This blog is on topics of interest to early career professionals who work with people with disabilities. Blog contributors have diverse perspectives on leadership, professional development, and success in changing systems to better serve people with disabilities and their families. For more information on Early Career Professionals, check out the website:

15 September, 2010

Advice From a UCEDD Director

When I joined the Iowa UCEDD 31 years ago this very month, I certainly never dreamed that I would be the first UCEDD director to be contributing to this wonderful blog. And that’s not only because blogs hadn’t been invented back then! I simply never would have imagined that I would have the chance to direct the Iowa UCEDD. So how on earth did that happen and what have I learned that might be useful to early career professionals?

Mentors open doors
I got the chance to become the director of the Iowa UCEDD because I was fortunate to be mentored by the person who handed me the baton, Alfred Healy, MD--an outstanding clinician and leader. Equally important, the AUCD family (and I do mean, family) gave me opportunities to know and learn from other inspiring leaders who helped me better understand and embrace our common network vision of a life in the community for everyone. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t be shy about finding mentors. Know also that there really can be a reciprocal benefit to these relationships. You are giving as much as you receive when you ask someone to share what he or she has learned and when you then let that learning shape the influence you will have on the individuals and systems you touch.

When opportunity knocks
Margaret Mead was right when she said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." That is why MCHB has been so wise for decades in investing in individuals like those of you who are reading this blog right now. If you take advantage of the all opportunities your training presents, you will return incredible dividends.

Interdisciplinary collaboration
You all understand the multiplier effect of being trained in an interdisciplinary manner. You know that improving clinical outcomes for individuals and families takes a village of disciplines working together. But there is a related truth that pertains to other types of life outcomes like living in the community and having a competitive job. These types of outcomes require systems and agencies to work together. No matter what your discipline, take every opportunity to learn about multiple systems (e.g. education, human services, public health, and employment). Silos simply do not lead to the full community participation of people with disabilities.

Shared leadership
A corollary of this truth is that shared leadership is essential to systems improvement. I confess this is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier in my career. When I was a young professional, I was too concerned about demonstrating the value of my own individual contributions. When I was an early UCEDD director, I was too concerned about demonstrating the value of my program’s contributions. I hope I have learned that partnerships are the only way that truly significant outcomes can be achieved.

I’d like to close these musings by thanking each of you for choosing the career path you have chosen. The field needs you as do the individuals whose quality of life you will enhance and the service systems you will improve.

Best wishes!


geojes on September 20, 2010 at 8:49 PM said...
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