A professor at Washington State University Vancouver will get to take the lead in addressing pediatric issues such as suicide and child abuse when she becomes president of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
Dawn Garzon Maaks, a clinical professor at WSUV’s college of nursing, will become president of the association on July 1.
During her one-year term as president, she said, she hopes to focus on mental health and youth suicide, among other topics.
“People are becoming more and more aware that we’re having a mental health crisis in this country,” Garzon Maaks said in a WSU news release.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 34, topped only by death from unintentional injury, such as car accidents.
“We recognized in the 1970s and ’80s that we had to address automobile accidents, so we redesigned our roads and cars and put laws in place to require seat belts,” Garzon Maaks said. “We changed people’s behavior, and now we have fewer people dying from car accidents in 2018 than we did in 1998.”
It’s time to bring that same comprehensive approach to mental health and suicide prevention, she said.
She also plans to use the next year talking about the long-term, negative effects of childhood trauma and abuse, and hopes to raise the profile of nurses in public discussions of health care and mental health.
The organization, based in New York City, has more than 9,000 members who are pediatric nurse practitioners and pediatric-focused advanced practice registered nurses.
Garzon Maaks has worked in pediatric primary care for nearly 25 years, much of that time specializing in pediatric mental health. She has concurrently worked in nursing education for 20 years.
Her research interests include improving child and family health outcomes in primary care settings, improving the primary care management of pediatric mental health disorders, and preschool injury prevention.