Community Partner Spotlight: Dr. Natalee Kamau and the Special Olympics of Tennessee

Community Partner Spotlight: Dr. Natalee Kamau and the Special Olympics of Tennessee

We are thrilled to highlight the partnership between the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance and the Special Olympics of Tennessee, an organization that aims to enhance the health of athletes who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. This collaborative effort is spearheaded by Natalee Kamau, DPT, who holds a Master's in occupational therapy and a doctorate in physical therapy. She serves as the Health and Fitness Director for the Special Olympics of Tennessee. The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance and Dr. Kamau continue our collaboration to provide  interprofessional education (IPE) enrollees opportunities to gain practical experience in the field of disabilities.

Kamau's passion for assisting individuals with disabilities started during her undergraduate studies when she interned at the San Diego Children’s Hospital. Working in the pediatric ward with families sparked her love for clinical rehabilitation, sports, and children. “It filled my cup, and I worked well with [children’s] families,” says Dr. Kamau. Kamau's journey providing care to individuals with disabilities continued when she was recruited by the Special Olympics of Tennessee during an annual fundraiser she hosted for the organization’s athletes. She started as a health coordinator and quickly advanced to her current role.

The Special Olympics of Tennessee is known for providing free health screenings in more than seven health disciplines, making a significant impact on the lives of countless individuals with disabilities across the state. Dr. Kamau and her team have a clinical director who oversees the screening process and offers referrals if an athlete needs specialized care. She believes that by training students and health professionals to work with Special Olympics athletes, providers can enhance their capacity and confidence to effectively treat patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Kamau is enthusiastic about the prospect of more immersive collaboration with IPE graduate students from the MVA. She proposes involving them in special projects, such as health events, where they can create in-person programs and meet their clinical hour requirements, while also assisting with end-to-end program planning. We applaud her initiative and eagerly anticipate the project outcomes from our IPE students this year.

About the Alliance: Advancing Health Equity Today by Empowering A Diverse Workforce for Tomorrow

The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) is a 20+year partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center that serves to advance the shared interests of our institutions and community partners. The MVA is the epicenter of collaboration, capacity-building, and community engagement for health equity in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. With your engagement, we can strengthen our ability to help diversify medicine.