UMass Boston gerontology PhD candidate Danielle Waldron has been selected for a prestigious one-year fellowship intended to prepare new leaders focused on ways healthcare, education and social services are delivered to people with developmental disabilities.

Waldron was awarded the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship by the UMass Medical School’s Shriver Center.

There are more than 40 LEND fellowship programs across the country, funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Waldron will begin her fellowship in the fall.

“My primary research interests are health and social policy of persons aging with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Waldron. “The LEND fellowship will provide me with skills to better to contribute to disability policy and social programming for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Many LEND fellows also move on to careers in academia, which is also a goal of mine,” said Waldron, who cited the support of mentors and gerontology classmates at UMass Boston in her successful pursuit of the fellowship.

The LEND fellowship consists of three components: a core curriculum, a family and community partnership program, and a capstone project.

The core curriculum consists of seminars centered around healthcare, disability law, family perspectives, and other topics related to disabilities and leadership development.

The family and community partnership program pairs LEND fellows with a child or adult with disabilities which provides an opportunity for fellows to immerse themselves in the day-to-day experiences of people with disabilities.

To fulfill the capstone project requirement, fellows must identify a problem area affecting persons with disabilities and recommend a policy or program solution to the problem.

Waldron, in her fourth year in the McCormack Graduate School’s gerontology program, is also a sibling caregiver to her sister, Emily, who has both Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as hearing and visual impairments.

“In many ways, advocating for Emily as she ages into adult services and programs has inspired me to focus my career around research and policy change for persons aging with lifelong disabilities” she said.