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Children's Grief & Trauma National Conference

Presented by Adam's Place in partnership with AFN

When Trauma and Grief Collide:
Education and Training to Build Resilience
Live + Virtual
October 18, 2024


Muna Bhattarai

Muna Bhattarai PhD, RN, CRC

Dr. Muna Bhattarai is a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Nursing at Texas A&M University. She has an academic background in nursing, psychology, and rehabilitation counseling. With expertise in mental health, mindfulness, and well-being research in people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, Dr. Bhattarai has expanded her research focus to the crucial intersection of mindful self-care and the unique needs of forensic nurses. As she delved deeper into her research and engaged with various populations, it became increasingly evident that forensic nurses could greatly benefit from mindfulness-based self-care. She recently led a comprehensive narrative review exploring the potential benefits of mindfulness among forensic nurses. Her paper provided a diverse array of practical mindfulness tools for forensic nurses. She is dedicated to designing mindfulness-based self-care strategies and integrating mindfulness practices within forensic nursing education.

Paul Thomas Clements

Paul Thomas Clements PhD, RN, CGS, DF-IAFN, DF-AFN

Paul Thomas Clements is a forensic psychiatric clinical specialist, a Certified Gang Specialist, and Certified in Danger Assessment. Practicing in the forensic nursing arena for over 30 years, Clements has provided consultation for hospital systems, EMTs, Child Protective Agency personnel, trauma/emergency nurses, psychiatric providers, academic and corporate settings – each regarding vulnerability risk assessment, target-hardening, and decreasing the number of violent incidents in the workplace, as well as bullying and the subsequent sequelae.

Clements has provided consultation to public school systems and other child-related agencies related to child abuse assessment, and also related to the aftermath of violence and/or violent death (including homicide of a child and gang-related deaths) for teachers and other classmates. Clements has three upcoming edited textbooks: Gender Violence Across the Spectrum: A Trauma-Informed ApproachMental Health Issues in Child Maltreatment: A New Perspective, and Violence Against Women: Contemporary Examination of Domestic Violence.  Additionally, he has numerous peer-review publications, and a significant number of conference presentations – nationally and internationally – that address assessment and intervention related to the neurobiology of trauma, interpersonal violence and aggression, coping after a violent death, safety assessment, and exposure to interpersonal violence and crime.

Clements holds a Master’s degree in Child and Family Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing and a Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Psychiatric Nursing, both from the University of Pennsylvania, with research and practice that have surrounded the traumatic presentations and behaviors of children exposed to the homicide of a family member. Clements was inducted as a Distinguished Fellow in the International Association of Forensic Nurses in 2002, and was an inaugural Associate Editor of the Journal of Forensic Nursing from 2005-2012. Most recently, in 2021, he was inducted as the first Distinguished Fellow of the Academy of Forensic Nursing. Clements works as a Clinical Professor at the Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing at Texas A & M University.

Heather Dahl-Jacinto

Heather Dahl-Jacinto

Dr. Heather Dahl-Jacinto is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has multiple peer-reviewed publications and presentations and over $8 million dollars in grant funding. Her research interests are focused on mental health and include crisis intervention (e.g., suicide prevention and assessment), mental health education, and qualitative research methodology. She has held service positions at the local, regional, national, and international level, including president of the Western Association of Counselor Education & Supervision (2018-2019).

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul PhD

Dr. Michelle Paul is the Executive Director of UNLV PRACTICE, an interdisciplinary mental health training clinic serving the greater Las Vegas Community and rural counties of Northeastern Nevada, and a member of a national training collaborative aimed at disseminating evidence-based trauma interventions for children and their caregivers. Paul also serves as UNLV's Assistant Vice President of Mental and Behavioral Health, leading the execution of an innovative strategic plan to integrate UNLV's mental and behavioral health training with physical health under the UNLV Academic Health Center Initiative. This initiative aims to create a national model for integration and collaboration across multiple units, enhancing the mental health and well-being of Nevada. In all of her roles, Paul has engaged in numerous initiatives to respond to community traumatic events that promote healing and recovery.

Christina Vela

Christina Vela DPP

Dr. Christina Vela, Chief Executive Officer of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, has more than two decades of professional and progressive human and social service experience that includes developing and administering foster care, homeless and supportive services to children, youth, transition age-youth and their families.

She has worked at the non-profit level as the Executive Director and the Chief Program Officer for St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, a Manager for the Clark County Department of Family Services, Social Services Program Specialist for the State of Nevada and a Program Specialist for the Federal Administration for Children and Families-Children’s Bureau in Washington DC.  More recently, Christina has been the Coordinator for the State of Nevada Coalition to Prevent the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

Vela holds her Doctorate in Public Policy and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She is a proud alumnus of Emerge Nevada, Leadership Las Vegas Class of 2013, Jameson Fellows and Clark County Leadership Academy.

Vela was selected as a 2024 National Board Member for the Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA) and currently sits on the Clark County Juvenile Justice Community Advisory Committee and the City of Henderson Housing Advisory Committee. In 2023, she was awarded the Million Dollar Master Award for outstanding fundraising leadership. In 2021, judges selected Vela as the Humanitarian of the Year Award for Vegas Inc’s Angel Awards. She also received the 2020 NAWBO Women of Distinction Award, the 2020 Vistage Member Excellence Impact Award, and Vegas Inc.’s 2018 Women to Watch coveted award. Christina is a National Board Member for The Family Focused Treatment Association and a member of the Nevada Forum of the International Women’s Forum. She was a member of the Board of Trustees for the CASA Foundation of Las Vegas and has led St. Jude’s Ranch for Children to receive the Women’s Chamber of Commerce Athena Award and a bronze medal for volunteerism from the Governor’s Point of Light Awards.