“This is a well-deserved recognition for Dr. Danzi,” said Doug Peterson, Ph.D., chair of the psychology department at the University of South Dakota. “Dr. Danzi’s commitment to child and family well-being is evident in all aspects of her work at USD, including the courses she teaches, her productive and collaborative research program, and most certainly through her service that aims to improve the mental health for children and families in the local community, the state of South Dakota and the world.”

The Division 37 Diane J. Willis Early Career Award supports talented young psychologists making contributions toward informing, advocating for and improving the mental health and well-being of children and families, particularly through policy.  

“This award is a major honor for me,” said Danzi. “I am delighted and humbled that my efforts are viewed as making a significant impact. It provides great encouragement that I should continue striving to improve the well-being of children and families in South Dakota.”

Danzi’s work at USD consists of integrating teaching, research and service to increase access to mental health services for children and families. She approaches this from several angles, including training student clinicians to provide evidence-based child therapy, sharing tips to promote child well-being as part of a health communications campaign in South Dakota, and providing training on how to prevent child abuse through parent training at the Community Response to Child Abuse Conference in Sioux Falls.

“USD provides faculty with the opportunity for integrated, multifaceted approaches to targeting and advancing issues of public well-being,” said Danzi. “This has allowed my work to align well with the broader goals of the award.”

Danzi teaches an undergraduate course, Children and Trauma, and a graduate course, Child & Family Psychotherapy, in the Department of Psychology. As an educator, Danzi hopes to combat childhood abuse and trauma by sending more professionals into the world who understand how to detect and respond to child trauma.

"It’s deeply gratifying to hear about the many positive impacts that my students are making in their communities,” said Danzi.

Through her research, Danzi seeks to better understand how children react to traumatic stress to better identify children most in need of services, largely focusing on community-wide traumatic experiences, such as disasters and terrorism.

“My goal is to improve the feasibility of identifying children in need of intervention in resource-limited contexts, including the aftermath of large-scale traumas that happen around the world as well as in rural communities, such as those in South Dakota, which may have a shortage of mental health resources,” said Danzi.

As the recipient of the Division 37 Diane J. Willis Early Career Award, Danzi was invited to talk about her work at the American Psychological Association Convention, the largest convention in her field. Danzi looks forward to leveraging this award to continue building connections and further her impact in promoting family and child well-being.  

“Childhood maltreatment has been described by Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, as ‘the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation,’” said Danzi. “I hope that my research, my teaching and my service efforts contribute to moving the needle on this major problem, both here in South Dakota and beyond.”

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