Early Childhood National Summit
Maureen Conroy, Ph.D.
Maureen Conroy, Ph.D., is the Anita Zucker Endowed Professor, a professor of Special Education and Early Childhood Studies in the Department of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies and co-director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida. Dr. Conroy has extensive experience in conducting early intervention research with children who are at risk for or have social and behavioral disabilities. She has served as principal investigator on a number of externally funded projects. Her research interests and expertise focus primarily on intervention research to prevent and ameliorate social, emotional and behavioral challenges of young children. She has an extensive publication record in the field of autism, early intervention and behavioral disorders, with over 100 referred articles and chapters, and is a regular presenter at international conferences on topics related to early childhood. Several additional accomplishments include: co-editor for the Journal Behavioral Disorders, awarded the B.O. Smith Research Professorship at the University of Florida, associate editor for the Journal of Early Intervention, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education and Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, the School of Education, VCU Outstanding Research Award, standing panel member for the National Institute of Health’s Child Psychopathology & Developmental Disabilities Study Section, and standing panel member on the Early Childhood and Early Intervention Review Panel for the Institute of Education Sciences.
Nancy E. Dowd, J.D.
Nancy E. Dowd, J.D., is a family law professor and holds the David H. Levin Chair in Family Law at the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law. She is also emeritus director in the college’s Center on Children and Families. Her research focuses on social justice issues connected to family law, and therefore touches on not only family law but also juvenile law, constitutional law, race and gender analysis, and social change theories. She is currently engaged in research and writing about a developmental model of equality and focusing on the life course of African American boys from birth to age 18. Two of her most recent books focus on the radical reform needed in the juvenile justice system. Justice for Kids (NYU Press 2011) brings together activists and scholars to articulate ways to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system, by diversion into other more helpful and supportive resolutions. A New Juvenile Justice System (NYU Press 2015) articulates the vision of a new youth justice system focused on child well-being and public safety. Her other recent book is The Man Question: Male Privilege and Subordination (2010), in which she explores masculinities theories as a means to expand gender analysis and also incorporate other hierarchies that affect gender, particularly race and class. She served as the director of the Center on Children and Families until 2015, and in that role focused on issues of juvenile justice, social justice, non-traditional families, gay and lesbian rights, and collaboration with the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations on issues of race and families. While director, she was also involved with successful grants that established the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic led by professor Teresa Drake, a groundbreaking collaboration between law and medicine to establish a cutting edge clinic. That work has exposed the importance of trauma informed scholarship and service, and feeds back into her current scholarship as well.
Fonda Eyler, Ph.D.
Fonda Eyler, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and professor emeritus of Pediatrics in the University of Florida College of Medicine. She is a core faculty member for the UF Post-Doctoral Research Training Fellowship in Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education and is on the leadership team for the Anita Zucker Center. Her research has focused on the effects on the development of early and on-going risk and protective factors. Since 1991, she and colleague Dr. Marylou Behnke, M.D. have been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse – National Institute of Health for a longitudinal cohort study of the effects on children of maternal cocaine use during pregnancy. From 1988 until 2011, she directed the North Central Early Steps Program (Part C of IDEA) and in that capacity has represented the interests of children with disabilities and their families at regional and state levels. She has mentored many junior faculty, medical fellows and doctoral and undergraduate students. She was awarded a UF Research Professorship, recognized as a Top-100 Funded Researcher at UF and elected to membership in the Pediatric Academic Societies. She also has been active in governance at the department, college and university levels.
Matthew J. Gurka, Ph.D.
Matthew J. Gurka, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy at the University of Florida. He is also associate director of the Institute for Child Health Policy and a leadership team member of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at UF. Prior to his recent appointment at UF, he was the founding chair of the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University, where he also directed the Clinical Research Design, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Before his stay at WVU, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. He received a Ph.D. in biostatistics with an emphasis in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has extensive collaborative and independent research experience in pediatrics. Recently, he has focused on childhood and adult obesity, specifically studying the metabolic syndrome. He has obtained NIH funding to develop and validate tools to measure metabolic syndrome severity across the lifespan that take into account sex and racial/ethnic differences observed in this condition. He recently served a term on the Editorial Board of Pediatrics, and is now serving on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Pediatrics.
Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D.
Cynthia Rheney Johnson, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, College of Public Health and Health Professions and a preeminent scholar in Early Childhood Studies. She is a leadership team member in the Anita Zucker Center. She came to UF from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where she was the director of the Autism Center at Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Education. She received a doctoral degree from the University of South Carolina and completed a pos-tdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has provided program development, clinical care and clinical supervision for youth with ASD for over 20 years and conducted clinical research on the assessment and treatment of children with ASD and developmental disabilities more broadly. She is principal investigator of a NIH-funded grant studying the efficacy of parent training for the treatment of feeding problems. She has had prior NIH funding on the efficacy of parent training in the treatment of disruptive behaviors in young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the treatment of sleep disturbances. She was a primary developer of the parent training intervention used in both the Research Unit in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and the Research Unit for Behavior Intervention consortiums. She led the Pittsburgh site of a HRSA funded study on nutrition in children with ASD. She was also the Co-PI of the Pittsburgh Autism Treatment Network, funded by Autism Speaks. She is a licensed psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst, doctoral level.
Herman Knopf, Ph.D.
Herman Knopf, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Anita Zucker Center. He has a three-fold mission to strengthen several systems in his research projects for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning Research and Evaluation and the South Carolina Department of Social Services. He is 1) providing professional development to child care providers, 2) measuring and supporting child and family access to quality child care services and 3) coordinating efforts to leverage existing resources to ensure children with and without special needs receive care that supports early development and learning. As a result of his work, he collaborated with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, to found the Child Care Policy Research team, which uses state administrative data to answer research questions related to early childhood policy and practices to support positive outcomes. In his research, he is collaborating with policymakers in both South Carolina and Florida to develop a Child Care Access Index that measures the extent to which vulnerable children and families have reasonable access to high quality early education and care.
Mary McLean, Ph.D.
Mary McLean, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies in the College of Education at the University of Florida and is affiliated with the Anita Zucker Center. Dr. McLean was recruited to the University of Florida as part of the UF preeminence initiative from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), where she was the Kellner Endowed Professor in Early Childhood Education. At the University of Florida, Dr. McLean currently is co-principal investigator on an IES Goal 3 research grant – “The Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers’ Use of Embedded Instruction Practices: An Efficacy Trial of Tools for Teachers.” She is also currently working with the California Department of Education on a pilot study of embedded instruction in four school districts in California. She has written extensively in the area of early intervention/early childhood special education. She has authored or co-authored 50 refereed journal articles and book chapters and has co-authored seven books. She has served as president of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the professional organization for early intervention/early childhood special education and has received the Merle B. Karnes Award for Service to the Division and the Mary McEvoy Award for Service to the Field. Dr. McLean has been involved in the development of all three versions of the DEC Recommended Practices and is currently chair of the DEC Recommended Practices Commission.
Kimberley Megrath, Ph.D.
Kimberley Megrath, Ph.D., is an associate research scientist at the Anita Zucker Center a. She received her Ph.D. in Special Education/Early Intervention from the University of Oregon and she holds a M.B.A. from the University of Colorado and a B.S. in Physical Therapy from New York University. She is the project coordinator for the Embedded Instruction California outreach project. This is a project housed in four school districts/offices of education across California, designed to adapt, pilot and evaluate an evidence-informed professional development model focused on embedded instruction for early learning for teachers serving preschool-age children with disabilities. Additionally, she serves as a coach for a multi-site randomized controlled trial, Embedded Instruction for Early Learning, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). She also coordinates the cost analysis components for each of these projects. She has more than 30 years experience in administration, practice, teaching and consultation, and research in early intervention, pediatric physical therapy and early childhood education/special education. She has authored or served as a grants manager for more than $6.5 million in public and private funded projects.
Brian Reichow, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Brian Reichow, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is an associate professor in Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies and a leadership team member in the Anita Zucker Center. His current research interests include the translation of clinical research into practical applications in schools and communities, the identification and evaluation of evidence-based practices, systematic review and meta-analytic methods and applications, and applied research in authentic educational settings. He is an ongoing technical advisor for the World Health Organization and is currently working with colleagues at the WHO and other international sites to develop practice guidelines and training materials to increase the identification, management and treatment of children with developmental disabilities in lower- and middle- income countries. Dr. Reichow is widely published and the lead editor of the newly published Handbook of Early Childhood Special Education.
Scott Rivkees, M.D.
Scott A. Rivkees, M.D., earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 1982. He completed his residency training and fellowships in pediatrics, pediatric endocrinology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Prior to joining the University of Florida, he served as a professor and associate chair of pediatrics for research at the Yale University School of Medicine. He also led the department’s section on developmental endocrinology and biology and served as director of the Yale Child Health Research Center and the Yale Pediatric Thyroid Center. Prior to joining Yale in 1996, he held appointments at Harvard Medical School and Indiana University. An internationally renowned expert on developmental biology and pediatric endocrinology, Rivkees leads a robust clinical and basic science research program. Key areas of study in his lab are the prevention of brain injury in premature infants, the effects of adenosine on the developing embryo, circadian biology and thyroid diseases. In 2009, he detected a safety problem with a common thyroid medication. One in 2,000 children who were on the medication were going into liver failure or dying each year, and Rivkees’ discovery led to global changes in medical practice. A fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, he has been named one of America’s Best Doctors® as well as one of America’s Top Pediatricians and one of New York’s Best Doctors. His work with pediatric thyroid disease has led to new treatment guidelines in thyroid cancer and Graves’ disease worldwide. He received the George H. Cook Distinguished Alumnus Award from Rutgers University and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and to be a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has testified before the U.S. Senate on pediatric issues. He has more than 300 publications and continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for more than 30 years.
Lisa Scott, Ph.D.
Lisa Scott, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Psychology at the University of Florida and director of the Brain, Cognition and Development Research Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota studying early brain development and the importance of early experience. She subsequently completed post-doctoral research at the University of Colorado examining the neural mechanisms underlying learning in adults. Previously, Dr. Scott was the director of the Developmental Science Program within the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her program of research utilizes a multimethod approach to understanding how infants, children and adults perceive and learn. Her research uses a combination of behavioral measures, measures of eye movements and eye fixations, and recordings of brain activity. Dr. Scott and her lab have identified factors that influence learning in infants and children and how different experiences impact and shape brain development. Her research has been funded by a CAREER Award from National Science Foundation and as well as funding from the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Social and Behavioral Sciences and she has published in interdisciplinary journals including: Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Science and Infancy.
Patricia Snyder, Ph.D.
Patricia Snyder, Ph.D., is the founding director of the University of Florida Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies and the inaugural recipient of the David Lawrence, Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies. She is a professor of special education and early childhood studies in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies, College of Education. In the College of Medicine, she is an affiliate professor of pediatrics and an affiliate faculty member of the Institute for Child Health Policy. Her current research focuses on early prevention and intervention approaches for use by practitioners and families to support the early development and learning of young children with vulnerabilities, supports for implementing evidence-based practices in authentic early childhood settings, including practice-based coaching, and early childhood assessment and measurement. She has a sustained publication record with 110 scholarly articles, chapters and books. She has served as principal investigator (PI) or co-principal investigator (Co-PI) for many externally funded projects, including six multi-site research studies funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. She served as PI for the first post-doctoral research fellowship training grant awarded to the University of Florida from the Institute of Education Sciences. She served for two terms as a principal panel member for the early childhood and early intervention review panel for the Institute of Education Sciences She is a former editor of the Journal of Early Intervention and serves on review boards for a number of scientific journals focused on early childhood and early intervention. She is a member of the Division for Early Childhood Recommended Practices Commission and leader of a multi-university initiative to summarize empirical evidence in support of the recommended practices. She has received numerous honors and awards for her teaching, research and service excellence, including four national awards from the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children.