President's Message

Diversity and New Ways to Get Involved

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President Dawn Garzon Maaks, PhD, CPNP-PC, PMHS, FAANP

August is such a busy time of the year; infant births are high, and children are getting ready to go back to school, which means it’s physical season in primary care and elective surgeries are picking up. I, for one, try to enjoy the last bit of sunny warmth before the cold and rain returns, and I have tons of friends going on that last family vacation of the summer. I teach, so the fall semester has started and what I call my “faculty affective disorder” has kicked in. Plus, a lot of my behavioral health clients are checking in before they go back to school, so my clinic schedule is hectic. It is easy when it gets busy to lose sight of the important things. The good news is, NAPNAP is here to help you keep your eye on the ball.

One such important announcement will end up in your emails shortly. Last spring, someone eloquently asked the Executive Board about how NAPNAP will work towards improving diversity and inclusion. This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. I actually was “adopted” by a Colombian family during my early teen years. I lived there as much as I did in my own home, and the parents in the family became my godparents. I call them Mami and Papi - they taught me Spanish, how to dance and all about Colombian culture. In fact, they had an immense impact on who I am today, in many ways more so than my biological family. I grew up in south Dade County, Florida, and my street was a melting pot of cultures, religions, races and thought. Because of these experiences, I learned early on that culture is a lot more complex than just skin color and has to do with how each of us perceives ourselves. Respecting diversity and having mechanisms in place to encourage inclusion ensure that everyone in an organization has a voice that is both heard and valued.

That one brave person who spoke up at the national meeting spurred the Executive Board to discuss how we can do better. This June, we decided to launch a diversity and inclusion task force that will be spearheaded by a core of talented individuals who understand the evidence-based approach to diversity and inclusion. Very soon, we will begin recruiting members to help this core to make recommendations to the Executive Board about how to change our approaches. The group will meet over the rest of this calendar year and will report their ideas to the Executive Board for approval and implementation. Please consider bringing your perspective to this table. This will be a relatively short-term commitment of a few months to help shape NAPNAP as we grow and move forward. Your service to us will be critical to ensuring that NAPNAP remains the premier home of all advanced practice nurses who care for children. Watch your updates for further information. If you’d like to volunteer, please email

We need to do better about recognizing diverse voices. It is ironic to me that we see people of all backgrounds and experiences in our clinical lives and we know firsthand the impact that these differences have on health and wellness. It is important to recognize that unless we have a diverse and inclusive culture within NAPNAP, we will likely be unable to understand the needs of all our members and the diverse groups we care for. It is the right thing to do - for us and for the kids, and I am very proud of our Executive Board’s initiative and the leadership they’ve shown to ensure this important first step happens.

It is nominations season at NAPNAP. Starting next week, you’ll see announcements in NAPNAP communications asking for nominees for Executive Board president-elect, secretary, members-at-large and a Nominations Committee member. This is the time we look to engage potential future leaders and to recognize those who have had a dramatic impact on our advanced practice role. Just like it is important to participate in your local and national primaries and the mid-term elections, it is important that you participate in the NAPNAP nomination process. Do you know someone whose voice we need on the Executive Board? Are you ready to step up and get involved in a deeper way? Please consider applying or nominating a deserving colleague for a NAPNAP leadership position.

I promise you some of my greatest professional experiences happened around the NAPNAP table. Our culture fosters rigorous discussion and mutual respect, and I can guarantee you I've received far more than I've ever contributed to NAPNAP. Volunteering for NAPNAP is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. It has brought me a broad perspective on issues beyond my local community and helped me find my inner voice. I'm now a passionate advocate for children, families and APRNs, and I learned these skills through NAPNAP. You can learn more on the nominations page of the NAPNAP website. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about the process.

I look forward to sharing more great news like this throughout the year. Please stay engaged so you can help us improve and grow. We need you, and we are better with you as an active part of the team.

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