AAS Welcomes Executive Transition Team and New Board Members

Dear AAS Members,

We know you’ve been eager for more information on interim replacements, along with the ongoing bylaw-mandated board appointment process, and we now have updates on both to share here.

First, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is pleased to announce that the AAS Board of Directors will be working with an executive transition team to ensure AAS’s mission stays on track until a permanent AAS Executive Director is appointed. We’re pleased to announce the selection of Keita Franklin, LCSW, PhD, and Wendy Lakso, CPH, as its Executive Transition Team. More specifically, they will assist with administering operations, coordinating communications and will ensure we move forward with our goals to include preparing for our upcoming 2022 Conference.

They are both accomplished leaders who have led large teams through periods of transition in both private and public sectors. Their biographies can be found here.  

“Suicide prevention is critical – now more than ever, and we could not be more excited to partner with the professionals at AAS to help posture this organization to meet the challenges ahead of our Nation,” said Dr. Franklin and Ms. Lakso.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have someone with Dr. Franklin’s acumen join the organization and provide strong, forward-thinking leadership,” said Amy Kulp, COO. “Keita has been such a force in this field for so many years and we have no doubt that she will bring a powerful presence to AAS’s operations.”

“We’ve heard the many thoughts and suggestions shared over the course of our recent transitional period,” said Ms. Kulp. “One that stood out was a desire for more communication and organizational transparency across the board, and we are happy to say that an early Executive Transition Team objective will specifically be to reinforce avenues for open communications and transparent sharing of information between AAS, its members, its partners, and the public at large. We are lucky to have so many passionate, engaged people in our community, and we want to make sure you feel empowered in your interactions with AAS.”

Secondly, we are continuing the process of filling vacant board seats. We are excited to welcome several new members.   

Jacque Christmas will join us as Board Secretary. Jacque has a long history working with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, as well as directly with AAS through the Impacted Family and Friends Division and several convention presentations. Jacque is a certified Question, Persuade and Refer Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Instructor and a certified Mental Health Recovery and Wellness Recovery Action Planning Facilitator. Additionally, she facilitates a Re-Energize and Re-Connect wellness workshop series for suicide loss and suicide attempt survivors further along the healing path and the Joplin Out of the Darkness Walk in Joplin, MO, a rural community impacted by disaster in 2011. Jacque brings this experience, along with hands-on work organizing large initiatives and events, time on the boards of other groups in our space such as Johnny’s Ambassadors, a Masters in Public Administration, and a B.S. in Social Work, to the table for AAS.

Filling one of our at-Large director spots will be Dr. Molly Klote, Director, Office of Research Protections, Policy, and Education, Office of Research and Development, Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Dr. Klote joined VHA 2.5 years ago and is responsible for VHA human subjects research policy, education, and support to the Veterans Administration (VA) central institutional review board (CIRB). She is also leading the infrastructure efforts for the research enterprise transformation and is serving as the research champion for the electronic health record modernization transition. Prior to this, as an active duty Army Colonel with 30 years of service, she oversaw all human research policy and education for the United States Army through the office of the Army Surgeon General. For the past 12 years her responsibilities over research and human subjects protection policy have expanded to the national stage. During the COVID pandemic Dr Klote led the first in government use of public health authority to set policy to bring together data from VA, Center for Disease Control, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on the computing platforms of the Department of Energy computers. Recognizing the need for a ready supply of volunteers for the vaccination trials she spearheaded the creation of the VA COVID Volunteer list allowing more than 57,000 Veteran volunteers to be vaccinated. She designed the Advisory subcommittee on diversity and inclusion in research to support the VA National Research Advisory Council to ensure robust participation of minority and underserved populations in VA research. Dr Klote also served on the policy task force of the American Telemedicine Association where she helps to spearhead efforts to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of decentralized clinical trials. She is a leader in effective, efficient, and compliant policy and education in human subjects research and brings those talents to bear on any problem presented. 

As our next new at-large Director, we present Dr. Pata Suyemoto. Dr. Pata Suyemoto is a feminist scholar, writer, educator, diversity trainer, mental health activist, jewelry designer, and avid bicyclist. She earned her PhD. from the University of Pennsylvania and did her research on anti-racist education and issues of race and racism. She is the co-chair for the Greater Boston Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition and the chair of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention (MCSP) Alliance for Equity’s People of Color Caucus. Pata is one of the authors of Widening the Lens: Exploring the Role of Social Justice in Suicide Prevention – A Racial Equity Toolkit. She has spoken and written about being a suicide attempt survivor, her struggles with depression and is a co-founder of The Breaking Silences Project (www.thebreakingsilencesproject.com), which is an artistic endeavor that educates about the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American young women. She is also a long-time volunteer for Asian Women for Health and is a trainer and wellness coach for the Achieving Whole Health program. Pata is also member of a number of boards and committees including the MCSP’s Executive Committee, the planning committee for the annual Asian American Mental Health Forum, and the Department of Public Health’s Suicide Prevention Community Advisory Board. She is active in the American Association of Suicidology’s Impacted Family and Friends (IFF) Division, the Attempt Survivors/Lived Experience (AS/LE) Division, and the Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee. Her claim to fame is that she rode her bicycle across the country in the summer of 2012.

Our third new at-large Director is Dr. Kathleen carterMartinez D.A.A.E.T.S., CRT, CSA. Dr. carterMartinez is a trauma specialist, clinical psychotherapist and Mindful Trauma recovery specialist with 25+ years of experience in hospitals, healthcare settings and multiple disciplines. As a specialist in trauma she advocates for mindful compassionate recovery from personal traumatic events. Dr. Kathleen carterMartinez is a specialist and content expert in trauma, personal traumatic events, compassionate suicide awareness and traumatic losses. She is a ‘self-described’ professional ‘multidisciplinary ball of wax’ driven by a passion to work with mindful compassionate trauma recovery and healing. Dr.carterMartinez is a Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and a member of ICISF – The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation where they have published several of her articles on trauma, the forgotten collaborator and first responder in residence as well as her article: ‘A Mother’s Grief: I Will Not Leave You’. Dr. carterMartinez holds a Doctoral Degree (E.D.) from Nova Southeastern University in Healthcare/Higher Education, a Master’s Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Clinical Psychology, and a Bachelor’s Degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Forensic Psychology and Addictions in addition to An Associate Degree in Law Enforcement where upon graduation she was the ‘first female officer’ on a private industrial police department. She is a graduate of Mountainside Hospital School of Radiology with 15+ years in the field.

We’ve also been remiss in not yet announcing two additions from earlier in the year, starting with Jenn Carson’s election as Attempt Survivor/Lived Experience Chair in April. Jenn Carson runs the Inland SoCal United Way’s Crisis Helpline, founded in 1968. Jenn holds a B.A. from Baylor University and an M.A. in Counseling from George Washington University. Jenn is a Living Works ASIST (Suicide First Aid) Trainer. Jenn also has lived experience in suicidality as a childhood suicide attempt survivor with Complex Post Trauma (C-PTSD). On CNN, “The Today Show”, NPR and the BBC, and in Marie Claire Magazine and Huffington Post, Jenn Carson has shared her journey from suicidal child to mental health advocate. Before running a crisis line, Jenn was a K-12 educator for 15 years. Jenn is passionate about amplifying voices of survivors to promote collective action—to make life worth living. Jenn was awarded the 2019 California National Organization of Women Gender Equity Award.

Finally, Jim Byrne joined us as an at-large Director several months back. The Honorable James M. Byrne formerly served as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, retiring in February 2020. As Deputy Secretary, he led modernization initiatives and worked closely with the Secretary as the chief operating officer leading operations of the federal government’s second-largest Cabinet department, with some 385,000 employees in VA medical centers, clinics, benefits offices, national cemeteries, and other facilities throughout the country. Previously, Mr. Byrne served as VA’s General Counsel, leading VA’s nationwide team of nearly 800 attorneys, paralegals, and staff. Before arriving at VA, Mr. Byrne served as Associate General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Lockheed Martin Corporation and spent several years on the board of directors for Pacific Architects and Engineers. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Mr. Byrne served in the career Federal Senior Executive Service as Deputy Special Counsel with the Office of the United States Special Counsel, and as both the General Counsel and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Soon after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mr. Byrne was recalled to active duty for 18 months with the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was assigned as the Officer-in- charge of the Marine Liaison Office at the then-National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, leading teams of Marines responsible for supporting injured and deceased Marines, Sailors, and their families. Mr. Byrne’s professional honors include several DOJ awards and The Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator’s Award for Exceptional Service. He is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism and several military decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal. For ten years, Mr. Byrne volunteered on the Executive Board of Give an Hour, a non- profit organization that has developed national networks of volunteer professionals capable of providing complimentary and confidential mental health services in response to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within our society, beginning with the mental health needs of post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families. Mr. Byrne is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received an engineering degree and held the top leadership position of Brigade Commander. Mr. Byrne later earned his J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Florida, and started his legal career as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Malcolm J. Howard, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina.

One of our key next steps is a special election in which AAS members will choose a Board President and Board President-Elect. Look for more information about that soon, and in the meantime please reach out with any questions to leadership@suicidology.org.  


The AAS Board of Directors