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KNOXVILLE—One day soon, social workers in the state of Tennessee will know more about the brain development of youngsters ages zero to three and how they can use this knowledge to improve children’s lives.

Terri Combs-Orme

That’s the mission of Terri Combs-Orme, a professor in the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Combs-Orme is the first recipient of an Endowed Professorship from the Memphis-based Urban Child Institute. The new professorship will foster an ongoing partnership between the College of Social Work and the institute in the advancement and dissemination of critical knowledge about brain development in children.

The institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to turning knowledge and research into measurable change. It advocates for public policies that are good for children, initiates prevention-based strategies, and launches intervention programs that focus on children.

Combs-Orme will develop a brain awareness curriculum to be used in training bachelor’s and master’s level social work students in Tennessee, as well as for continuing education of social workers in the state who work closely with children and families at risk.

“It’s the most incredible honor,” Combs-Orme said.

She has been a fellow of the institute since 2006. Her area of focus is neuroscience, particularly infant development and parenting.

The award will help fund her salary and provide travel to and from the institute in Memphis. It will also fund a stipend for a doctoral student to be her research assistant.

To learn more about the Urban Child Institute, visit

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