Research partnership to help Oakwood Healthcare, UM-Dearborn improve childhood health and education

May 21, 2012

School of Education logoSix years ago, Oakwood Healthcare and University of Michigan-Dearborn began a partnership to create a more inclusive health and learning environment for children with and without disabilities, future teachers and clinicians. The partners envisioned a future where children with disabilities could be educated alongside children without disabilities by teachers with the knowledge to meet all their needs.

The collaboration has since developed into a nationally recognized model of service and education focused on children and families, and now, the two organizations will expand their collaboration with the creation of The Oakwood Healthcare UM-Dearborn Research Partnership – an innovative program dedicated to advancing knowledge about inclusive childhood education and research.

“For years, the work being done collaboratively between Oakwood Healthcare and UM-Dearborn has been an interesting example of the ground-breaking work that a relationship between a university and a community partner can generate,” said Daniel Little, chancellor, UM-Dearborn. “The expansion of this partnership reaffirms the university’s focus on the importance of healthcare and education and our confidence in the work being done, while providing the opportunity to showcase this work on a national level.”

The research partnership will focus on expanding the work currently happening at Oakwood Healthcare’s Center for Exceptional Families (CEF), which provides comprehensive, coordinated healthcare for children with multiple disabilities and works in collaboration with UM-Dearborn’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC), which serves as a teacher preparation and research site for the School of Education.

"Our partnership has opened the door for education professionals to better serve children with disabilities,” said Susan Youngs, MD, CEF. “We brought two acclaimed and very diverse clinical and educational programs together. Now, with the introduction of a high-caliber research component, we will be able to see and better understand the true impact our programs have on the delivery of health care and public education.”

These partners have created a system for early childhood educators and healthcare professionals to work together to develop excellent educational practices for children with and without disabilities and best practices for teachers and healthcare providers. Together they created social, educational and therapy experiences for children and built opportunities that focus on inclusion.

The research partnership will allow those in the collaboration to share their work with those in the academic and practice community through funded research and academic publication. The transdisciplinary research generated will provide a knowledge base focused on best practice in education for children, families, teachers and healthcare professionals that can be replicated and shared on a national and international basis.

“One of the most outstanding elements of the current collaboration is the synergistic knowledge sharing that happens between childhood educators and healthcare professionals,” said Edward Silver, dean, School of Education. “This new venture will enhance the value and long-term impact of the knowledge generated through the collaboration by disseminating the research not only in southeast Michigan but also in the larger academic and practice communities.”

The partnership has launched a search for its inaugural director, who will hold a research faculty appointment in the UM-Dearborn School of Education. Oakwood Healthcare and UM-Dearborn have provided initial start-up funding for the research partnership with expectations that private donors, foundations and grants will provide sustained funding over time.

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