LEND Faculty & Staff

LEND Faculty

Karen Ward photo  Dr. Karen Ward
Alaska LEND Director & Psychology Faculty

Dr. Ward has over 30 years experience working in and with community agencies providing services for children, youth and adults with ASD/DD. She came to Alaska in 1979. Dr. Ward has served as Principle Investigator on numerous federal grants focused on issues and systems change projects for individuals with DD. Dr. Ward has been the lead and co-author on numerous peer-reviewed articles as well as reports on a variety of DD issues. She is a Professor in the Department Psychology. Dr. Ward has a doctorate from the University of Southern California in Higher and Post-secondary Education with an emphasis in training and development.

Jenny Miler photo  Dr. Jenny Miller
Training Director, Public Health & Nursing Faculty

Dr. Miller completed her DrPH at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Prior to her doctoral studies, she was a Program Director for the Maternal and Child Health, Genetics Program at the Ohio Department of Health. In this role, she was responsible for program planning, administration and policy development for the statewide newborn screening program and a network of university-based genetic centers that offer services to families throughout the state on a sliding fee scale. She completed an MPH in public health nursing and an MS in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include maternal and child health, the impact of new technologies on families' lives and health policy and access to services for individuals with disabilities.

 Beth Ellen Davis photo Dr. Beth Ellen Davis
Medicine Faculty

Beth Ellen Davis, MD, MPH, is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician (DBP) and the Discipline Leader for Pediatrics. She was a LEND trainee in 1999 while earning an MPH at UW, Seattle. She has spent the last 20 years in the US Army and retired in 2009 at the rank of Colonel. For a decade, she was the program director of the sole military DBP fellowship located at Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA. In that role, she provided DBP consultation to military families in both Fairbanks and Anchorage over the past 5 years. Her research interests are in systems of care for children with NDRDs and ASDs, adolescent transition and pediatric palliative care.

Richard Kiefer-O'Donnell photo  Dr. Richard Kiefer-O'Donnell
Special Education Faculty

Dr. Kiefer-O’Donnell is an Associate Director/Associate Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Center for Human Development. Richard holds a PhD in Special Education (Severe/Multiple Disabilities, 1996) from the University of Utah, where he worked collaboratively with Drs. John McDonnell and Robert O’Neill to examine critical issues with elementary and secondary-aged students with challenging disabilities. He received an MEd from the University of Illinois, C-U in Special Education (Early education of children with multiple disabilities, 1981) working with Drs. Jeannette McCollum and Merle Karnes. He completed his BS in Psychology (1976) also from Champaign-Urbana, working with Drs. Sydney Bijou in Psychology and Mark Gold in Education. In his current role as the Associate Director with the Center for Human Development, he leads or serves as co-PI on a number of federal and state projects, including two for expanded implementation of PBS, one which prepares BCBA Autism Specialist and soon, a BCaBA undergraduate-level program in Psychology.

 Annette Blanas photo Annette Blanas
Family Faculty

Annette Blanas has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She has worked with children and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder for 17 years. Her experience includes community planning, advocacy, training, parent coaching, and support.

Cathy Sullivan photo  Catherine Sullivan
Nursing Faculty

Catherine Sullivan, RN, MSN, CPNP is currently an Associate Professor in the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Nursing (UAA SON) Baccalaureate Program. She completed her Masters of Science in Nursing and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program at the Catholic University of America. She worked as a registered nurse in medical oncology, pediatrics and geriatrics in the Lower 48. While in Alaska, she worked in Bethel/Yukon Kuskokwim Delta Region as an itinerant public health nurse (PHN) to villages as well as an itinerant PHN in Sitka/Southeast villages/logging camps/fishing towns. She also worked as a Nurse Consultant in Child Health for the State of Alaska before joining the faculty at UAA School of Nursing where she teaches community health nursing. She has an interest in rural health issues, refugee health topics, and health literacy.

Mary Dallas Allen photo  Dr. Mary Dallas Allen
Social Work Faculty

Mary Dallas Allen, PhD, MSW, is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She received her PhD in Social Work and Social Research from Portland State University, her MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University, and her BS in Psychology from the College of William and Mary. As a social work practitioner, she has worked with children and families in a variety of rural and urban settings, including early care and education, Head Start, domestic violence shelters, schools, and juvenile justice. Her social work research has focused on early childhood mental health consultation with Head Start programs.

Ellen Brigham photo  Ellen Brigham
Speech Language Pathology Faculty

Ellen Brigham, M.S., CCC-SLP received her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Syracuse University and her B. A. in Linguistics from the SUNY at Binghamton. She has worked in the field of Speech-Language Pathology since 1977 as a clinical instructor at Bridgewater State University, University of Maryland, and Gallaudet University and as a clinician with clients across the lifespan in a variety of settings including public schools, schools for the deaf, acute and rehabilitation hospitals, home health and long term care. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the University of Alaska Anchorage College of Education where she is the Clinical Coordinator of the Alaska cohort of the University of Alaska Anchorage/East Carolina University affiliated Speech-Language Pathology Master’s degree program.

 Kaplan Susan photo Dr. Susan Kaplan
Occupational Therapy Faculty

Dr. Kaplan has over 30 years of occupational therapy academic, administrative, and clinical experience. She has a PhD in Educational Research, a Master’s in Business Administration, a Master’s in Pediatric Occupational Therapy, and a Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy. Currently she is the Administrative Dean in the College of Health at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Previously she was an occupational therapy faculty member for 23 years at Florida International University in Miami, and has an extensive amount of experience with clients who experience developmental disabilities. Dr. Kaplan is a member of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic Team for Anchorage, and also serves as president of the Alaska Occupational Therapy Association.

LEND Staff

Rain Van Den Berg
Training Coordinator

Rain Van Den Berg is the LEND Training Coordinator at the UAA Center for Human Development. She coordinates the training and experiences of the LEND Fellows and works closely with UAA Faculty Mentors. She has a Master's in Public Health in Community Health Education. In addition to her education background, she has expertise related to Health Literacy, graphic design, project management and loves to make things with her hands.

Rain Van Den Berg photo 
Larrisa Cummings
Administrative Support

Larrisa Cummings offers Administrative Support to the LEND Faculty and Staff at the UAA Center for Human Development. In addition Larrisa is the data coordinator and is responsible for gathering, entering, and reporting on all required data for the LEND program. She has been with the Center for Human Development since August 2007.

Larrisa Cummings photo 
Holli Yancey
Technology Support

Holli Yancey is the Faculty and Student Technology Coordinator with the Center for Human Development. She has a specialty background in Assistive Technology having worked at ATLA and mentored under Rich Sanders.  After five years in the assistive tech field, Holli moved on to work with Alyeska Vocational Services focusing on the launch of Project Search in Alaska and the foundational work to establish the Denali Deaf Center. Since coming to UAA, she has served as an Instructional Designer where she believes that technology is simply one tool among many to connect people to the world.  As a parent and family member of individuals experiencing a variety of disabilities, she lives the concept of "person first" in her work.

Holli Yancey