More than 100 scholars, policy makers, practitioners, philanthropists and advocates for early childhood development and learning gathered in Orlando Feb. 8-10 for the University of Florida Early Childhood National Summit.
The early-childhood leaders used workgroups, panels and workshops to create recommendations and actions on how to move the field forward. Themes discussed included discovering the keys to opening young minds, inspiring new initiatives for the next generation and how best to influence the influencers to unlock children’s potential.
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs made it clear in the summit’s opening remarks that the results of the event would be actionable items and steps toward improvement.
“It is crucial that our work on behalf of children is tangible, that it is scalable, and that it reaches the children who need it,” he said.
Several members of the UF College of Medicine were in attendance, including Michael L. Good, MD, dean; Duane Mitchell, MD, PhD, director of the UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program; Betsy Shenkman, PhD, director of the UF Institute for Child Health Policy; Lindsay Thompson, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy; Michael Weiss, MD, associate professor of neonatology; Scott Rivkees, MD, professor and chair of the department of pediatrics; and Rick D’Alli, MD, associate professor of psychiatry.
Rivkees said the event was the first of its kind to bring together senior leadership from UF with leading national experts in education, pediatric care, law and public policy. He said the collective mission was to collaborate across diverse disciplines to focus on how to best help young children thrive.
“It is recognized that the first thousand days of a child’s life play a critical role in his or her long-term development and potential,” he said. “The summit was wildly successful in identifying both practical and actionable approaches for the good of our youngest citizens.”
Rivkees said planning for follow-up programming to the summit is currently underway.