From Clinic to Classroom: Kyle Landry

CHD is a family affair, and Kyle Landry’s mission to create the gold standard of educational care for the pediatric patient is fueled by her sister’s memory. Conquering CHD is grateful for her expertise, especially with our annual Back to School Series, and her continued work to help all patients and families in need. Read on for more of Kyle’s story, from the clinic to the classroom.

From Clinic to Classroom

While I founded the Educational Achievement Partnership Program at Children’s Wisconsin’s Herma Heart Institute in 2015, my journey didn’t start there. On September 14, 1987, my sister Leigh Gabrielle Herma, was born with previously undiagnosed Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). HLHS is a life-threatening congenital heart defect where the main pumping chamber of the heart – the left ventricle – is critically underdeveloped at birth.  Although Leigh was only with us a very short time, her life had a very profound impact and purpose. 

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I remained very engaged in hospital projects and events – from building and maintaining a library of children’s books that patients are welcome to keep, to working the phone bank during the annual fundraising event. My family stood – and still stands – very strong in our commitment to doing everything and anything possible to ensure families stay whole. To this day, even my own children pursue this mission.   

Although I have always been very involved at Children’s Wisconsin, my passion was never clinical. Even at a young age, I could envision my “would be” role connecting access to healthcare and quality education to improve physical and mental health, and enhance overall quality of life for children and families.  

In 2010 I completed my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I went on to teach in the Milwaukee Public School District where I specialized in enhancing learning opportunities for youth at-risk for failure and reading intervention. I found my sweet spot in urban education. It was hard…and it was hugely rewarding. While I had those years of college education, I can honestly say that everything I learned about being a teacher came from my students. I am so thankful for those early years in the classroom and the many lessons they taught me on empathy, curiosity, grit, high expectations, determination, resilience, innovation, and humor.

It was about 5 years later when I learned of a new program at Children’s Wisconsin – and a job opening for a school liaison to serve as an extension of their world-renown Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-Up Program. My task was to take the program’s detailed neuropsychological evaluations and work with patient’s schools to facilitate applicable interventions within the classroom setting. 

On February 2, 2015, my first day on the job, my supervisor bought me a coffee and walked me to my office. When she turned to leave, I asked her “What am I supposed to do? Where do I start?” She smiled and said, “That’s why we hired you.” 

The number one lesson I took from education is to NEVER assume you know what a group of students (or teachers) needs without directly asking them. I spent the next 6 months cold-calling and emailing every important stakeholder I could contact. I interviewed 20 Wisconsin school district principals and 17 district nurses, not to mention endless hospital nurses, providers, psychologists, social workers, parents, and even patients themselves. I shadowed school nurses, surgeons in the operating room, and sat with parents on the unit. I asked question after question and took detailed notes about aspects of hospital-school communication that were really great and where communication needed to improve. 

After this 6-months of discovery, some strong themes stood out and I began scaffolding a program that filled these gaps. I slowly took on a small group of very complex heart transplant patients and provided them with school health and learning recommendations. As each day clicked by, more and more referrals trickled in. And then my services were extended to all pediatric cardiology patients, and the referral floodgates opened. 

In 2018, I completed my Master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Community Engagement and Education, giving the Educational Achievement Partnership Program the push it needed to dive head first into the world of medical research. We wrote proposal after proposal and accepted award after award. Not only were our patients and families thrilled with this innovative educational support, but medical providers and school teams echoed their praises. As we standardize and optimize services, the data continues to demonstrate the educational benefit of our services. After participating in the Educational Achievement Partnership Program:

  • 97% of patients receive new or expanded educational plans post-intervention
  • 95% of patients receive new or expanded school health plans
  • 96% of patients improve school performance

But it gets better, our program has exciting clinical impact as well. Patients who participate in the Educational Achievement Partnership Program experience:

  • 4-6 fewer hospital system visits per patient, per year
  • $43,000-$95,000 lower hospital charges per patient, per year

Today, the Educational Achievement Partnership Program’s mission is to advance long-term educational achievement in children with chronic illness through collaboration, knowledge, advocacy, and commitment.Our team members are experienced educators with special training in the neurodevelopmental impacts of chronic illnesses.  

We establish collaborative partnerships with families, schools, medical teams, and community care providers to interpret health-brain-body connections and how a child’s medical history may impact school performance even years later. We build a comprehensive account of each child’s medical, educational, and social-emotional needs and advocate for related support services in all environments – at home, at school, and in the community.

With enduring support, we adapt our services to promote continued achievement as a child’s health and learning needs change throughout the educational career. Finally, this service is offered completely free of charge as a standard of care. Because families will never need to deal with insurance coverage and will never see a bill, our services are accessible to all.

After six short years, the Educational Achievement Partnership Program has grown to a team of 8 full-time staff, serving over 500 cardiology patients with services rapidly expanding system-wide to serve children with all types of chronic illness. While the program had a small beginning, it has always been our long-term vision to raise national standards in best practices for pediatric follow-up care by putting the right person, in the right place, at the right time – so our patients WIN! 

I urge you to talk about the importance of school support as a component of follow-up care and advocate for school liaison support within you own hospitals and specialty care centers. If you don’t have the right words to start the conversation, I do. Share my contact information freely. Your child matters to me and I am willing to put in the time, effort, and work to advocate for the resources, support, and quality education your child deserves.  

Resources

Educational Achievement Partnership Program, Children’s Wisconsin
Conquering CHD Back to School Series
Back to School 2021: Live webinar with Kyle on August 3 – Register Here!

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