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Targeted Education for Autism Management across Medical Specialties (TEAMS)

As one of the fastest‐growing developmental disorders globally, autism remains underfunded, understaffed, and poorly understood. Physicians and health care systems—nationally and internationally—are inadequately prepared to diagnose and manage care across the lifespan for a condition of extraordinary variability among individuals. As a result, individuals with autism and their families too often struggle to gain access to informed physicians who are able to make early diagnoses, identify comorbid medical conditions among subtypes, and coordinate care across specialties throughout an individual’s lifespan. The cost to these individuals and their families is immense in terms of quality of life, financial burdens, and ultimately health outcomes. Despite the challenges that remain in terms of understanding the biology of autism and developing viable medical diagnostics and therapeutics, autism is treatable and it is incumbent on medical institutions to ensure that physicians and clinicians are prepared to provide the best available care today.

The Targeted Education for Autism Management across Medical Specialties (TEAMS) project will be in two phases. In phase 1 – the design phase ‐ the goal will be to develop a curricular plan aimed at meeting unmet educational needs for two audiences: clinicians on the one hand, and patients and their families, on the other.

For curricula aimed at clinicians the goal will be to enlist leading autism experts from the Harvard Medical School faculty to evaluate available resources and understand gaps focused on improving physician competency across all medical specialties in providing competent and coordinated care. The target audience will be both clinicians who focus on autism and its comorbid conditions, and nonexperts who interact with and care for patients and their families.

For curricula aimed at patients and their families the aim will be to recruit a diverse audience (patients and their families, community leaders, and informed members of the lay public) to understand the available resources and associated gaps that add value in autism awareness and education.

In phase 2 – the implementation phase ‐ the aim will be to develop the innovative material that addresses these unmet needs and evaluation plan that assesses impact. Harvard Medical School will accomplish these goals in both phases by working closely with the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation to consult with clinician experts, patients and their families, community leaders, and informed members of the lay public for the purpose of evaluating and developing the educational resources.

This project has the potential to be a highly effective means of increasing widespread competency across medical specialties throughout the nation and beyond.