Conference Schedule – at a glance

Information included below:

  • Contact hours
  • Schedule
  • Keynote speaker
  • Session descriptions
  • Speaker biographies

Contact Hours

Certificates of Contact Hours (up to 16 hours) will be awarded to attendees who complete post-session surveys. All content (pre-recorded and recorded) will be available for viewing and professional development credit for 30 days following the live conference day.

Additionally, our keynote speaker, Dr. Adam Saenz, is providing a FREE year-long subscription for all participants to access the Learning Library, available at This site provides up to 15 hours of additional training.

While the live portion of the conference is only one day, we are excited to offer this extended and robust professional development opportunity!

(Schedule subject to change)

Virtual HEAL Association Conference

10:30-10:45 am est


Welcome and Kickoff

10:45am-12:15 pm est


Live General Session/Keynote

Emotional Intelligence and the Power of Connection

Dr. Adam Saenz, PhD

12:15-12:20 pm est



12:20-1:20 pm est


Breakout (Live Lecture)


Standardized School Screening to Identify Educational Needs and Link Supports to Children with Chronic Illness



Breakout – Poster Session

Poster #1: Identifying and Addressing Unmet Career/School Preparedness Needs of Pediatric and Young Adult Oncology Patients During Treatment and Survivorship

Poster #2: Returning to School After a Spinal Cord Injury


Breakout (Live Lecture)


How to Build Relationships That Work – presented by our Keynote Speaker: Dr. Adam Saenz


Breakout (Roundtable Discussion)


New Member Orientation


1:20-1:50 pm est


1:50-2:00 pm est

Lunch and Awards – bring your lunch and celebrate our annual recipients!



2:00-3:00 pm est


Breakout (Roundtable Discussion)


Supporting Students with Sickle Cell Disease to Minimize School Avoidance and Chronic Absenteeism


(Limited to 25 participants)


Breakout (Live Lecture)


A Toolkit for Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating a Hospital-Based Internship Program for Preservice Teachers


Breakout (Panel Discussion)


School-Friendly Health System: We are Better Together


Breakout (Roundtable Discussion)


Leading Programs – the residual effect of COVID and leading transformations

(Limited to 25 participants)


3:00-3:10 pm est



3:10-4:10 pm est


Breakout (Live Lecture)


Understanding Functional Neurological Disorder: A Guide for Working with Schools


Breakout (Live Lecture)


The Neuropsychology of Trauma and How It Impacts Learning – presented by our Keynote Speaker: Dr. Adam Saenz



Breakout (Roundtable Discussion))


Developing a Front Door for School Partnership: How to Create Bi-directional Collaboration Between Schools and Healthcare Professionals


(Limited to 25 participants)


Breakout (Roundtable Discussion)


Member Engagement: Think tank for sharing ideas with the Executive Board


(Limited to 25 participants)


4:10-4:20 pm est



4:20-5:20 pm est


Live Closing Session


How to Be Sustainable When Working With High-Needs Students: Understanding the sources of stress and how to build a relational team that will keep us in the game

presented by: Dr. Adam Saenz, PhD


5:20-5:30 pm est Closing Remarks

Embedding Neuropsychology and a School Liaison in an Oncology Survivorship Clinic: Improving access and reducing barriers to educational supports.


Dr. Adam Saenz’s collection of courses at Emotional Intelligence Workshops That Engage — Applied EQ Group

Registered/paid attendees will receive unique code at the end of conference for 1 year of access to this library of workshops.



Adam Sáenz, Ph.D.

Founder & CEO, Applied EQ


Adam Sáenz, Ph.D., D. Min. is a licensed psychologist, ordained minister, author, and emotional intelligence expert. Adam has worked in education, corporate and non-profit sectors for over twenty years.  He has delivered state national keynote addresses based on his research, which focuses on stress management, the dynamics of effective relationship building, personality assessment, and emotional intelligence. Among his publications are the best-selling The Power of a Teacher, Relationships That Work, and his most recent release, The EQ Intervention: Shaping a Self-Aware Generation Through Social and Emotional Learning.  He currently serves as a supervising psychologist for the Texas A&M Medical School and for the Texas A&M Department of Athletics.  Adam and Kim celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in 2022; they love their four adult children, but they are digging the empty nest.


A Toolkit for Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating a Hospital-Based Internship Program for Preservice Teachers 

Presented by: Rebeca Grysko, PhD, CBIS, Nemours Children’s Florida and Michelle Kelley, EdD, Lee-Anne Spalding, EdD, and Madelena Lawida, University of Central Florida  

The Peds Academy at Nemours Children’s is a unique, hospital-based internship program for preservice teachers. Teacher Interns from University of Central Florida receive specialized training and provide individualized instruction to address the educational needs of patients during prolonged hospitalization. Research shows that this internship experience helps enhance preservice teachers’ preparedness for supporting the educational needs of students with medical conditions. Due to the success of the Peds Academy, the Nemours leadership team has developed a comprehensive toolkit for other hospitals and/or universities who are interested in implementing a similar internship program.

Developing a Front Door for School Partnership: How to Create Bi-directional Collaboration Between Schools and Healthcare Professionals

Facilitated by: Anna Starczynowski, MEd, Cincinnati Children’s

Healthcare systems are large and complex. Cincinnati Children’s has created a “front door” for easier access and collaboration with our school partners. Hear from our project leader in this work: developing the plan for creating information hubs internally and externally for school-related information, considerations during development and learnings along the way. The Center for School Services and Educational Research has implemented working committees as the infrastructure to support the “front door” and our hospital’s efforts towards living out the School-Friendly Health System core principals. Join in the conversation and share how your institution coordinates school-related efforts.

Embedding Neuropsychology and a School Liaison in an Oncology Survivorship Clinic: Improving access and reducing barriers to educational supports

Presented by: Elizabeth Stuchell, MSW and Kaitlin McCloskey, PhD, University of Michigan Health

By embedding a neuropsychologist and school liaison into a multidisciplinary oncology survivorship clinic, the group intended to address barriers to accessing neuropsychological evaluations, opportunities for caregivers, patients, and schools to understand cognitive impacts of treatment and support the creation and utilization of academic accommodations. A review of patient data highlighted an increase in referrals and evaluations but was less clear whether meeting with a neuropsychologist and school liaison was directly linked to increased school accommodations.

How to Build Relationships That Work

Presented by: Adam Sáenz, Ph.D., D. Min.

Most of us already know that relationships matter in any field, but particularly in education. The question is: how? How do I build life-impacting relationships with students? How do I build resourceful relationships with my colleagues on campus? How do I build supportive relationships with my students’ parents?

Identifying and Addressing Unmet Career/School Preparedness Needs of Pediatric and Young Adult Oncology Patients During Treatment and Survivorship

Presented by: Sidney Kushner, BS and Sloane Strauss, MS, Connecting Champions

This program was developed to meet the psychosocial and career/school preparedness needs of pediatric and young adult oncology patients during treatment and survivorship. Patients were provided with a mentor in a field they were interested in. A system was developed within the program to collect data on the unmet needs of participants before they meet their mentor, with a six month follow-up survey assessing the impact the program’s mentorship had on the needs reported.

Leading Programs–The Residual Effect of COVID and Leading Transformations

Facilitated by:  Michelle Harvey

COVID has changed the way we work, educate, and lead.  Join the conversation and learn from colleagues as we share tips and tricks for navigating the “new normal.”

Member Engagement: Think Tank for Sharing Ideas with the Executive Board

Facilitated by:  Kelly Ihejiawu, MA

Join us to discuss all things HEAL.  Share, suggest, and collaborate with HEAL leaders to help shape the future of our organization.

New Member Orientation

Facilitated by: Kelly Ihejiawu, MA and Mindy Elliott, MS

New to HEAL?  Join this informative session to learn about our mission, vision, and what membership has to offer you.

Returning to School After a Spinal Cord Injury

Presented by: Kelsey Shearman, MA, Shepherd Center

This poster will outline the various steps in the school process following a spinal cord injury, highlighting the return to school process. The goal of our return to school process is to make patients, families, and their schools feel confident in returning to in-person learning.

School-Friendly Health System: We are Better Together

Multi-Disciplinary panel: Patty Hadden, MEd, Deer Park Community City School District, Amy King, BS, CNP and Zeina Samaan, MD, Cincinnati Children’s

Facilitated by: Lenora Nardelli, MEd, Cincinnati Children’s

Utilizing the School-Friendly Health System framework as our guiding principles, Cincinnati Children’s has implemented multiple strategies to engage our school partners in improving efforts that will positively impact our mutual patients’/students’ care. This panel discussion will consist of multidisciplinary professionals across the systems of healthcare and education. Professionals will share how intentional collaboration, vulnerability, and quality improvement science are being used to work through barriers for improved communication and transitions of care between two complex systems.

Standardized School Screening to Identify Educational Needs and Link Supports to Children with Chronic Illness

Presented by: Christie A Ruehl, JD, MBA and Kyle Landry, MEd, Children’s Wisconsin

Children with chronic illnesses are at-risk for an array of neuropsychological deficits that may affect development, psychosocial skills and academic attainment. While some medical centers offer school liaison services, nurse clinicians may lack a consistent approach to identify school concerns and determine applicable support services, reflecting an urgent need to develop these resources. The aim of this quality improvement project was to create and seamlessly integrate a school screening system into outpatient cardiology clinic workflow.

Supporting Students with Sickle Cell Disease to Minimize School Avoidance and Chronic Absenteeism

Facilitated by: Courtney Emery, M.Ed, NBCT, DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic

Students will Sickle Cell Disease often struggle with school avoidance and chronic absenteeism. During this roundtable discussion, a brief overview of Sickle Cell Disease will be discussed, along with potential factors that lead to school avoidance and chronic absenteeism. Then a dialogue will begin between the presenter and the attendees about best practices for supporting student with Sickle Cell Disease in an effort to minimize school avoidance and chronic absenteeism.

The Neuropsychology of Trauma and How It Impacts Learning

Presented by:  Adam Sáenz, Ph.D., D. Min.

Understanding the root of trauma and how we can cultivate a well- functioning classroom. How do VUCA (volatility/uncertainty/complexity/ambiguity) impact child and adolescent development? How do ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) impact child and adolescent development? How do SCARF needs (status/certainty/autonomy/relatedness/fairness) impact child and adolescent development?

Understanding Functional Neurological Disorder: A Guide for Working with Schools

Presented by: Deborah South, MEd and Wendi Lopez, PhD, Cincinnati Children’s

Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) occurs when neurons misfire in the body causing the brain to become stuck when sending and receiving messages. The brain and body can get in a cycle of not communicating well with each other resulting in inaccurate messages. As a result, individuals experience symptoms such as loss of movement of limbs or non-epileptic seizures resulting in an interruption with their school functioning. This presentation will provide participants and school teams with the tools needed to help supports students as they are receiving treatment for FND.


Mindy Elliott is the Director of Education for Veritas Collaborative, a specialty hospital system for the treatment of eating disorders located in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. She was the original teacher for the North Carolina hospital and developed the academic programming since Veritas opened in 2012. Mindy is dedicated to providing individualized education services to meet the unique needs of each patient during treatment. Mindy serves on the executive board of the Hospital Educator and Academic Liaison (HEAL) Association, the North American organization supporting professionals who work to improve the educational outcomes of students with medical and mental health needs. She served on the AECMN/APHOES workgroup to facilitate the possible merger of the two organizations, which resulted in the HEAL Association. Mindy is also an Associate Editor of the international journal, Continuity in Education (CiE), focusing on the education of children and young people with medical and mental health needs. Mindy has presented dozens of workshops across the Southeast on hospital school practices, eating disorder effects on the student, twice exceptionality, and the path to submitting articles for publication in the CiE journal. At Veritas Collaborative, Mindy leads the education team as they work with an adolescent patient’s school to provide direct instruction and enable a continuation of academic progress while a student is in treatment for an eating disorder. The teachers set the framework for a smooth transition back to the student’s school. Mindy taught middle school, high school and community college English in California and North Carolina. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She earned a specialized certification in the education of academically and intellectually gifted students through a graduate program at Duke University, and in 2015, Mindy became National Board Certified in Exceptional Needs/Gifted and Talented.

Courtney Emery is the School Intervention Specialist in the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology Oncology Clinic in Lexington, KY. Courtney’s educational background includes a BA in Elementary Education and Special Education. Additionally, she earned a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and is certified by The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She also serves on the executive board of the Hospital Educator and Academic Liaison Association. Courtney is passionate about helping children and young adults reach their full potential in and out of the classroom.

Rebeca Grysko, PhD, CBIS is the Supervising Teacher at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, FL. She manages the development, implementation, and evaluation of hospital school programming for patients with a wide variety of medical conditions, including cancer, blood disorders, cystic fibrosis, and brain injury. Her areas of specialty include reading assessment and intervention, cognitive rehabilitation, and school re-entry support for children with acquired brain injury. Dr. Grysko also oversees the PedsAcademy internship program at Nemours Children’s Hospital. As supervising teacher, Dr. Grysko supervises and mentors 15+ teacher interns from the University of Central Florida each semester. This first-of-its-kind internship provides future teachers with deep insight and gained understanding into the educational and social-emotional needs of children coping with chronic illness.

Patty Hadden has 36 years of experience in Ohio Public Schools including teaching special education, general education and currently serving as the Director Of Student Services for Deer Park Schools. She holds a Masters in Education from Xavier University along with an Ohio Reading Endorsement and National Board Certification. Patty has served as adjunct faculty as well as a learning specialist at Xavier University. She has been a member of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Project ECHO (Extensions for Community Care Outcomes) Hub team for a series related to mental health and trauma. Patty has experience and training in trauma responsive outcomes including peer facilitation and biographical timelines.

Michelle Kelley is a Professor of Reading in the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF). She joined the teaching faculty in 2004 and she is the reading coordinator for graduate programs. Her research focuses on metacognition with an emphasis in comprehension and independent reading, as well as pre-service and in-service teacher knowledge related to reading assessment and instruction. Her work has been published in The Reading Teacher, Reading Horizons, The Reading Professor, Voices From the Middle, among others. She has published four teacher resources with the International Literacy Association and Capstone Publishers and authored over a dozen book chapters. She is active in many literacy professional organizations and has made over 90 presentations at international, national, and state conferences. From 2011-2018, she was Co-Editor of Literacy Research and Instruction. She is the founder and co-director of the UCF Reading Clinic and is the Faculty Advisor of PedsAcademy®, a partnership with Nemours Children’s Hospital to educate children with critical illnesses.

Amy King is a Senior Community Engagement Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She has been at Children’s for the last 7 years. Amy created and developed the Kindergarten Readiness program in the primary care clinics where an education expert is embedded into clinic. Amy has been using continuous quality improvement tools for the last 6 years. She has spent several years working closely with families, early childhood programs and school districts to co-create solutions and use quality improvement to improve both the early childhood enrollment process as well as the special education referral process from healthcare to education.

Sidney Kushner is the Executive Director of Connecting Champions, a nonprofit he founded as a 19-year-old in memory of his friend Lauren after she passed away from cancer. He graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from Brown University and was named a top 100 student entrepreneur in the nation by Stanford University. In 2021, he gave a TED talk entitled “How one question can forever change the life of a child with cancer.” He was honored in Pittsburgh’s inaugural class of 30 Under 30, featured in Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and highlighted as a guest writer in Pittsburgh Magazine.

Kyle Landry received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a dual emphasis on language and literacy and advocacy for at-risk youth from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2010. Following graduation, she spent 5 years as a classroom teacher gaining critical experience working with at-risk students, many with health disparities and various special education needs. In February of 2015, Kyle founded the Educational Achievement Partnership Program at Children’s Wisconsin which quickly grew to a team of twelve serving ~1,600 medically complex children. Kyle completed her Master’s Degree in Cultural Foundations of Community Engagement and Education from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2018 and is currently pursuing her PhD in Healthcare Leadership. Most importantly, Kyle is the sister to an individual with very complex medical needs, giving her an up close and personal lens to understand the perspectives of all key stakeholders – the family, the medical team, and the school team.

Madelena Lawida received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Binghamton University in May 2022. She is currently the graduate program assistant for PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Lake Nona, Florida. She is a first-year school psychology EdS graduate student at the University of Central Florida. She hopes to become a practicing school psychologist upon her graduation in 2025, supporting any and all children to help them succeed.

As a pediatric psychologist, Wendy Lopez provides consultation and liaison services for inpatient medical units across the hospital. She specializes in patient and family coping and adjustment to medical conditions as well as neurorehabilitation. Conditions she treats include psychogenic nonepileptic spells (PNES), functional neurological disorders, somatic symptom disorders, habit and movement disorders, and pain. Doctorate in Clinical Psychology PsyD: University of Indianapolis MA Psychology: University of Indianapolis MS Physiology: Indiana University Residency: Psychology Consortium, University of Missouri Fellowship: Health Sciences Center, University of Oklahoma

 Kaitlin McCloskey is a pediatric neuropsychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. She conducts clinical neuropsychological evaluations with children treated for a broad range of medical conditions with a primary interest in pediatric cancer. She also provides cognitive screenings in a multidisciplinary long-term follow-up clinic which monitors for disease- and treatment-related late effects of pediatric cancer. Her research focuses on cognitive late effects of pediatric cancer, including investigating potential risk factors, optimal screening methods, and behavioral interventions.

Lenora Nardelli is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati where she received a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Education in Special Education. She began her teaching career in the public-school setting and taught at the primary level for over ten years. In 2017, she began her work at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, as a School Specialist, providing liaison support between the patient’s family, school, and medical team for patients with chronic health conditions. In addition to serving as a school liaison, Lenora is passionate about educating the community regarding a pediatric cancer diagnosis and the educational implications. Most recently she spoke at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society conference, as well as the Ohio Summit for Childhood Cancer. She strives to be a good partner with the schools, community and beyond, in an effort for all kids with chronic medical conditions to have positive school outcomes.

Christie Ruehl is the Senior Program Manager for the Educational Achievement Partnership Program (EAPP) at Children’s Wisconsin. In this role, Christie connects interdisciplinary experience in law, research, and advocacy to improve health, education, and quality of life for children and families affected by chronic illness. Christie earned a Juris Doctorate degree with an International Law Certification from Stetson University College of Law (2006, cum laude), a Master of Business Administration degree from Stetson University (2009), and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (2002).

Zeina Samaan is a general Pediatrician in the Pediatric Primary Care Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at University of Cincinnati-College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics.

Kelsey Shearman is the academic coordinator at the Shepherd Center, a brain and spinal cord injury rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. At Shepherd, she coordinates the adolescent patients’ academic education, teaches them, and assists with their transition back to school upon discharge. Prior to Shepherd, Kelsey worked as a middle and high school teacher in the public school system. When not working, she enjoys reading, traveling, and competing in long-distance swim races.

Debbie South is a School Liaison Specialist with the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and a member of the multidisciplinary team in the Complex Brain Health and Wellness Clinic. For the past nine years, she has provided support and recommendations to families and school teams when planning patients’ return to school after hospitalization with inpatient rehabilitation. Prior to her liaison position with CCHMC, she taught science for 22 years in both the private and public school settings. She received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in education from Xavier University with a graduate certification from George Washington University in Brain Injury and Transition Services. She is currently obtaining her certificate as a Brain Injury Specialist through Brain Injury Association of America.

Dr. Lee-Anne T. Spalding is a senior lecturer at the University of Central Florida in the College of Community Innovation and Education School of Teacher Education. She earned all three of her degrees from UCF; most recently her doctoral degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Reading. Her dissertation was titled: The Impact of Access to Books on the Reading Motivation and Achievement of Urban Elementary Students. Previously, she earned her Educational Leadership master’s degree in 1998 and her Elementary Education bachelor’s in 1994. Dr. Spalding is a teacher practitioner, spending most of her time designing engaging course meetings for teacher candidates in the Elementary Education program. In addition to her primary focus of teaching the future generation of educators, Dr. Spalding also enjoys writing and publishing scholarly work with her peers. She is a founding member of the UCF Nemours PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Health and has served as the clinical coordinator on site since 2018. She enjoys coordinating, advising, and mentoring interns in her role as the Chair of the Office of Clinical & Field Experiences Committee. Dr. Spalding is dedicated to positively impacting future teachers to in turn, have them positively impact our youth.

Anna Starczynowski, has been a School Liaison Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) for 9 years and helps support the oncology and bone marrow transplant population. She is dedicated to supporting families and schools navigate the challenges associated with a chronic illness and the impact on school. In addition, Anna has been involved in CCHMC’s efforts in being a School-Friendly Health System, specifically working on a “front door” for easier access and collaboration with school partners. Prior to her job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Anna worked as a 3rd grade teacher in Boston, MA.

Sloane Strauss is a graduate of West Virginia University with a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology. She currently works as Connecting Champions’ Data Analyst, examining the impact the organization has with adolescents and young adults who have experienced a pediatric cancer diagnosis. Connecting Champions is a non-profit organization that works to uncover and address the unmet psychosocial, educational, and vocational needs of pediatric oncology patients and those in survivorship. The organization provides a mentor in a career field or passion that participants are interested in to help them envision their life after cancer.

Elizabeth Stuchell is the School Liaison for the Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at University of Michigan Health, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Elizabeth began her professional career as an elementary and middle school teacher, then obtained a Master of Social Work degree. Elizabeth started as a medical social worker with the Pediatric HemOnc and Transplant Program at UM, then transitioned to the role of a School Liaison in 2013. Areas of interest include oncology survivorship, addressing health-related barriers to educational and vocational opportunities in the teen and young adult cancer population and fostering multi-disciplinary research collaborations.


Additional Bios will be added as we receive them.