RML to sponsor NIMH Clinical Director Maryland Pao at the PAC, January 22, 7 p.m.
Since suicide touched the family of Kimmo Virtaneva, Ph.D., a scientist who works in the genomics group at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), Dr. Virtaneva and others at RML have come together to help raise awareness about mental illnesses and to share the latest research and resources with RML and more broadly with the Bitterroot Valley. Because RML is part of the National Institutes of Health, its staff naturally reached out to research colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health, where Maryland Pao, M.D., is the clinical director.
Upon hearing about the tragedy that touched RML – and Montana’s history of high suicide rates – Dr. Pao was invited to visit Hamilton to meet with area mental health providers and speak about the latest research. The event with Dr. Pao will take place on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center (PAC), 327 Fairgrounds Road.
Her talk, “Changing the Stigma: Understanding and Living with Mental Illness,” is free and intended for a general audience. The presentation is part of the RML community outreach series, which typically draws more than 200 people. RML, an infectious-disease research facility, is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH.
While in Hamilton, Dr. Pao also will meet with the family of Dr. Virtaneva, who lost his son Mika to suicide. Since Mika’s death, Dr. Virtaneva has welcomed opportunities to discuss mental illnesses and to try and help people learn about local resources. For the past two months, he and RML’s Beth Fischer have led an RML group that has reached out to local mental health providers to offer NIMH experts as resources.
“Mika’s suicide was a devastating end to a struggle that began with a schizophrenic episode and diagnosis earlier in 2018,” Dr. Virtaneva said. “In working through our loss, my wife and I have discovered that most people have personal stories to share of family and friends with varying degrees of mental health, wellness or illness problems, and we want to help educate people and continue having dialogue on these issues.”
Along with serving as the clinical director of NIMH, Dr. Pao also serves as its deputy scientific director. She serves as chief of the Psychiatry Consultation Liaison Service in the Hatfield Clinical Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and previously directed the Psychiatric Consultation Liaison Service and Emergency Psychiatric Services at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She completed pediatric and psychiatric residency training, as well as a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She is board certified in pediatrics, general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine.
Her core research interests are in the complex interactions between somatic and psychiatric illnesses, including pediatric oncology, pediatric HIV and other primary immunodeficiencies. Dr. Pao studies distress and its correlates in medically ill children. She has published more than 70 research articles and chapters, and co-edited the Quick Reference for Pediatric Oncology Clinicians: The Psychiatric and Psychological Dimensions of Pediatric Cancer Symptom Management (2009), and helped develop Voicing My CHOICES™, a new advance care planning guide for adolescents and young adults.
Dr. Pao is the recipient of the 2012 AACAP Simon Wile Award for Leadership in Consultation. She is on the clinical faculty at Georgetown University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University schools of medicine.
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