in our collaborative efforts with the Center for Life Management, statewide committees such as the Community of Practice and Statewide Risk Management Committee, as well as the Center for START Services, the Behavior Review Committee (sub-committee of the Human Rights Committee (HRC), and to shadow several meetings where they can see all of these services and supports come together”. 

Chisholm said “my current trainee loves how diverse my role is so that she can explore different avenues and determine where her strongest interests lie. Others have told me they never knew this field could open them up to so many possibilities.” 

Throughout the past year, the program has been virtual. While it is still unclear if trainees feel as though they were able to get plenty of information and experience from the program, Betsy said she believes “there is an amazing cohort of trainees” and recognized that those who do work with the trainees are dedicated to helping others expand their knowledge. 

To learn more about the NH-ME LEND program and/or apply for next year’s program, visit their website here, Betsy said January through April/May is the ideal time to apply. It is important that before applying to research the program to make sure your career goals and schedule align because of the time and effort commitment the program entails. 

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