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About the Team

Researchers in the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Health engage in innovative clinical and translational studies to generate knowledge that can be used to optimize the well-being of youth (and families of youth) with behavioral and mental health concerns, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and chronic health conditions. Our multidisciplinary group of investigators collaborate with other research groups throughout the hospital, as well as with researchers and research networks throughout the region and nation, to understand, prevent and treat pediatric health concerns through the lens of developmental and behavioral science.

Our research areas of focus are broadly defined by the following:

  1.  youth mental health service delivery and equity
  2.  psychosocial treatment and outcomes for pediatric health conditions
  3.  behavioral health risk identification and prevention; and
  4.  etiologies, supports and health/behavior outcomes for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Research in the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Health is supported through funding from federal agencies (National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), state agencies, private foundations, and generous philanthropic support. Results of research from our Division’s research teams are routinely published in leading field journals and presented at regional, national, and international academic forums.

More information about our research programs and studies can be found in the sections below.

Research Labs/Programs

  • ACCESS Behavioral Health Lab: Research conducted by the ACCESS Behavioral Health Lab focuses on identifying and overcoming disparities in access to behavioral health services. (leader: Dr. Ayanda Chakawa)
  • Baby Lab: The Baby Lab is a research program at Children’s Mercy and University of Kansas Medical Center that focuses on studying early language and social-emotional development. (leader:  Brenda Salley)
  • Behavioral Pain Innovations Lab: The focus for the Behavioral Pain Innovations Lab is on improving the lives of youth experiencing chronic pain through using novel methods of biobehavioral research and treatment (leader: Mark Connelly).
  • Milkovich Lab: The Milkovich Lab uses community-engaged research to identify optimal ways of supporting the health and development of youth in the school setting, with an emphasis on technology use within the classroom. (leader: Dr. Libby Milkovich)
  • Nadler Lab: The Nadler Lab is broadly focused on research that supports optimal physical and mental well-being in children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. (leader:  Cy Nadler)
  • Sullivant Lab: The focus of research by the Sullivant Lab is on developing and evaluating effective and scalable means of identifying and reducing suicide risk among youth. (leader: Dr. Shayla Sullivant)



Mark Connelly, PhD, is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and clinical health psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, where he serves as the Research Director for his home division of Developmental and Behavioral Health. The primary focus of Dr. Connelly’s career has been on serving youth with chronic pain and their families. His primary area of research has focused on the role of psychosocial factors in the etiology and modulation of pain in children and adolescents, with a particular emphasis on applying digital technologies to improve the reach, personalization, and efficacy of behavioral pain treatments. His research has been continuously supported through sponsors including the National Institutes of Health (NINDS, NIAMS), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Arthritis Foundation, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and the National Headache Foundation. Dr. Connelly serves on scientific review panels for the NIH and several foundations, is on the editorial board of leading journals in the field of pain and pediatric psychology, and routinely is involved in mentoring the next generation of pain researchers.