UAB professor secures $3.6 million LEND grant renewal

UAB’s Sarah O’Kelley, Ph.D., has successfully renewed a $3.6 million grant from the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilites.

Environmental head shot of Dr. Sarah O'Kelley, Ph.D.UAB’s Sarah O’Kelley, Ph.D., has successfully renewed a $3.6 million grant from the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilites.
(Photography: Steve Wood)
For more than 30 years, the University of Alabama at Birmingham has received the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities grant, funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. A UAB professor has now successfully secured a renewal of the grant for an additional five years. 

Sarah O’Kelley, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and her team, based at the Civitan-Sparks Clinics, led the successful renewal that will provide $3.6 million for UAB’s LEND training program. 

With the funding, LEND will develop a summer program for undergraduate minority students interested in interdisciplinary care for people with developmental disabilities, and increase capacity for telehealth services and training initiatives. 

The grant funding will also provide interdisciplinary training for graduate trainees across 12 disciplines and clinical care as well as engagement with community and state partners in policy and advocacy.

The UAB LEND program, formerly directed by the late Fred Biasini, Ph.D., is committed to direct service provision as well as to expanding knowledge regarding human development from a life course perspective. 

“Our former director and principal investigator Dr. Biasini passed away unexpectedly in late September; the call for this grant came out in November and was due in February,” O’Kelley said. “He and I had worked on the previous two submissions together; but this one required a pretty big overhaul of previous applications, and our interdisciplinary team at Civitan-Sparks Clinics really came together to prepare the submission.”

The LEND grant is a competitive renewal process that happens every five years, and O’Kelley says the team was relieved, and pleased, to receive a renewal of the funding.  

“The success of the grant renewal means a lot,” she said. “First it allows us to continue the LEND-focused work at UAB that is Fred’s legacy, but it also allows us to build on this foundation to respond to ongoing challenges within the realm of developmental disabilities.” 

In addition to the LEND program receiving funding, the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, also directed by O’Kelley, received nearly $650,000 to support ongoing work within the program for the coming year.

Both the LEND and UCEDD programs are housed in the UAB Department of Psychology in collaboration with the Department of Pediatrics and Civitan International Research Center.