USD Med School Program Receives HHS Grant to Help Children With Autism

Image Trainees in the SD LEND program Trainees in the SD LEND program at the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre, S.D.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities has received a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant of $3 million to continue its Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (SD LEND) program.

SD LEND, administered by the maternal and child health bureau within the Health Resources and Services Administration, is a specialized and interdisciplinary graduate-level program. It prepares trainees from a wide variety of health care and related disciplines for leadership roles in the delivery of services to children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities in clinical practice, research and public policy. It is one of 49 programs located within universities and hospitals across the nation.

Dr. Eric Kurtz, the principal investigator and director of SD LEND, will lead the efforts to prepare the next generation of health care and related service professionals to assume highly specialized roles. “LEND graduates are aware of a broader, interconnected health care dynamic and understand the need for family-centered, culturally competent and interdisciplinary services,” Kurtz said. “This award ensures that we will continue to increase the number of providers available to diagnose and treat infants, children and adolescents with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders, and improve the quality of care they and their families receive.”

The center has been operating the SD LEND program since 1991. “As the center continues to grow in new and exciting directions, students can benefit from the vast array of clinical, research and training opportunities available and, in turn, their contributions are a valuable asset to the work of the center,” said Dr. Wendy Parent-Johnson, Center for Disabilities executive director.

“This is great news for the state of South Dakota,” said Dr. Mary Nettleman, dean of the Sanford School of Medicine and vice president for USD Health Affairs. “By expanding education and training related to autism and neurodevelopmental disorders, SD LEND will work to decrease health disparities and increase the wellbeing of children across the state and region.”

There were 15 trainees in this past year’s SD LEND program, and their disciplines covered areas like school psychology, speech-language pathology, audiology, leadership, occupational therapy, clinical psychology and nutrition, among other areas. Next year there will be 21 trainees.

Learn more about the SD LEND program.

Download a photo: Trainees in the SD LEND program at the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre, S.D.


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News