Hopebridge Clinical Director Lives Out the Mission to Serve Others
July 25, 2022
July 25, 2022
Working in autism therapy has allowed us to meet some incredible people. From children who have found ways to spark joy in all of us, to clinicians who help kids unlock their true potential, we’re surrounded by individuals who remind us and reinforce us along our mission every day.
Hopebridge Clinical Director and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Leigh Zucker is the embodiment of this mission. She has answered the call to serve by not only working for the good of the children and colleagues she serves, but also towards advancing applied behavior analysis (ABA) for future generations.
Leigh was drawn to the idea of working in pediatric care from a young age, even if she could not yet envision what form it would take. By the time college rolled around, she had her mind set on pre-med and took all the relevant coursework during her undergraduate program, all the while looking forward to becoming a pediatrician.
Around her junior year, she realized something felt like it was missing. This was not the capacity in which she wanted to work with children and families. Leigh wanted to be involved in the day-to-day for patients and help facilitate their development, rather than waiting to see them every six months or so. She quickly pivoted, searching for the way she could serve others in this fashion. The summer before her final year, she volunteered at an ABA clinic and it stuck. She moved to Nashville and began her master’s program shortly after.
A little more than two years into her career as a BCBA, Leigh met AIM Clinics Co-Founder George Boghos, now chief strategy officer of Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, while on vacation. She learned from him that AIM had supports in place for mentors to BCBAs, which piqued her interest.
“At the time, there were a lot of mentorships for RBTs in our field, but they stopped once we got credentialed as BCBAs. It could feel like we were on our own at times,” said Leigh. “But George told me there would be people overlooking treatment plans, checking in on programming and serving as a direct supervisor for clinical questions. I didn’t want to remain stagnant as a BCBA, so I saw it as an opportunity to continue to learn and grow as a clinician.”
Leigh became one of the company’s first hires in Tennessee, even before there was a physical clinic. Tennessee was the last state to pass an ABA mandate, so without insurance coverage for applied behavior analysis, clinics in Nashville did not offer it until this point. Leigh had become used to commuting to Clarksville for work, but jumped at the chance to help AIM expand into a new region.
“I loved the idea of being part of something new and getting to help grow options in this area for children with autism,” said Leigh. “It was exciting to see the state evolve and have a role in it all. It was emotional to see how thrilled families were after waiting so long for services for their children.”
Leigh enjoyed living in Tennessee, but after 8 years in the state, she moved from the Hendersonville clinic to Hopebridge’s next area in need, Colorado Springs, where she now serves the center’s patients and her fellow team members as the clinical director. She appreciates being able to provide the same type of mentorship that once drew her to the company in the first place.
“I was attracted to the idea of ramping up another center in one of our newest regions. As the clinical director, I’m able to provide an extra level of day-to-day support and individualize different paths of learning for the other BCBAs and the ABA trainer here, in addition to serving our families,” said Leigh.
Because the field is always growing and changing, Leigh aims to take a little off her colleagues’ plates so they can focus on their caseloads. She appreciates seeing their independence and confidence grow as clinicians, as they help their children do the same. Besides supporting the BCBAs in her center, she’s found a way to use her role to reach even more behavior analysts now and in the future. Alongside Hopebridge’s Jana Sarno and university partners, she is a key contributor to a feeding-related research project that was recently completed, with a manuscript in preparation for publication.
“When I first met Leigh, she moved around wherever she was needed in order to give back to the field, better serve our patients and assist them in growing their skills,” said Jana. “Now that I have had the opportunity to collaborate with her on a whole new way to give back to the industry through research. It’s been a pleasure to watch Leigh take to this skill and challenge.”
For Leigh, it all boils down to providing the highest quality care and implementing best practices. As the field continues to expand, she feels clinicians must support each other and their patients by continuing to put out research and literature.
“We can always do better. There’s no way to make sure we’re using the best practice without the research and data to support it. It’s our duty as clinicians to participate in this process. We need to be strong clinicians when providing therapy to our kiddos, but also take care of the field as a whole,” said Leigh.
“I see it as paying it back for what was given to us. I’ve been able to use the research from many other clinicians over the years, so it’s part of my responsibility to do what I can so future clinicians can use it to better serve their caseloads.”
There are a range of learning opportunities and experiences for Hopebridge team members at all levels, which we aim to help them amplify our mission as well as their careers.
Are you ready to join the mission, too? If you’re eager to play a role in clinical innovation and advancement while giving more kids the chance at a more independent, fulfilling life, check out our open positions in locations across the country. From Hot Springs in Arkansas, to Memphis in Tennessee, to Phoenix in Arizona, you might just find a new place to spread your wings and call home.
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