LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., creating an inclusive world for people with intellectual disability is a life mission.

She was inspired by her older brother who has Down syndrome; Chandan is leading efforts to ensure all health care professionals are trained to treat adults with intellectual disabilities.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation presented Chandan the Distinguished Public Service Award at the organization’s annual assembly in San Antonio, Texas.

Chandan was picked thanks to her efforts at ensuring inclusive health through innovations in medical education and her work with Special Olympics.

Chandan received the award last month. It was established to honor people who, in the course of public service activities, have significantly contributed to the growth and development of services that directly impact the specialty.

Previous winners of the award include Michelle Obama, Judith E. Heumann, an international disability rights activist, and numerous members of congress.

Chandan is committed to inclusive health, the intentional inclusion of all people, including people with intellectual disabilities, in mainstream health services, training programs, research, funding streams, polices and laws.

“We tend to think about people with disabilities as sort of a minority population, one that you won’t interact with,” she said. “But, the fact is that you will because 1 in 4 people in the United States have a disability.”

Chandan’s personal experience with her brother has given her a personal understanding of the need for physicians who can provide equitable care for people with intellectual disabilities.

She directs the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine, a partnership between Special Olympics International and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry to ensure future physicians receive training to care for people with intellectual disabilities.