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CNN Hero Dr. Wendy Ross Slows Down to Do More


It’s not the first time developmental and behavioral pediatrician Wendy Ross, MD, has been recognized as a CNN Hero. In 2014, she was singled out for her work helping families with autistic and neurodiverse children navigate social situations like sporting events, museums, and airports. Today, she’s director of the Center for Autism and Neurodiversity at Jefferson Health and a thought leader who’s helping people with neurodiverse conditions participate more fully in the world—and helping the world to understand and make space for them.

Now Ross has caught the eye of CNN again, this time at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she’s making it easier for people with neurodiverse conditions to get vaccinated. Her slowed-down, low-stimulus clinic with specially trained vaccinators makes the whole experience more relaxed and therefore successful. 

Research shows how important it is to vaccinate this “invisible population,” she says. “What we discovered was that having an intellectual disability was the number one risk factor for getting COVID and the second risk factor—only below age—for dying from COVID.”

CNN is honoring Ross again as a CNN Hero who’s not only helping an invisible population find its place, she’s saving lives.