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MU Thompson Center's Growth and Success Leads to Personnel Expansion

Provost names executive director and director of academic programs

May 28, 2008

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, (573) 882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Dramatic success and growth of the University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders has led to the creation of two positions. Today, Provost Brian Foster announced that Jim Poehling has been named executive director and chief administrative officer. Janet Farmer, the center’s founding director and professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions and professor of child health in the School of Medicine, has been named director of academic programs.

“I appreciate the opportunity to build on the successful foundation laid by Dr. Farmer and look forward to working with her to continue to move the Center forward,” Poehling said.

Poehling was chief operating officer for University of Missouri Healthcare until 2008. From 1999 to 2006, he was director of Columbia Regional Hospital. He was in St. Louis in 1992 as administrator of the St. Louis University Eye Institute and vice president of physician services at Incarnate Word Hospital. His administrative health care experience dates back to 1973.

“We have already made the Thompson Center a national presence in just the past two years,” Foster said. “This success has come as a result of Dr. Farmer’s leadership. We must expand on this success and continue to build the Thompson Center into a vital resource for children and families, health professionals, educators, researchers, and policy makers.”

“My new position allows more opportunity for research, training and program development,” Farmer said. “We have established interdisciplinary clinics that are unique in the country and our faculty must continue to focus on creating great models of care.”

In November, Kathy Thornburg was named interim co-director of the Center as part of an enhanced strategic plan. She will resume her responsibilities as director of the Center for Family Policy and Research and professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

The mission of the center focuses on three areas: services for children and families affected by autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, interdisciplinary research on the causes and interventions for these disorders, and education for students and community-based professionals.

The Center was established with an $8.5 million gift from Bill and Nancy Thompson in 2005. The Center integrates the best research and clinical services from multiple academic units at MU into a model program for the diagnosis and treatment of children and adults with autism and other neurological conditions. The Center also promotes the training of future professionals and provides continuing education for those working in communities.