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Department of Educational Foundations & Special Education

College of Education

Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (VCL)







 Contact us at VCL!

Julie Sears

Johnson City Program Coordinator






The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) expanded from Middle Tennessee to East Tennessee State University and Milligan College in the fall of 2016. In addition to ETSU and Milligan, the VCL also includes faculty and trainees from Belmont University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, The University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, and Family Voices of Tennessee.

The purpose of the VCL is to reduce and prevent NDRD (neurodevelopmental disabilities and related disabilities) in children and to increase access to family-centered, community-based, culturally competent, interdisciplinary services. The VCL focuses on preparing graduate and post-graduate level health professionals to assume leadership roles and develop interprofessional team skills through a 300-hour certificate program that is in addition to the trainee’s regular education program.

For more information about the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND go to:

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant #T73MC30767, Vanderbilt Consortium LEND. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.


Evon Lee

Evon Batey Lee, PhD

VCL Director

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Psychology, and Psychiatry


Dr. Lee has expertise in the assessment of children with a variety of developmental disabilities, including children on the autism spectrum. She has served as primary psychologist in clinics serving former premature babies, infants and young children, and children with cochlear implants. Dr. Lee organizes and leads training workshops on new tests and test re-standardizations, and consults on a broad range of psychological and behavioral measures.



Cynthia Chambers, PhD

VCL Associate Director

Professor of Special Education and Associate Dean of Teacher Education


Dr. Chambers graduated from the University of Kansas in Special Education. Her research and service interests are family-professional partnerships and community-based, inclusive programming.  





Julie Sears

Johnson City VCL Program Coordinator



Julie serves as the East Tennessee contact for recruitment, orientation, all in-person sessions, and individual and group projects. She is a member of the VCL Leadership Team.



The VCL selects trainees through a competitive application process to participate in the intensive 300-hour program that begins each fall and continues through the spring semester. Each trainee brings to the cohort a high level of knowledge in his or her particular area of study. Trainees collaborate with their peers from other professions to develop strong interprofessional skills as they gain knowledge with the goal of becoming leaders in the field of NDRD (neurodevelopmental disabilities and related disabilities). For information on how to apply for a LEND traineeship, contact Julie Sears, .

2019-20 Trainees

Trainees - 2018-19


Shayna Cole, ETSU - Audiology

As an ETSU doctoral student in audiology, Shayna recently discovered that her passions lie with audiological pediatric research. She has had a variety of experiences in working with children with disabilities that include working at the YMCA summer camp and performing hearing screenings at the Special Olympic events.

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Jo Cullen  - Family Advocate

Jo was a teacher and principal in England before coming to the U.S. in 2008. Today, she is the principal of Jeremiah School, which serves children with autism ages 10-18. As a parent of a child diagnosed with autism and as a principal, Jo desires to be a community leader in holistic approaches to supporting children.


Kacie Denton,  ETSU-Quillen College of Medicine - Medicine

Through her multiple experiences in medical settings, Kacie found her desire to serve and provide medical care in the rural areas of Northeast Tennessee as well as underserved countries. Kacie earned her MPH in May 2019, and, currently, as a fourth-year medical student at Quillen, Kacie's next step is to pursue a pediatric residency.


Heather Scalf, ETSU -Nutrition

Heather's most rewarding job was becoming a soccer referee, as it allowed her to be a positive influence on young children. Currently, she is attending ETSU's Clinical Nutrition Master's Program in order to continue making an impact on children in the field of clinical nutrition and dietetics. 


Makayla Lynch,  ETSU - Nutrition 

Currently gaining her Master’s in Clinical Nutrition at ETSU, Makayla is working towards her professional goal of becoming a licenses registered dietitian nutritionist and a certified diabetes educator. She is looking forward to educating her patients, whether age five or 80, to assist them in making optimal lifestyle changes.


Harley Blevins, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

Harley’s desire is to have a global impact by using what she learns at Milligan in her Master’s in Occupational Therapy towards a profession that will allow her to collaborate with international organizations and missionary programs. This past year, Harley completed fieldwork to learn sensory integration therapy at the Pediatric Therapy Network in California. 

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Yasenia Edwards,  Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

After her schooling, Yasenia hopes to return to her hometown in rural Southwest Virginia and someday start a clinic for children so they do not have to travel hours to get services. To achieve her goals, Yasenia is working towards her Master’s of Occupational Therapy at Milligan College. 


Whitney Gambrell, ETSU - Physical Therapy 

Whitney has enjoyed her last seven years working with children in an elementary after-school program. However, after volunteering at the neonatal intensive care unit, she realized her dream was to become a physical therapist who specializes in working with 0-3 year olds. She is currently working towards this by gaining a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at ETSU.

Kelly Webb

Kelly Webb, ETSU - Physical Therapy

After two semesters of working in a buddy program for students with special needs, Kelly found her passion. She is now enrolled in the Doctoral Physical Therapy program at East Tennessee State University. Her professional goal is to specialize in pediatrics.


Seth Manning, ETSU - Public Health

Seth is gaining a Master’s in Public Health at East Tennessee State University. His passion for people with disabilities grew from having a sibling with cerebral palsy, which led him into the legislative and political arena. Seth’s ultimate goal is to become an administrator.


Kyle Wolske, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

Diana learned the importance of interprofessional teaming for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities after working at Camp Lee Mar. After completing her Masters in Speech-Language Pathology at ETSU, Diana hopes to collaborate with other professionals around the world to broaden her understanding to develop clinical approaches that offer the best services for children.

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Diana Janus, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

Diana learned the importance of interprofessional teaming for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities after working at Camp Lee Mar. After completing her Masters in Speech-Language Pathology at ETSU, Diana hopes to collaborate with other professionals around the world to broaden her understanding to develop clinical approaches that offer the best services for children.

Kayla Rayne

Kayla-Rayne Withrow, ETSU - Social Work

After being a lifelong advocate for her younger sibling, Kayla-Rayne wants to continue to pursue the advocacy of people with dual diagnoses of mental health and neurodevelopmental disabilities. To achieve her goals, she is working towards her Master’s in Social Work. She is also working at a local mental health program that provides short term respite for child dual diagnoses.

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Catie Dean, ETSU - Special Education

After working as a camp counselor at a specialized camp for people with disabilities, Catie gained a K-12 teaching license to teach in special education. Today she has returned to the classroom as a student to get an add-on licensure in early childhood special education. She plans to continue her education and become either district coordinator or a professor.


Caitlin Paolucci, ETSU - Special Education

Caitlin decided to pursue a Master’s in Special Education after working with children with special needs. Her ultimate goal is to get a doctorate and develop teaching assistive technology to support children with mild and moderate disabilities. This year Caitlin is a research assistant with ETSU Access, which provides the college experience to students with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.

2018-19 Trainees

Trainees - 2018-19


Malikai Bass, ETSU - Self-Advocate

As an undergraduate student, Malikai is working towards his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at ETSU. His long-term professional goal is to become a children’s museum director for science programming. In this position, Malikai sees himself as providing inclusion and accessibility to all students to bolster science achievement, especially for those who struggle in traditional educational settings.


Joy Blair,ETSU - Special Education

Joy’s love of playing music has been integral in her working with children with special needs through various community organizations. Currently, she is working towards her Master’s in Special Education with a dual concentration in both low and high incidence disabilities. She intends to create opportunities for learners of exceptionality to access and participate in music-making activities both inside and outside of her classroom.


Abigail Booher, ETSU - Special Education

Starting her first year as a self-contained classroom teacher, Abigail is continuing her educational career at ETSU to gain her Master’s in Special Education with a focus on low incidence disabilities. She also holds a general education degree in English. Abigail’s goal is to teach for a few years, and later move into an educational leadership role where she hopes to become a Director of Special Education.


Cassie Boyd, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

After Cassie graduated from Shenandoah University, she worked at a community-based group home. She also spent two summers working as a theater program counselor for young people with medical conditions and disabilities, which gave her invaluable experiences in working with diverse families. When she finishes her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at Milligan College, she expects to begin working as a pediatric occupational therapist.


Ashley Brown, ETSU - Audiology

Ashley has a strong desire to working in an interdisciplinary pediatric hospital setting after she gains her Doctorate in Audiology from ETSU. She has seen many benefits to this type of collaboration due to her experiences as a mentor and a co-founder of a social group with the Office of Disability Services at ETSU. Her ultimate career goal is to open a training and teaching center concerning hearing screenings.


Shawna Burrow, ETSU - Social Work

After seeing the positive results of utilizing research, intervention, and support for children with disabilities in both her home and within the school setting, Shawna decided to return to school to gain her Master’s in Social Work. Her dream career is to work at the micro level with people with disabilities and their families by providing advocacy and helping them to better access healthcare and education.


Hannah Byrge, ETSU - Physical Therapy

Currently Hannah is pursuing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy and has later plans to work at a children’s hospital. Her ultimate goal is to return to her hometown in rural Tennessee to give back to her community as a pediatric physical therapist. Her experiences include instructing gymnastics for children of all ages. She also worked as a physical therapy assistant for both aquatic and land-based therapies.


Emily Castro, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

Believing research is an integral component in advancing the field of speech-language pathology, Emily set out to gain her Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology. Her passion for providing holistic treatment to a diverse group of patients has given her the drive to work on an interprofessional team with a population with varied needs.


Travis Coombs,Parent - Johnson City

Travis is the mother of a 17-year-old who has autism and is cognitively impaired, which inspired her to work with children who are “differently-abled”. She felt that her personal experiences gave her a unique perspective for working with this population. Previously a hair stylist for 18 years, she is working towards her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and plans on completing a residency in pediatrics after graduation.


Catie Cox, ETSU-Physical Therapy

Catie’s past experiences include working with children and youth with Down syndrome and Autism, and coaching young cheerleaders with Cerebral Palsy. After gaining her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from ETSU, she plans to work in an outpatient setting as a physical therapist.


Shannon Jacobs, ETSU - Clinical Nutrition

With plans to open her own interprofessional clinic to treat the patient’s health needs holistically, Shannon is working towards her dream by gaining a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition at ETSU. Her professional interest includes gut microbiome research. She also wishes to be an active participant in community gardening to be able to help provide access to healthy foods for everyone.


Bethany Johnson, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

After graduating from ETSU with a major in English and a minor in Communicative Disorders, Bethany decided to continue her academic career. She currently is enrolled in the Speech-Language Pathology Master’s program at ETSU. After she graduates, she plans to continue to work as an SLP in pediatrics and utilize her leadership skills by serving others.


Chelsea Miller, ETSU-Quillen College of Medicine - Medicine

Chelsea is currently studying at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine to become a pediatrician. She imagines there is nothing more rewarding than utilizing the knowledge that she has gained in medical school to allow her to think through complex conditions for children and wants to do this through applying a holistic approach by working with an array of professionals.


Katie Robinson, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

Now attending Occupational Therapy Master’s program at Milligan College, Katie is looking forward to someday working as a pediatric occupational therapist. Not only does she want to help children but she also wants to educate and support their parents, run social skills groups, and provide Sensory Integration Therapy.


Megan Ververis, ETSU-Quillen College of Medicine - Medicine

Through her experiences in sports, doing community volunteer work, or spending time with her younger brothers, Megan knew that she loved being with children. Her experience at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine gives her the ability to combine the practice of medicine with her love for children. She knows that her future position is vital, but also believes pediatrics needs to engage with other professions for comprehensive care.

2017-18 Trainees

Trainees - 2017-18


Erica Broyles, ETSU -Social Work

Erica’s perspective strengthened for children with disabilities to be able to access services and have advocates after she had a child with a speech impediment. She has continued her education at East Tennessee State University by going from her Bachelor’s into the Master’s program. She also works full-time for the Tennessee Department of Health, and is active in the Master of Social Work Student Association and the Phi Alpha Nu Honor Society. 


Alexis Burgess, ETSU - Public Health

Alexis finds no greater joy than seeing her community thrive. This has led her to volunteer for various community organizations in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ecuador, and Cuba. She graduated from the University of Scranton with a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education and a minor in Latin American studies. She is currently working towards her Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis in Community and Behavioral Health from East Tennessee State University.


Caitlin Burton, ETSU - Nutrition

Caitlin graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a Bachelor’s in Human Ecology with a concentration in Nutrition and Dietetics. Caitlin not only focused on excelling at her studies by being on the Dean’s list, but also served as a Chair for the Food, Nutrition, and Dietetic Club and studied abroad in Italy and Costa Rica. Currently, she is a student in the Master’s program for clinical nutrition. Long-term, she hopes to have a private practice that specializes in pediatric care. 


Lauren Fox, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

Lauren is working towards her Master’s in Occupational Therapy so she is primed to support children with disabilities to learn functional life skills and help their families to discover their child’s strengths, interests, and skills. As a graduate of Belmont University, with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Lauren utilized her degree by giving back to the community through her leadership and volunteer work as a therapeutic activities aide, vocational rehabilitation assistant, and a peer member of Best Buddies. 


Cayce Griffin, ETSU - Audiology

As a graduate student at ETSU, Cayce is enrolled in the Audiology Doctoral program. She gained her Bachelors of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Florida State University and currently serves as the Chapter President for the Student Academy of Audiology. Her goal is to have a successful career in pediatric audiology at a children’s hospital with her focus being on pediatric amplification/cochlear implants. She also hopes to become an adjunct instructor to help inspire future students to delve deeper into the field of audiology. 


Stacie Gross, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

After experiences as an elementary teacher, volunteering at a sensory integration clinic, and being a respite care worker, Stacie is happy to be working towards her goal of promoting the use of occupational therapy for all ages. Since graduating with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, Stacie went to Colorado Christian University for organizational leadership training and currently is in the Master’s Occupational Therapy program at Milligan. 


Deanna Heath, ETSU - Social Work

Deanna graduated with a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Appalachian State University. She is continuing to work towards her desire to become a medical social worker through East Tennessee State University Master’s program in Social Work. In 2016, she was awarded the Tennessee Society of Medical Healthcare Social Workers scholarship and was recognized for her participation in Pediatric Healthcare Improvement for Tennessee program. 


Joseph Jones, ETSU - Physical Therapy

After gaining a PhD from the Pennsylvania State University in Chemical Engineering, Joe began working as a research analyst. He helped tackle complex problems in areas ranging from Navy humanitarian work in the Pacific to public education in Tennessee. Curious to apply his education and experiences in new ways, he decided to pursue a career in physical therapy. Currently, he is attending ETSU to gain his Doctorate in Physical Therapy with interests in pediatrics, neurorehabilitation, and preventative education.

Emily K

Emily Knox, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Emily continued her pursuit of speech-language pathology by enrolling in East Tennessee State University Master’s program. During her time at ETSU, Emily has gained experience as a graduate research assistant and assisting in clinical work by assessing high-risk infants after their discharge from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Being accepted into the LEND program, is another step towards Emily’s long-term goal of being a speech-language pathologist who specializes in pediatric speech and language disorders.


Katie Lee, ETSU-Quillen College of Medicine - Medicine

Building toward her commitment to humanism and compassion in healthcare, Katie is in her fourth year as a medical student. Her long-term goals lie in serving children in underserved urban populations. She also plans to use her Bachelor’s of Arts in Medicine, Health, and Society from Vanderbilt University to become a leader in alleviating health care disparities and shaping public policy. Katie keeps engaged with the community by serving as President of the Gold Humanism Honor Society and volunteering locally with this group to promote health and well-being of her patients.

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Emily LoBianco, ETSU - Audiology

Emily’s desire to work in pediatric audiology stems from the experience of growing up with a brother with disabilities. She was always grateful for the healthcare staff who helped her family. She began working towards this goal by completing her Bachelors of Science in Education at the University of Georgia and is currently enrolled in the Audiology Doctoral program where she serves as the secretary for the Student Academy of Audiology. 


Allison Mains, Parent/Advocate - Johnson City

Seven years ago, Allison became the mother of Vadin, who has Down syndrome. Allison has grown through her discovery of inclusion, diversity, community, advocacy, and leadership. She has been happy to share her new skill set with the community through being a volunteer board member and former vice president of FRIENDS (Friends, Reaching, Inspiring, and Educating Neighbors about Down Syndrome). She recently completed grant work for the University of Tennessee Tree Improvement Program. 


Becky Roland, ETSU-Quillen College of Medicine - Medicine

Wanting to follow her desires, Becky left her job as a pharmacist, returning to medical school to become a general pediatrician. She is currently a fourth year medical student. She is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, and is co-director of AΩA’s Emerging Leaders in Medicine program. In addition to being involved in several professional organizations, she has served her community by working on the production committee for educational pamphlets, was activities leader for a local children's program, has taught children of special needs in a church program, and has volunteered at several free health clinics.


Lindsey Swank, ETSU - Special Education

Knowing that she wanted to become a teacher, Lindsey earned her Bachelor’s in English education. After she worked in a fifth grade classroom with a variety of disabilities, however, she fell in love with Special Education. In addition, she has worked at residential treatment facilities to help adolescents learn life skills and work in community outreach. As a Master’s level student in Special Education, Lindsey is striving towards her goals of being a teacher for these populations.

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Kim Wheeler, Community Advocate - Johnson City

Kim has been an educator for 15 years and the past 5 years she has been an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She works at The Arc of Washington County as the Family Support and Respite Manager. She also serves the community as an Outreach Coordinator for the Autism Society and is a camp counselor. In the past, she has served as a children ministries director. In the future, Kim hopes to build a program for people with disabilities to learn skills to make them employable within the community. 

2016-17 Trainees

Trainees - 2016-17


Victoria Zaleski, ETSU - Clinical Nutrition

Update: Victoria is completing her rotations for the dietetic internships. She will graduate in May 2018.  

After graduating from the University of North Carolina in Asheville, Tori began work on her Master's degree in Clinical Nutrition at East Tennessee State University. Tori has helped design whole food recipes and videos to help prevent chronic illness. She also has volunteered at the YMCA to teach children about nutrition and fun physical activities.


Matthew Tolliver, PhD, ETSU - Clinical Psychology

Update: Dr. Tolliver is now a behavioral specialist at the Quillen ETSU Physicians in the Pediatric Department.

For the last five years, Matthew has been on a journey to complete his PhD in Clinical Psychology at ETSU. He graduated from Berea with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and went on to ETSU for his Master's in Clinical Psychology. He has a strong connection to Appalachia and desires to provide direct clinical care, supervision, teaching and research in pediatric care.


Ashley Stewart, ETSU - Social Work

Working on her Master’s degree in Social Work at ETSU, Ashley is completing an internship to work with children with developmental delays. When Ashley graduated from ETSU with a Bachelor's degree in Social Work, she knew she wanted to take her experiences from the field and teach the next generation of social workers and decided to continue on with her education.


Daniel Scherer-Emunds, ETSU - Special Education

Update: Dan has moved to the Chicago area to be the program manager for Opportunity Knocks, a non-profit for young adults with disabilities.  

Dan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, but has worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities in school, camp, and non-profit settings. He is passionate about postsecondary transition for individuals with developmental disabilities. Dan is gaining a Master's degree in Special Education from ETSU and lives on an alpaca farm where he provides vocational training to young people with disabilities.


Jilian Pennington, ETSU - Physical Therapy

Jilian has been engaged with children with developmental concerns since she was a small child, as her mother operated a preschool for kids with special needs. Growing up, Jilian volunteered as a counselor at a hometown recreational program and at summer camps. Her goal is to continue to work in pediatrics by completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Georgian Court University, after being recruited by the school to play lacrosse.


Carson Necessary, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

Update: This year, Carson finished up her field work at NHC Healthcare in Kingsport, TN. She graduated in December.

Carson hopes to work in an outpatient pediatric setting with children with developmental delays. She worked as an after-school mentor and provided over 150 hours to help raise funds for bedding for children in need. After graduating from Tusculum College with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Carson is now attending Milligan College to pursue a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy.

Anna Lutch

Anna Lucht, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

Update: Anna found her dream job as a Speech-Language Pathologist at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, MO.

Anna came to the ETSU’s Speech-Language Pathology Master’s degree program after graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Illinois State University. Anna has not only volunteered in community outreach programs such as Best Buddies, and Special Olympics hearing test in two states; but she also volunteered at an orphanage for children with special needs in Mazatlán, Mexico.


Aimee Johnson, ETSU - Audiology

Update: The University of Kentucky Medical Center, in Lexington, KY, accepted Aimee as a Audiologist Extern for her fourth year with ETSU's Audiology program.

Aimee graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. As a graduate student at ETSU, she is enrolled in the Audiology Doctoral program. Her goal is to impact the quality of care in areas of tele-health, rural outreach services and within school systems. She has worked in several hearing clinics, was a counselor and a program director of an outdoor adventure program and service-leadership camp.


Tanya Cable, ETSU - Special Education

Update: Tanya is a special education teacher and oversees the behavior management team in Washington County Schools.

Tanya’s desire is to “teach to the whole student, not just their parts”. She graduated from Towson State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, and earned a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Southern Mississippi. To achieve her goal of becoming a special education teacher she is enrolled in ETSU’s Master’s in Special Education program, while raising three daughters.


Sadie Bradshaw, Milligan College - Occupational Therapy

Update: Sadie is completed her final semester at Mount Pleasant Pediatric Therapy in Charleston, SC, and graduated in December.

Sadie’s long-term goal is to make a positive impact in the field of Occupational Therapy and she hopes to possibly work in the NICU someday. She currently is working towards her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy at Milligan College. She graduated from Milligan College with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. Throughout college, Sadie coached soccer, worked as a camp counselor and helped at an orphanage in Columbia.


Stephanie Bare, ETSU - Speech-Language Pathology

Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications Science and Disorders from the University of Cincinnati. She went on to add a Deaf Studies Certificate. She is currently enrolled in ETSU’s Speech-Language Pathology Master’s degree program. Stephanie gave back to her community by leading Girl Scouts in a low-income area, volunteered at the Down Syndrome Buddy Walk, and provided hearing tests at the Tennessee Special Olympics.


Faculty & Staff


Evon Batey Lee, PhD

VCL Director

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Psychology, and Psychiatry


Dr. Lee has expertise in the assessment of children with a variety of developmental disabilities, including children on the autism spectrum. She has served as primary psychologist in clinics serving former premature babies, infants and young children, and children with cochlear implants. Dr. Lee organizes and leads training workshops on new tests and test re-standardizations, and consults on a broad range of psychological and behavioral measures.

She loves hiking, gardening, and "grand-mothering" the new babies in the family.


Cynthia Chambers, PhD

VCL Associate Director

Professor of Special Education and Associate Dean of Teacher Education


Dr. Chambers graduated from the University of Kansas in Special Education. Her research and service interests are family-professional partnerships and community-based, inclusive programming.  

In her spare time, she promotes spay and neuter and foster/adoption of rescue animals. 



Rachel Goode, MD

Faculty, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics


Dr. Goode completed medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She then went to the University of Arkansas to complete her pediatric residency training and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics fellowship. Her interest is in prematurity sequelae and young children with developmental disabilities and research in developmental disabilities education within the medical field for students, residents, and fellows.

Dr. Goode enjoys singing and has performed in various choirs since elementary school.  


Kara Adams

Faculty, Family Member

TN Disability Coalition

Ms. Adams is currently the director of the Family Voices of Tennessee and a former LEND trainee. She is the mother of Kael, who was born with a rare and complex congenital heart disease. She also is a member of the Family Advisory Council of the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and serves on the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD) Community Advisory Council.

She is also a yoga instructor.


Linda Ashford, PhD

Faculty, Developmental Psychology


Dr. Ashford's research focus is the support of families with children with developmental disabilities, with emphasis on early identification, improving the quality of interventions, and the dissemination of relevant information.

She is either at work or on the tennis courts and sometimes she is working on the courts.


Kara Boynewicz, PT, DPT, PCS, ATC

Faculty, Physical Therapy


Ms. Boynewicz will be graduating with her PhD in Early Childhood from ETSU in May 2017.  Her research interests include infants and brain injuries.

Kara is a green belt Nia instructor and loves to dance to her own beat!


Erik Carter, PhD

Faculty, Special Education


Dr. Carter’s goal is to identify skills, supports, and experiences to enable adolescents with significant disabilities to live rich and personally satisfying lives during and after high school.  His expertise is in the areas of observational research, school-based interventions and supports, students with complex support needs, and high-quality intervention design.

He has been traveling the country in a motorhome with his family, having visited almost half of all of the national parks.

Dr. Cherry

Donna Cherry, PhD

Faculty, Social Work


More Information to come.


Nancy Darr, PT, DSc, NCS

Faculty, Physical Therapy

Belmont University

Since 1985, Dr. Darr has been a physical therapist specializing in the areas of pediatrics and adult neurological rehabilitation. She currently teaches pediatrics, pathology, and adult neurology. Her research interests include the development of postural control in children and assessment and intervention strategies in pediatric gait and balance.



Allie Deckard, MSN, APRN, CPNP

Faculty, Nursing


Ms. Deckard is a pediatric nurse practitioner who sees patients with concerns for autism, developmental delay, ADHD, and behavior concerns. She earned her Master's of Science in Nursing from Vanderbilt University and she has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Georgia.  

She loves living in Nashville and spends most weekends trying new restaurants with her husband as well as cheering on her favorite sports teams.


Paul Dressler, MD

Faculty, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics


Dr. Dressler's clinical interests include the evaluation and management of children and adolescents with developmental disabilities, including those with an autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, ADHD, and global developmental delays. He has extensive experience in the evaluation and management of these conditions.

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Saravanan Elangovan, PhD, CCC-A

Faculty, Audiology


Dr. Elangovan has a PhD from East Carolina University in Audiology. His areas of research cover speech perception, temporal processing, cross linguistic differences in auditory and speech perception, and diabetes and hearing loss.



Laura Fairbrother, MS

Faculty, Genetics


For three years, Laura has been a pediatric genetic counselor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida, she received her Master's of Science in Human Genetics from the University of Cincinnati. She started her career at her alma mater, UF, focusing on the care of individuals with or at-risk for genetic conditions.

Laura enjoys hiking throughout Middle Tennessee with her 6-year-old Australian Shepherd rescue, Lane.


Christy Isbell, PhD, OTR/L

Faculty, Occupational Therapy

Milligan College

Dr. Isbell has a PhD in Child Development and Family Studies from the University of Tennessee.  She specializes in treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Cerebral Palsy.

In her next life adventure, she would like to work in the home organization section of IKEA, preferably in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Dr. Kiana Johnson

Kiana Johnson, PhD, MSEd, MPH

Faculty, Pediatrics 

ETSU-Quillen College of Medicine 

Dr. Johnson has a PhD in Educational Psychology from Purdue University. Her research primarily focuses on youth and motivation levels.

She is also a former LEND trainee. 


Michelle Johnson, PhD, MS, RD, LDN

Faculty, Nutrition


Ms. Johnson has an MS in Nutrition and a PhD in Early Childhood Education from East Tennessee State University with a focus on childhood nutrition, in typical and atypical development. Her primary research interest is in this area as well as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and nutrition outcomes.  

She is a certified yoga instructor, and an enthusiastic baker.


Lorry Kleinfeld, EdD, MS, OT, BCP

Faculty, Occupational Therapy

Belmont University

Lorry is Professor and Chair of the School of OT at Belmont University where she has taught courses in pediatrics and neuroscience over the last 20 years. In her 30 years of clinical practice, she specialized in school-based practice and outpatient pediatric services. Her research studies include treatment techniques used to promote function in children with neurological conditions.

Lorry enjoys traveling to warm places and playing with her grandchildren.


Brenda Louw, D. Phil.

Faculty, Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology


Dr. Louw hails from South Africa. She graduated with her D. Phil. in Speech Pathology from University of Pretoria. Her research interests are cleft lip and palate and craniofacial anomalies, early intervention, and multicultural issues.

Full-time department chair, part-time fashionista.


Carol Rabideau, LCSW

Faculty, Social Work

University of Tennessee

Ms. Rabideau is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 32 years of experience in mental health counseling, medical social work, supervision, and training. She provides assessments, crisis intervention, brief counseling, and referral services to individuals and families with developmental disabilities.

Carol is a Cubs fan through thick and thin.

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Melanie Schuele, PhD

Faculty, Speech-Language Pathology


Dr. Schuele earned her PhD in child language from the Child Language Doctoral Program at the University of Kansas. Her research includes language and literacy acquisition and disorders, particularly in children with specific language impairment. Dr. Schuele has been a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in NV and AZ, and in Nashville.

She has been on the Foster Care Review Board in Davidson County for more than 12 years. 


 Deborah Slawson, PhD, RD, LDN

Faculty, Community and Behavioral Health


Dr. Slawson is a graduate of The University of Memphis.  Her scholarly pursuit began in community-based participatory health promotion planning, research and evaluation, especially in the areas of health-related programs. She continues to publish and present on a wide range of issues related to health and wellness for youth. 

Look for Dr. Debbi at her potter's wheel or making mud pies!

Dr. Coker


Faculty, Physical Therapy

Tennessee State University

Dr. Smith is a graduate of the University of Tennessee. She is a professor at Tennessee State University in the doctor of physical therapy program. Her interests are pediatrics, prosthetics, acute care, ethics, wound care, and neurology.

She loves playing with her grandchildren and participating in community 5K and half marathons.


Anne Marie Tharpe, PhD

Faculty, Audiology


Dr. Tharpe is Professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences and Chair of the Department, and Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center.  Her interests are in pediatric audiology; auditory development in typically developing infants; and auditory capabilities of special populations, including children with autism and children with deaf-blindness.

She loves hiking, birdwatching, running, kayaking, canoeing, and, oh yes…she works full time.

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Machelle Thompson, RDH, MPH

Faculty, Dentistry

Meharry Medical College

Ms. Thompson is a graduate of Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College. She has a Master's degree in Public Health and is a Registered Dental Hygienist. She is now a serving as Associate Professor and Assistant Dean in Clinical Affairs at Meharry School of Dentistry.

She enjoys watching cartoons.  


Zachary Warren, PhD

Faculty, Clinical Psychology


As director of TRIAD (Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders), Dr. Warren leads the autism evaluation and diagnostic clinics within the Dept. of Pediatrics, Division of Developmental Medicine, and provides oversight of TRIAD Outreach and Training. His research includes the design of closed-looped adaptive robotic systems as potential intervention tools for young children with ASD.


Gina Wey, RD, LDN

Faculty, Nutrition



Gina provides care to infants, children and adults with inborn errors of metabolism, including all aspects of their nutritional care and case management.


She loves to walk, garden, and travel (including five trips to China).    


Nina Coyle

Program Manager


Nina is responsible for coordinating all components of trainee onboarding (e.g., recruitment, application, orientation, stipend and tuition payments), and supervising trainee progress. She manages the core curriculum modules and seminars, oversees evaluation data collection, and prepares and submits grant progress and performance reports. She is a member of the VCL Leadership Team.

Nicole Bardett

Nashville Associate Program Manager



Nicole transitions and prepares Moodle, VCL’s online learning platform, for new trainee cohorts (e.g., calendar creation, coursework formatting, trainee enrollment, etc.). She coordinates Core Curriculum modules and evening sessions and provides support for the Care Navigation Practicum. Nicole also facilitates trainee visits to local community and advocacy agencies as part of their ITP activities. She is a member of the VCL Leadership Team.


 Julie Sears

Johnson City VCL Program Coordinator



Julie serves as the East Tennessee contact for recruitment, orientation, all in-person sessions, and individual and group projects. She is a member of the VCL Leadership Team.

After college, Julie worked on a small cruise ship so she could get paid to travel.




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