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Wendy Klag Center for Autism & Developmental Disabilities

Nurturing a new generation

Internships for Bloomberg School of Public Health students

2019-2020 Bloomberg School intern

Xueqi Qu

Xueqi Qu is a master of health science student in the Department of Epidemiology. She writes: "I’m glad that I had the opportunity working at the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD). Over my time at MCDD, I worked with Dr. Mirian Ofonedu on the suicide prevention project. We did systematic review on risk factors of suicide among individuals with intellectual disability and other developmental disability (IDD), and created training material for parents and health care providers to increase their awareness and knowledge on suicide in people with IDD. The work increased my knowledge and understanding of suicide prevention. I also joined the panel presentation on cultural perspectives around suicide and its prevention with Dr. Ofonedu and two other speakers at Maryland Annual Suicide Prevention Conference. During the summer, I participated in and helped organize 2019 summer learning series hosted by MCDD, which provided workshops on interdisciplinary topics around developmental disability (DD) for healthcare providers, families, and other community stakeholders to improve their knowledge and skills to engage in advocacy. Additionally, MCDD organized various tours for trainees, visiting Kennedy Krieger Institute and other institutes working with disabled people. These tours increased my knowledge on health and social services. In conclusion, the working experience at MCDD gave me the opportunity to walk in the life of individuals with DD and understand struggles and challenges that individuals and their parents face. It also taught me how to link the community to vital findings from scientific research. This internship inspired me to consider developmental disability from multi-disciplinary perspectives and reconfirmed my determination to involve myself in studying developmental disability."

2018-2019 Bloomberg School intern

Marieme Ndiaye

Marieme Ndiaye is a masters student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She writes: "As a Wendy Klag Scholar, I had the opportunity to work with Project HEAL and the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD). Over my time at Project HEAL, I learned about the special education system in Maryland and how attorneys and clinicians work together to provide appropriate Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with disabilities. Speaking with parents directly gave me insight into family strengths and challenges, and taught me the importance of working together to improve the access to education for people with disabilities. While at MCDD, I explored creating a webinar series to educate parents and professionals about suicide prevention for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. We collaborated with the Maryland Department of Health Office of Health Promotion and Prevention to create a plan to design and disseminate the webinars.  Also, I worked on the literature review, design and implementation for a community health needs assessment. These experiences enhanced my understanding of issues faced by the disability community, and taught me the importance of advocacy, community outreach, and spreading awareness and change by working with advocates from all backgrounds to improve quality of life for all."

2017-2018 Bloomberg School interns

Meghana Shetty

Meghana Shetty is a masters student in the Department of Mental Health. "For my Wendy Klag Center internship at the Sheppard Pratt-Lieber Research Institute (SPL), I worked with a research team based in a Developmental Neuropsychiatry clinic for adults. Since autism research is typically focused on early childhood development, relatively little is known about the long-term outcomes of adults with autism. At SPL, I had the unique opportunity to learn from researchers and clinicians with special expertise working with this underserved and understudied population. Each week I participated in lab meetings where I learned about the assessment tools, outcomes, and real-world challenges of conducting research with adult patients with complex developmental, medical and psychiatric conditions. The research team, directed by Dr. Robert Schloesser, was not only tremendously knowledgeable but also incredibly welcoming and inclusive. From the beginning, I was encouraged to ask questions and contribute my public health perspectives to research discussions. I was also invited to sit in on patient appointments where I observed clinical practices, patient-provider interactions, and family dynamics first hand. For my main assignment, I lead a comprehensive review of medical health records to characterize the clinic’s unique adult patient population. I learned how to develop a protocol from scratch and abstract data on everything from medical and psychiatric histories, education and employment status, patterns of service utilization, and more. From this experience, I was able to gain rare insights into the complex needs and lifelong challenges of adults with developmental disorders. It was an exceptional learning opportunity that I am so grateful to have had during my masters program!"

DaYea Song

DaYea Song is a masters student in the Department of Mental Health, who had an internship through the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD). She writes: "Being a part of Project HEAL, a medical-legal partnership with the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI), our team strives to address the civil legal issues that children with neurodevelopmental disorders face in their everyday lives. Working closely with professionals from different departments, I have seen our attorneys collaborate with clinicians to help children obtain their equal rights to a fair and appropriate education. One of my main projects has been to evaluate the impact of Project HEAL on the children and families in addition to the successful ripple effect it has had on the faculty, staff, and trainees throughout KKI. Having the opportunity to build, administer, and analyze the survey results of 100 clinical professionals allowed me to apply what I’ve learned in the classrooms to the real world outside. As social determinants that affect the well-being of an individual are often heavily influenced by legal issues, I also had the chance to attend intake sessions or meetings. This experience has been eye-opening as it provided insight into the challenges that families and children with developmental disabilities experience beyond the clinical settings. Additionally, I met wonderful mentors during my time at Project HEAL. I greatly enjoyed interacting with the attorneys and student interns who came from a wide range of unique backgrounds. Through the kindness of everyone at MCDD, I was able to make the most out of my master’s program. It transformed how I view mental health in a public health perspective."

2016-2017 Bloomberg School intern

Meredith Nicholson

Meredith Nicholson is a masters student in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. She writes: "During my Wendy Klag Center internship, I was placed at the Maryland Center for Development Disabilities (MCDD) and had the unique experience of conducting my own research in the first year of my MSPH program. Given my position as an autistic self-advocate, I decided to compare health outcomes among autistic adults diagnosed as children compared to diagnosed as adults. In this sense, the Wendy Klag Center internship empowered me to conduct the research I wanted to see in the field: instead of waiting for others to take the initiative, I was able to take the lead. My Wendy Klag Center internship allowed me to directly apply much of the biostatistics, epidemiology, and public health material I had been learning in the classroom. In formulating my research question from an extensive data set, I was able to develop my research design skills through a very hands-on approach. Furthermore, the mentoring I received from Wendy Klag Center and MCDD staff was invaluable for my success as both a researcher and presenter. My next steps are to hopefully partner with the Wendy Klag Center and the MCDD for my masters essay on the health care needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) autistic adults which I will present at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. Self-advocates such as myself have known for a long time that we are more likely to identify as LGBT, thus facing exclusion in both the LGBT community and the cross-disability community as a result of our unique challenges." 

2015-2016 Bloomberg School intern

Portrait of Taylor Holroyd

Taylor Holroyd is a master's student in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control. She writes: "I was a Wendy Klag Memorial Scholar for the summer of 2016, and I worked with Dr. Smith and Dr. Stone at the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  My previous experience in intellectual and developmental disabilities was limited, so I hugely appreciated the opportunity to work with prominent leaders in the field.  I gained invaluable experience in the grant writing process, knowledge translation, curriculum writing, and statistical analysis.  I was able to work with public health experts at the MCDD to examine the availability of disability services and improve accessibility for families in Maryland.

"The MCDD staff members were incredibly warm and welcoming throughout my internship, and I was pleased to feel like I was part of the team.  Dr. Smith took the time to individually mentor me, challenge me with different tasks, and ensure that I was involved in a variety of projects.  For my primary project, I was involved in analyzing the results from a Maryland caregivers and respite care survey with the Maryland Department of Human Resources in order to better address family caregivers’ needs.  I focused on analyzing and interpreting data from this survey to determine the policy implications of improving and expanding caregiver services with a state grant.  The results of this research and analysis will be used to write a manuscript that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. 

"Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to apply the skills I have learned at Hopkins in a real-world setting and contribute to the field of developmental disability research.  I also benefitted from collaboration with PACT that enabled me to work with parents with developmental disabilities in order to gain a better understanding of family experiences.  I became aware of how policy and service delivery need to be altered to meet specific disability healthcare needs.  This internship was incredibly inspiring, and I hope to continue to work with my mentors at the MCDD." 


2014-2015 Bloomberg School interns

Hopkins doctoral student Lydia Stewart

Lydia Stewart is a doctoral student in the Department of Mental Health.   As a Wendy Klag Scholar, she participated in a collaborative training program between the Wendy Klag Center, Maryland Center for Developmental Disability (MCDD), and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Lydia’s research interests include developmental disability screening and intervention in low-resource settings internationally as well as employment opportunities for adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She also works as a research assistant on the EARLI and SEED II studies at the Wendy Klag Center. Lydia earned her Master of Health Science in Mental Health from Johns Hopkins University in 2014 and is an honors graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. 

 She writes: "During my internship, I worked with public health and policy experts at the MCDD to map disability services across Maryland and locate community and clinical resources for families receiving a new diagnosis from Kennedy Krieger.  Working with policy and service experts at the MCDD enriched my academic and research experience by increasing my awareness of disability service availability and provision in Maryland.  I also interned at Project Heal, a unique medical-legal partnership serving patients and families of Kennedy Krieger Institute,  where I mentored a local high school student through the development of a research project examining inclusion practices in extracurricular activities.  We recently presented our findings at the 2014 Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) conference in Washington, D.C. Interning with the MCDD and Kennedy Krieger provided a valuable summer of experiential learning and collaboration with leaders in the field of disability research and policy." 

Amanda Wylie

Amanda Wylie is in the MSPH program at Bloomberg School, in the Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health.  She writes:

"As a Wendy Klag Memorial Scholar recipient and current JHSPH MPH candidate, I worked with Drs. Waylon Howard, Jacqueline D. Stone, and Christopher L. Smith at the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCCD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute.  I am interested in working with children with special health care needs by studying the predictors of child development and disability and interventions that target early childhood. I previously earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biobehavioral health at Penn State University with a minor in health and human development. Prior to this internship, I worked as a student trainee in the Epidemiology branch of the NICHD, and I am concurrently working as a research assistant for the PICS Study at JHSPH.

"My project at the MCDD has included working with a clinical program to code, interpret and analyze data in order to answer research questions pertaining to a weight management project. I learned to use multiple techniques to further investigate trends in data, including imputation strategies and latent growth modeling. Using statistical analysis systems, SAS and MPlus, I also gained experience in advance statistical analysis to include evaluation of multiple imputations to address missing data in analysis. The outcome of this project will be a manuscript for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

"In addition to all of the statistical research skills that I have learned, I am afforded the opportunity to gain an understanding of the trials and triumphs of individuals with disabilities and their families, and learn and work alongside professionals who are making lasting contributions to the field. I am grateful for the welcoming atmosphere that the MCDD has created for student trainees and I am already inspired by the determination of the faculty and friends of the MCDD."

2013-2014 Bloomberg School interns

Julia Baller

Julia Baller, PhD (2014), writes: "As a Ph.D candidate and Wendy Klag Memorial Scholar, I developed multiple research questions, analyzed and interpreted data related to my project with the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Using the Maryland Parent Survey-Youth Transition to Adulthood, I focused on analyzing and interpreting data regarding the intersection between healthcare transition services and transition services delivered through special education. The results of my research were used to write a manuscript (pending IRB approval for submission to a peer-reviewed journal).  Our findings were that parents of youth with special healthcare needs (YSHCN), who had an IEP that addressed health care needs, were more likely to report positive health care transition measures. In summary, the results suggested that parents play an integral role in advocating on behalf of their children during the IEP and health care transition planning process. 

"Overall, my experience with the MCDD has enabled me to get a much better sense of the policies in place that both help and impede families from getting the services that they need by interacting with people with disabilities, meeting families, physicians, researchers, advocates, and lawyers in the disability field. It has helped shape my dissertation research, and I have no doubt that my experiences will continue to affect my future endeavors. Some of the greatest opportunities at the MCDD are the multitudes of meetings, webinars, grand rounds, and other resources that enable trainees to hear about a diverse set of experiences and meet people from around the state and country that are committed to a similar set of issues. It may seem overwhelming, but taking advantage of these opportunities will greatly enrich your experience. More than anything else, I now know that Maryland has an extremely knowledgeable, dedicated work force committed to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. Finally, given the phenomenal experience I had, I have no doubt that I will continue to stay in touch and collaborate with my mentors at MCDD."

Eric Rubenstein

Eric Rubenstein, ScM (2014), writes: "I was a Wendy Klag Memorial Scholar for the spring semester of 2014. I worked with Drs. Smith and Stone at the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute to develop and submit an NIH grant proposal that would create a data collaborative for organizations in Maryland that work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I learned a great deal about the process of grant writing and the importance of collaborative research. Both Drs. Smith and Stone were phenomenal mentors in this area and I will definitely use the skills developed in my career. Additionally, I did some work with data collected by the MCDD which allowed me to become more familiar in statistical programming and data presentation. On the whole, I had a great experience at the MCDD and appreciated the welcoming and helpful MCDD team. I would strongly recommend the Wendy Klag scholar experience.

"Training at the MCDD has given me practical experience and a real world perspective of the developmental disability research field. Through my coursework, I have learned a great deal about research methods and approaches, but not until training at the MCDD had I gotten the opportunity to use my skills in real world applications. The opportunity to work on a grant, from idea formation to submission, was a great experience that engrained lessons that will follow me through my career. Additionally, seeing how the staff at the Center goes about their projects was a great example of leadership and management that I will like to replicate one day."