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Julie Lounds Taylor and Pablo Juárez appointed new co-directors of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Jul. 5, 2023, 8:31 AM

Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) has announced new leadership for its University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD, and Pablo Juárez, MEd, BCBA, LBA, have succeeded Elise McMillan, JD, who retired June 30.

Taylor and Juárez each have long-standing histories with the VKC and bring unique expertise to the UCEDD leadership team with an emphasis on research, program development and expansion, and advocacy.

“I am thrilled that Julie Lounds Taylor and Pablo Juárez will be the new co-directors of the VKC UCEDD,” said Jeffrey Neul, MD, PhD, Annette Schaffer Eskind Professor and director of the VKC. “Julie and Pablo each individually are exceptional leaders

Pablo Juárez, MEd, BCBA, LBA

who have shown incredible dedication to improving the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bringing together their complementary expertise to serve as co-directors of the UCEDD represents a dream team, and I am excited about their ideas for the future success of the UCEDD and look forward to working with them for years to come.”

Taylor is a scholar in family research whose focus has been on the crucial transition to adulthood for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She investigates behavioral and environmental factors that promote positive adult outcomes.

After a postdoctoral fellowship in the Lifespan Family Research Laboratory at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, she joined the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics faculty and became a member of the VKC in 2008. In 2015, she became associate director of the VKC Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center’s Data Sciences Core, assisting in organizing training in biostatistics and bioinformatics, and in connecting VKC investigators to rigorous statistical and data science support. She joined the VUMC Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences faculty in 2018.

Taylor’s program of research has contributed critical knowledge about the challenges faced by youth with autism and their families during the transition years. She has identified a number of different social and environmental factors that influence risk for mental health challenges, including peer victimization, traumatic experiences, inadequate social participation and job loss. She has also identified high rates of employment instability for autistic young adults and is currently investigating this issue in greater depth in a large longitudinal study.

“I am thrilled to begin this new chapter of my career with the VKC UCEDD,” Taylor said. “The collaborative work I have been doing has ignited in me the desire to ‘look up’ from the research and to use what we as a field have learned to improve the lives of those with disabilities through training, education and advocacy. Listening to the voices of those with disabilities and their supporters should be a key aspect of this work — indeed, it has guided my own research agenda — and I relish the opportunity to work closely with self-advocates, their families and Pablo Juárez in this new leadership position in the UCEDD.”

Juárez currently serves as co-director of VKC’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD), director of Behavioral Analysis in the Division of Developmental Medicine, and he is a senior associate in Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Special Education.

He has extensive experience building bridges within communities, the state and the nation by directing activities that promote best practices in supports and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and helping to bring systematic change for sustainable growth in service provision.

He received his MEd with emphases in applied behavior analysis and neuroscience at Vanderbilt University and started working at Vanderbilt as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and educational consultant within TRIAD in 2008.

“Having been at the VKC since 2008 and in a leadership position with TRIAD since 2012, I have been able to see from multiple perspectives how extraordinary this center really is,” he said. “It’s a center I have personal and professional investment in. Taking on a leadership role in the VKC UCEDD is humbling and a high honor. I am inspired by the legacy Elise McMillan has established and like her, approach this role with purpose and passion.”

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