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Kat Mendez, RN, DNP'23, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Track

“I chose UMass Chan for a couple of reasons: it has a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Track, it isn’t an online-only program and it helps with finding clinical placements.”

Kat Mendez, RN, DNP'23, earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Track at the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing at UMass Chan Medical School to make a difference in how people access mental health care.

“I grew up in a family culture where mental health conditions were not believed,” said Mendez. “I’ve struggled with depression and PTSD since my early teens. It wasn't until my 30s that I got the help I needed. I’ve had discouraging experiences with medical professionals in the past and, as a result, I’m hoping to establish good therapeutic relationships with my patients.”

Mendez has a Bachelor of Science in liberal studies from the University of Central Florida. Mendez moved back home to Massachusetts after getting married and having a child.

“I chose UMass Chan for a couple of reasons: it has a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner track; it isn’t an online-only program; and it helps with finding clinical placements,” Mendez said. “UMass Chan is the only public medical school in the state and it’s a short commute from where I live, within a community in which I want to work.”

LGBTQIA+ health is important to Mendez because of their own identity as a bisexual/pansexual nonbinary individual.

“Finding a safe, comfortable, understanding place to discuss your mental health concerns is hard, especially if you’re explaining your sexuality and gender to someone who ‘doesn't get it’,” said Mendez. “I’d like to have an additional focus on transgender and nonbinary care—navigating difficulties when seeking gender affirming care.”

Mendez sees many patients with mental health conditions in the addiction training program where they work.

“It's hard for people to access behavioral health in general, but adding a substance use disorder into the mix can limit access and make it difficult to stick to a treatment plan,” said Mendez. “Integrated care can support people in their mental health goals.”

Mendez, a member of UMass Chan’s Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing chapter, hopes to work as an integrated psychiatric mental health provider for clinical programs.