Learning Luminary Interview: Denise Pazur, Empathos

By Joy Church Millard, Sr. Editor, Expertus

Learning Luminaries by Expertus - Conversations with innovative minds of enterprise training and development

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the third interview in our “Learning Luminaries” series — where we showcase conversations with the brightest and most innovative minds in the world of training and development!

This month, we feature Denise M. Pazur, Founder and Director of Strategic Partnerships at Empathos, an organization dedicated to preventing suicide through widespread education of those who interact with at-risk individuals.

After more than 20 years as a communications professional and suicide prevention advocate, Denise and her team are about to launch Empathos’ first training initiative — the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS). She explains why next-gen learning technology is vital to the program’s success.


Q1: Denise, how do you describe the need for suicide prevention training?

DMP: The most recent statistics from the CDC put it into perspective:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Someone in our country dies from suicide every 12.9 minutes.
  • Suicide occurs over 2.5 times more often than murder.

However, suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death, according to public health experts. Awareness and empowerment can reverse these numbers — which is why quality training is so vital.

Q2: How did you become involved?

Photo: Learning Luminary Denise Pazur_Founder_Empathos Resources ElearningDMP: My work is mission-driven. After my son took his life at 18, I was compelled to learn more about what contributed to his death, and what he or we could have done to avoid it.

There was research-based information about suicidology on the Internet, but it was incredibly hard to find. Worse, people on the front lines — clinicians, therapists, teachers — often didn’t know how to access it. So I decided to apply my communications expertise to bridge the gap between suicide research and the people who could make a real difference.

In 2006, I partnered with states and systems, leveraging federal funding to bring webinars to a diverse community of professionals. Those efforts laid the groundwork for Empathos Resources, founded in 2013 to help professionals identify and intervene effectively with people who are at risk of committing suicide.

Q3: Why is Empathos training unique?

DMP: We work with the best minds in suicide prevention to transform their insights into a much more accessible and actionable form. Previously, this information was sequestered in academic journals or monographs. We repackage the content as web-based e-learning modules — which is what clinicians and others in the field tell us they prefer.

Q4: Would you walk me through an example?

DMP: Sure. “Managing Suicide Risk Collaboratively: The CAMS Framework” is our first full-access online course, available early next year. We co-developed this with Dr. David Jobes, an internationally recognized suicidologist. Our goal is to offer an evidence-based intervention that effectively prepares clinicians to assess, treat and manage suicidal patients.

The course has been carefully designed with learning engagement in mind. It is divided into six modular units, and is structured to help participants fit-in training whenever their schedules permit. Also, for a more immersive experience, video content plays a prominent role. We want participants to feel like they’re in the same clinical space with Dr. Jobes and a suicidal patient, encountering real-life scenarios as they unfold.

Along the way, they can reinforce what they learn with related activities, exercises and knowledge tests. Our videography and sound engineering investment was significant — we shot four separate clinical scenarios with three cameras and separate audio, which we then edited and mixed into final cuts for the course. We made these choices to increase engagement and establish Empathos as a gold standard for suicide prevention training.

Q5: How will you evaluate program performance?

DMP: We’re working with university-based evaluators to assess the efficacy of our CAMS course in changing clinical behavior — and ultimately patient behavior — to improve overall outcomes. We must deliver the right information, when people need it. And we must generate useful insights to guide training improvements, over time.

This is why we selected ExpertusONE LMS — a proven next-gen learning management system — as our e-learning backbone:

  • It’s remarkably easy to use on any device, so our participants won’t waste time having to figure out how to use an LMS.
  • It’s based on cloud computing architecture, so we’re free to offer programs virtually anywhere in the world, at any time, to organizations of any size.
  • Plus, its robust analytics engine supports our sophisticated reporting needs, so we can reliably monitor training progress and manage university evaluations.

Q6: What is the connection between the LMS and your university team?

Learn about Empathos innovative elearning programs for suicide prevention

Learn more about the CAMS framework at Empathos

DMP: Our subject matter expert, Dr. Jobes, is committed to validating his work with suicidal patients through research. We are, too. It’s one thing to create a course for clinicians. But we want to understand if training actually changes their behavior, and changes their patients’ lives for the better.

Also, federal and state agencies and healthcare systems require hard data and robust reporting to justify their investment in training. That’s why we’ve enlisted university researchers to rigorously measure our e-learning. ExpertusONE embedded quizzes, tracking, reporting, overall data generation and technical assistance are just what our evaluators need to measure the efficacy of our training in a way that’s comprehensive enough to meet our customer expectations for cost-benefit and rate-of-return analysis.

Q7: How do the evaluations work?

DMP: We’re launching pilots in two states through their Departments of Health. At predetermined intervals, the university team will follow-up with clinicians who complete e-learning modules to track a variety of measures — for example, if learners are applying CAMS in clinical settings, if they’re doing so with fidelity or adherence to the CAMS framework, and if their patients are responding in positive ways. Meanwhile, we’ll gather feedback from our customers about the kind of LMS information they find most valuable, and we’ll adjust reports accordingly. In short, we’ll continuously improve training content — and the way we analyze it — based on insights from multiple sources.

Q8: That sounds very comprehensive!

DMP: We think so. It took a lot of careful planning and effort to get to this point. But one thing made it easier — the team at Expertus worked closely with our university team to configure the LMS analytics capabilities, so reporting is ideal for our particular needs and goals. This ensures that our program analysis will be relevant and useful.

Q9: What’s ahead for this e-learning endeavor?

To learn more, download the Empathos case study

To learn more, download the Empathos case study

DMP: After the pilot phase, we’re rolling out the CAMS course nationwide, then globally. Also, we plan to develop a 6-hour advanced practitioner version of the course. In addition, we’ll be adapting it for professionals in other environments, such as juvenile justice, schools and the military.

Over time, we’ll collaborate with other SMEs and field leaders to translate more best-practice knowledge and skills into self-paced e-learning courses. We’re very excited about the promise of the CAMS course in serving as a model — one that raises the bar in delivery of evidence-based training that reflects public health goals in advancing suicide prevention. This work couldn’t be more exciting or relevant today!


Learn more about Empathos’ innovative suicide prevention training in this video:


Editor’s Note: To learn more about the next-gen LMS Empathos uses to deliver online training, visit Expertus.com, or contact us to schedule a personalized demo.

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