Symposium Speakers

Leadership in Research: An Invited Symposium
Experience of Aging for People with Long-Term Disabilities:
Opportunities for Further Research

Speaker and Respondent Bios


Kari Bruffett, Secretary
Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS)

      Secretary Bruffett has extensive experience in health care policy, communications and community outreach. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism at Fort Hays State University. She most recently served as director of the Division of Health Care Finance at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), where she oversaw Medicaid, played a key role in the development and launch of KanCare, directed program finance and informatics and managed the State Employee Health Plan section. Prior to working at KDHE, Bruffett spent eight years as a Governmental Affairs Liaison at the University of Kansas Hospital, where she coordinated policy analysis and advocacy, represented the hospital and formed alliances with health care partners.
     Secretary Bruffett was appointed Secretary for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services by Governor Sam Brownback in May 2014. In this role, Ms. Bruffett leads a $1.6 billion dollar state agency. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is a cabinet-level agency, employing 2,650 people. KDADS is responsible for overseeing and administering the state’s Older Americans Act programs, behavioral health programs, home and community-based services (HCBS) for older adults and persons with disabilities, the management and oversight of four state hospitals, survey and certification for adult care homes, and the distribution of Medicaid long-term care payments.

Tina Campanella, CEO
Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities; Principal Investigator, National Resource Center on Support Decision Making

      Ms. Campanella has over 35 years of experience working with and on behalf of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has directed residential and employment services and worked as an expert consultant regarding quality improvement and organizational development strategies for human service agencies throughout the U.S. and abroad. Ms. Campanella is acknowledged as an exceptional thinker and leader in her field, with areas of expertise in systems change, quality management and improvement, disability policy and services development, leadership and management, meeting facilitation, advocacy, and staff development. In her current role, she has established Quality Trust as a strong, independent, and effective advocacy organization in D.C. and is leading efforts to improve community systems and supports for D.C. residents with developmental disabilities and their families. She is a member of the Leadership Greater Washington Class of 2010 and was appointed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia to chair the Developmental Disabilities Council in 2010.

Rosemary Chapin, Ph.D.
Founding Director, KU Center for Research on Aging and Disability Options (CRADO)

      Dr. Chapin, Professor in the University of Kansas (KU) School of Social Welfare, is a nationally recognized leader in community engaged research to improve practice and policy with older adults. She has many years of practice experience in the long term care service arena. She received her B.A. from Kansas State University and her M.S.W. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.  She worked as a research/policy analyst for the Minnesota Department of Human Services and helped to implement major long-term care system reforms.  At KU, Dr. Chapin pioneered the strengths-based approach to increase resiliency in work with older adults. Her research using large state databases has informed state and federal policies on assessment, reimbursement, and care transitions in the area of public long-term care supports and services.  This research focuses on strategies to increase home and community-based options. Her work has regularly involved close collaboration with older adults, people with disabilities, and faculty from a large variety of disciplines as well as with public policymakers. She is active in state and national professional organizations, and currently serves on the AARP National Policy Council.

John Colombo, Ph.D.
Director, KU Life Span Institute

     Dr. Colombo is the director of the Life Span Institute and professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. He also serves as the director and principal investigator of the University of Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. Dr. Colombo’s research interests are in the developmental cognitive neuroscience of attention and learning, with a special focus on early individual differences in these areas and how they relate to the typical and atypical development of cognitive and intellectual function in infancy and early childhood. His research on infant nutrition and cognition contributed to the decision to add nutritional compounds present in mother’s milk to infant formula in the U.S. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, and charter member and fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. He is the editor of the journal Infancy and is an editorial board member for Infant and Development, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Annette Graham, LSCSW
Director, Central Plains Aging and Disability Resource Center

      Ms. Graham’s 30-year career in public service began when she was in college, earning her MSW at the University of Kansas.  Her positions have included social worker, supervisor, and therapist for COMCARE of Sedgwick County. She stepped into the position of director of the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging/Sedgwick County Department on Aging in 1999. In her current role, she is responsible for the managing the agency, program design and development, and oversight of federal, state and local funds with a mission to assist older adults and individuals to remain in the community as long as possible. Ms. Graham is a member of the American Society on Aging, the Kansas Area Agencies on Aging Association, past Board member of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and co- chair of the Kansas Mental Health and Aging Coalition. She serves on the Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Community Health Foundation, Wichita State University Advisory Council and the Wichita Arts Council.

Bernadette Gray-Little, Ph.D.
Chancellor, The University of Kansas

      Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has bold aspirations for the University of Kansas. Since arriving at KU in 2009, Chancellor Gray-Little has focused on advancing KU’s mission of lifting students and society far above by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world. Through the Bold Aspirations strategic plan, KU will achieve recognition as a top-tier public international research university. In fall 2013, Gray-Little was named to the Board of Directors of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the executive committee of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), and is an invited member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Prior to becoming KU’s 17th Chancellor, Chancellor Gray-Little held several leadership positions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, including executive vice chancellor and provost. She received her B. A. from Marywood College (Scranton, PA) and an M. S. and Ph.D. in psychology from St. Louis University. As part of a Fulbright Foundation fellowship, she conducted postdoctoral research in cross-cultural psychology in Denmark. She has also been a Social Science Research Council Fellow and a recipient of a Ford Foundation Senior Scholar Fellowship through the National Research Council.

Kathy Greenlee, J.D.  – Keynote Speaker
Administrator of the Administration on Community Living (ACL) and Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

      Assistant Secretary Greenlee serves in the dual roles of Administrator of the Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging. She was appointed by President Obama as Assistant Secretary for Aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Senate in June 2009.
      ACL’s programs work collaboratively to enhance access to health care and long-term services and supports, while also promoting inclusive community living policies, such as livable communities and competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.
     Assistant Secretary Greenlee believes that people with functional support needs should have the opportunity to live independently in homes of their choosing, receiving appropriate services and supports. She is committed to building the capacity of the national aging and disability networks to better meet that need.

Jean P. Hall, Ph.D.
Research Professor, KU Medical Center Department of Health Policy and Management; Director, KU Institute on Health & Disability Policy Studies

      Dr. Hall’s research focuses on the intersection of health and employment for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses and developing meaningful policy recommendations that can effect real and positive changes. Her work has been published in numerous scholarly publications and cited in national media such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, ABC News and Politico. Dr. Hall has most recently directed state and federally funded projects on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), high-risk insurance pools, and Medicaid programs. 

Martha Hodgesmith, J.D.
Associate Director, KU Research and Training Center on Independent Living

      Ms. Hodgesmith uses her legal training and experience in public sector management of health and long-term services and supports programs to analyze the impact of laws and policies on the lives of persons with disabilities.  She develops resource materials and tools to use in making such laws more effective and acts as an advisor on state and national policy initiatives. Her primary legal resource materials on key disability, health, and public benefits laws and policies have been used in continuing professional education, peer training, direct advocacy, public testimony, and in an international exchange program.

Laura Howard, J.D.
Director, KU Public Management Center

      Ms. Howard came to the University of Kansas in 2014 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she served as the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  She also served in various leadership positions with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) for 15 years. Ms. Howard received her Bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in Public Administration (with an emphasis in public policy analysis) and Economics. She received her law degree from the University of Kansas.

Jae Kennedy, Ph.D.
Professor & Chair, Washington State University Department of Health Policy and Administration

     Dr. Kennedy’s research focuses on understanding the health and employment disparities experienced by people with chronic illness and disability, and developing effective programs and policies to lessen those disparities. Over the past two decades, he has gained a national and international reputation for rigorous and relevant research in health policy and disability services. Dr. Kennedy is a past recipient of a Switzer Fellowship to analyze disability-related data from the National Health Interview Survey and a NIDRR grant to investigate the effects of Medicare Part D on individuals with disabilities.

Rocky Nichols, M.P.A.
Executive Director, Disability Rights Center of Kansas

      Mr. Nichols brings 25 years of experience in non-profit leadership and public policy advocacy (11 as a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, two as legislative staff and 12 at DRC Kansas). He is a veteran advocate for disability rights issues. Mr. Nichols is also a former member of the Next Generation Leadership Committee of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He received his undergraduate degree from Washburn University and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Kansas. He has received more than 20 awards for legislative leadership and advocacy, including many significant awards on behalf of persons with disabilities, among them: the Elizabeth M. Boggs Award for Outstanding Leadership in the area of Intellectual Disability, given by the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities; 1996 and 2002 Outstanding Public Official of the Year Award, given by the Kansas Association of Community Mental Health Centers; 1996 and 2002 Kansas NAMI Advocacy Award; 2001 Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Outstanding Advocate Award.

Randolph J. Nudo, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice Chairman of Research, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and Marion Merrell Dow Distinguished Professor in Aging, KU Medical Center; Director, Landon Center on Aging

      Dr. Nudo is one of the foremost authorities in the world on the topic of brain plasticity and recovery after injury, and has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health for this work since 1990. He is the recipient of the prestigious Javits Award in Neuroscience, and in 2011 was named the Outstanding Clinician Scientist by the American Society of Neurorehabilitation.
      Dr. Nudo earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology/Neuroscience from Florida State University. After postdoctoral training at the University of California at San Francisco in Physiology, he joined the faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He has been on the faculty of the University of Kansas Medical Center since 1997. He is recognized internationally for his work on the effects of physiotherapy on functional plasticity after stroke. Dr. Nudo is currently collaborating with engineers to develop microimplantable devices for repairing neural circuits after stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.

Suzanne Schrandt, JD
Deputy Director of Patient Engagement at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

Suzanne Schrandt is responsible for supporting the Director of Patient Engagement and for creating networks and engaging patients across the nation to provide broad-based input on the development and execution of PCORI’s research. Schrandt has been involved in health policy and patient advocacy since being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at a young age.
     Engaged in numerous patient and clinician education initiatives since the mid 1990’s, the focus of Schrandt’s advocacy work is increasing early diagnosis and appropriate, patient-centered management of chronic disease. Before coming to PCORI, Schrandt led the Health Reform Strategy Team for the Kansas Health Institute, where she educated the state's policymakers, clinicians, and consumers on the implications of the Affordable Care Act and other federal and state law. Schrandt has held previous posts as the Coordinator of Public Health and Public Policy for the Arthritis Foundation in Kansas City, as a Research Associate at the Beach Center on Disabilities, where she served on a Human Genome Research Institute project, and as a Medical Analyst for Shook, Hardy, & Bacon, LLP.
     In addition to her role at PCORI, Schrandt currently serves on the Curriculum Development Committee and is a Patient Faculty Presenter for the Rheumatoid Arthritis Primary Care Initiative for Improved Diagnoses and Outcomes (RAPID) CME program. She is a Patient Partner Instructor with the University of Kansas Medical School Patient Partners Program and serves on the Arthritis Foundation Scientific Discovery Advisory Committee.
     She is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law and a member of the Kansas Bar and the American Health Lawyers Association. 

Tom Seekins, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Director, Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities, University of Montana

      Dr. Seekins received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1983. His research emphasizes issues of rural health and disability, rural community and economic development, rural policy, and disability among American Indian tribes and reservations. He has served as President of the American Association on Health and Disability and as President of the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers. He has received the Earl Walden Award for outstanding achievement in rural advocacy, awarded by the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living 2001; the Allan Myers award from the Disability Forum of the American Public Health Association in 2006; and the Americans with Disability Act Award from the University of Montana in 2014.

Karrie Shogren, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Special Education, KU; Co-Director, KU
Center on Developmental Disabilities (Kansas UCEDD); Associate Director and Associate Scientist, Beach Center on Disability
      Dr. Shogren's research focuses on self-determination and systems of support for students with disabilities, with a specific interest in the multiple, nested contextual factors that impact student outcomes. While at KU, she has received grant funding from several sources, including the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Dr. Shogren is co-editor of Inclusion (with Michael L. Wehmeyer, Ph.D.), a new e-journal published by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and is an Associate Editor for Remedial and Special Education and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Paul Smokowski, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor, KU School of Social Welfare; Director, North Carolina Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention

      Dr. Smokowski is Dean and Professor in the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare. He has an interdisciplinary background in social welfare, child development, and public health. Before coming to KU in 2015, Dr. Smokowski was a faculty member at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill for 16 years. Dr. Smokowski’s research teams have had more than 10 million dollars’ worth of federal funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. 
      A prolific author, he has published more than 85 articles and book chapters on issues related to risk, resilience, acculturation, adolescent mental health, family stress and youth violence prevention, Dr. Smokowski’s latest book, published by New York University Press, is Becoming Bicultural: Risk and Resilience in Latino Youth. In his current work directing the North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center (NC-YVPC), he is guiding the implementation and evaluation of a multi-level youth violence prevention initiative in one of the most ethnically diverse impoverished rural counties in the United States.

James Tracy, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies, KU

      Dr. Tracy became KU’s chief research officer in April 2015.  As vice chancellor, he oversees 10 research centers, two state surveys, two affiliated centers and the core research laboratories. He also serves as president of the KU Center for Research, Inc., and shares overall responsibility for the bi-campus KU Innovation and Collaboration technology commercialization office.  At KU, he holds an academic appointment as professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology in the School of Pharmacy. Previously, Dr. Tracy was vice president of research at the University of Kentucky from 2007 through 2014, as well as executive director and vice president of the University of Kentucky Research Foundation.  He held an academic appointment in the College of Medicine as professor in the Department of Molecular Cellular Biochemistry.
      Prior to that, he was a founding faculty member of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he rose through the faculty ranks and held several school and campus administrative positions, including associate dean for research and graduate training. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Purdue University.

Michael Wehmeyer, Ph.D.
Ross and Mariana Beach Professor of Special Education; Director and Senior Scientist, Beach Center on Disability; Co-Director, KU Center on Developmental Disabilities (Kansas UCEDD)

      Dr. Wehmeyer directs externally funded projects, conducting research and model development activities and personnel and leadership preparation activities pertaining to the education and support of youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He is the author of books, journal articles and other scholarly publications on disability and education-related issues, including issues pertaining to self-determination, positive psychology and disability, transition to adulthood, the education and inclusion of students with severe disabilities, and technology use by people with cognitive disabilities.

Glen White, Ph.D.
Director, Research and Training Center on Independent Living and Professor of Applied Behavioral Science, KU

      Dr. White’s research has focused on developing a systematic line of research in community participation of people with disabilities. Other research interests include prevention of secondary health conditions and disaster planning and emergency response for people with disabilities. On an international level, Dr. White has conducted research and training activities in Korea, Japan and Vietnam, and prevention of secondary health conditions in Perú. He currently serves as Secretary of the United States International Council on Disability.

Deone Wilson
Executive Director, Resource Center for Independent Living, Inc.
Ms. Wilson is passionate about independent living for people with disabilities and has participated as a partner and consumer advocate in several research-based initiatives designed to enhance and support independent living. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair for the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas (SILCK), the Kansas Association of Centers for Independent Living (KACIL) and Mainstream, Inc./Kansas Non-Profit Association, and serves on United Healthcare’s HCBS Provider Advisory Council. 


Research Opportunities

A woman in a wheelchair uses a hoe while working in her garden.

This Symposium served as the foundation for collaboration leading to innovative research and practice in all aspects of community living.

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