Congratulations to Paula D. Zeanah for being named the 2020 Sandra C. Adams Award recipient. This award given in recognition of a non-physician in their efforts to improve the health of children in Louisiana through advocacy and community involvement. Dr. Roberta C. Vicari nominated Dr. Zeanah for this award.
Sandra C. Adams served as the Executive Director of the Louisiana Maternal and Child Health Coalition from January 1, 1990, when it began, until her retirement on June 20, 2009. The Coalition was a non-profit advocacy organization focused on improving health care for women and children. She also oversaw operations of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (LA AAP) and its Foundation for many years. Adams was known at the state capitol and all across the state departments as a true advocate for children. She never backed down from a fight to do what was right for children. She served on a variety of professional organizations.
Dr. Zeanah has a long history of working for children and advocating for them in a variety of ways throughout her nursing career serving as a nurse practitioner and as a psychologist with expertise in infant mental health. In 2015, Dr. Zeanah was chosen to be part of the inaugural group of Adverse Child Experience (ACE) educators for the state of Louisiana. Dr. Zeanah spoke around the state on numerous occasions before a variety of groups to educate about the consequences of adverse childhood experiences on long term health, the economy and more. She then transitioned to serve as the chairperson of the Louisiana State ACE Initiative Team through 2020 with various leaders around the state. She continued to build momentum as more cohorts were trained, and word spread about the significance of ACEs and their consequences to children and their futures.
In that role, Dr. Zeanah lead the organization to acquire grants and hold the first state ACE Summit in 2019; bringing national experts together with state leaders to spread knowledge about ACE issues among local communities in a two-day event, in which the LA AAP was a partner.
In the fall of 2019, Dr. Zeanah lead the same ACE Team in Louisiana along with professional support to produce a documentary – Toxic Stress: Adverse Childhood Experiences in Louisiana. The documentary is now being utilized as an educational tool in Louisiana. It incorporates all aspects of the pediatric communities across the state-educational, social services, medical, legal, and how they interact.
Dr. Zeanah’s talents as a child advocate are well known through her role as the Director of Research at the Cecil Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. Dr. Zeanah spoke of how critical it is for nursing students and nurses to get educated. She hopes that “one day we can say that every nurse in that program at the graduate and undergraduate level will know about ACEs and be able to say what their role is and how they can help.” ACEs needs to be a part of education for not only nurses but also physicians.
Dr. Vicari described Dr. Zeanah as energetic, loving and enthusiastic in every aspect of her professional activities. She continued to say “her kindness is a model for us all to emulate; her selflessness in acting for the love of children provides those around her with a challenge to look at our own purpose.” This is evidenced by her recognition as a Champion for Children by Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana.
During her acceptance Dr. Zeanah spoke of how much of a pleasure and passion it has been to spread the word around the state for ACE’s work. She believes that if “we could get a handle on adverse childhood experiences we could actually move the dial a little bit on the deplorable outcomes for children.” It takes a village to do this work and it can’t be done alone. Dr. Zeanah said it would be great to have more pediatric voices and involvement. If anyone is interested in learning more or becoming a part of the ACE Initiative, please contact Dr. Zeanah directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.