McNeese State University's Dr. Tari Dilks was named the top nurse practitioner in the state this year by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Her specialty is psychiatric nursing, but she is also an Associate Professor of Nursing. Nurse practitioners help fill in the gaps in healthcare, said Dr. Dilks.
"For somebody in Lake Charles to get an appointment with a psychiatrist often times it takes a couple months and so I help with that. I'm able to diagnose. I'm able to prescribe and I'm able to provide care for people who can't get it," explained Dr. Dilks.
As a nurse practitioner she has special advanced training in order to prescribe medications.
"We have 87 areas in our state that are psychiatric under-served areas. That is huge!" said Dr. Dilks.
She was nominated by her peers and chosen for the 2011 state award for nurse practitioner excellence. With 33 years of experience under her stethoscope, Dr. Dilks still cannot believe how she ended up as a nurse.
"My mother was a nurse! I swore I would never be a nurse until I started taking some nursing classes. I really realized that I loved it a lot!" explained Dr. Dilks.
After the hurricanes of 2005, Rita and Katrina, the need for more psychiatric care skyrocketed in Louisiana, said Dilks.
"It is just amazing how many people have psychiatric issues and that we're beginning to see a resurgence of them after the hurricane," said Dr. Dilks.
She teaches, treats patients at a private practice and still manages to keep up with her six grandchildren.