PTSDJournal names leaders who study and treat the disorder in order to symbolize the increasing work done nationwide to diminish the effects of trauma. This group of individuals recognizes the need for support, outreach, and innovation to defeat the condition.
Compiled by Craig Winston
With about eight million adults suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during a given year, it shouldn’t be a surprise that perhaps thousands of researchers, doctors, clinicians, and social service workers are trying to further the understanding and treatment of the trauma-induced affliction. To acknowledge their efforts, PTSDJournal decided to recognize them for their contributions to the field. Our selections are eclectic and well-considered, but the staff did not analyze hundreds of study abstracts for candidates. We were attracted to those toiling across the spectrum—doctors, researchers in laboratories, celebrities on stage and in film, or activists helping to ease the transition for returning soldiers. Many of the names are familiar to the medical community, some work in private practice and others address PTSD from foundations or nonprofits. The selections, however, are distinct in their clear contributions to the growing conversation in the country surrounding PTSD.
PAULA SCHNURR, PH.D.
Executive Director, National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Research Professor of Psychiatry, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Schnurr is responsible for the multidivisional center in White River Junction, Vermont, guiding research and also offering insight into the care of veterans with PTSD or similar disorders related to traumatic stress. She is the lead principal investigator in a $10 million study, involving 900 veterans at 17 sites that compares leading psychotherapies for PTSD.
Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust
He has served in this capacity since the organization’s inception in 1988, and it has become a platform from which African-American veterans could voice their concerns. Armstead has been at the forefront of pointing out the need for black veterans to seek help with so little support for them outside the veterans’ system. Hispanic and black veterans are the most susceptible groups to PTSD and represent about 40 percent of homeless veterans.
CEO, Disabled American Veterans
The DAV has been a leading organization in helping military sexual assault survivors and bringing to light the issues they face. “We’re in a unique position today where recognition for PTSD is high and the stigma associated with it is down considerably. Veterans are getting in for care sooner than they would have in previous wars. Our understanding and focus on treatment are better than in the past,” said Burgess.
JOHN CARLSON, Ph.D.
Certified, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
A leading proponent and practitioner of EMDR, he works with adults, military and civilian, who are consumed by stress. He manages their trauma by teaching patients new coping strategies and therapy that includes relaxation and behavioral desensitization techniques.
CEO of One Mind; U.S. Army General (retired), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army
One Mind strives to find answers to brain illness. With his nearly 40 years of military service, Chiarelli leads the organization in its efforts to eliminate the stigma of post traumatic stress and to foster fundamental changes in research that will radically accelerate the development and implementation of improved diagnostics, treatments, and cures. He is also leading a movement to remove the word Disorder from PTSD.
DAWSON CHURCH, Ph.D.
Author; Founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare and The Veterans Stress Project
He practices the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), employing methods from psychology and oriental medicine, as people mitigate stress by focusing on their fears and tapping on acupuncture points. According to the stress project website, “This research shows that 8 of 10 veterans who come for help, and complete six one-hour sessions, no longer test positive for PTSD.”
SPENCER ETH, M.D.
For 9/11, the PTSD specialist helped create the St. Vincent’s World Trade Center Healing Services Unit
He works for the VA Healthcare System in Miami, assisting veterans. “I am continuing to provide care not to people directly exposed to 9/11, but folks who responded to that attack by going to war,” he told Crain’s New York Business. “So there’s a circle there. I’m now treating people who have put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
AMIT ETKIN, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University; Director, Etkin Lab
The Etkin Lab has partnered with the Palo Alto VA to better understand emotional disorders in veterans. The stated objective of the lab is to understand the neural basis of emotional disorders and their treatment and to leverage this knowledge to develop novel treatment interventions.
EDNA FOA, Ph.D.
Professor of clinical psychology at Penn School of Medicine; Director, The Center for Treatment and Study of Anxiety; named to Time 100 for 2010 “for those who most affect our world.”
She helps those suffering from PTSD with “prolonged exposure” therapy in which patients are lightly exposed to their triggers in order to lessen the impact of their trauma. The technique may work in as little as 12 sessions and has been adopted by the military.
Former U.S. Marine Corps officer with 12 years of combat experience, including three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan; Named Top 10 CNN Hero in 2015
Gobin founded Warrior Expeditions, a veteran nonprofit outdoor therapy program that supports combat veterans transitioning from their military service by participating in long-distance outdoor expeditions.
U.S. Senator (D-Montana); ranking minority member, U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee; recipient, Dept. of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service
Tester has long been a vocal advocate for better health care for former military, especially in the treatment of PTSD. He has argued, for example, that the VA’s interpretation of misconduct is too expansive, and veterans living with PTSD who received other-than-honorable discharges should receive treatment.
BESSEL A. VAN DER KOLK, M.D.
Leading researcher in the causes and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Founder, Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute, Brookline, Mass.; professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School
Van der Kolk, whose work integrates mind, brain, body, and social connections to understand and treat trauma, is also the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles and several books including the best-selling “The Body Keeps the Score,” which posits that the effects of trauma do not reside solely in the mind but are held throughout the body. He speaks globally on the topic, in professional symposia and at venues like Kripalu, the yoga institute.
TANJA JOVANOVIC, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Director, Grady Trauma Project in Atlanta at Emory University
Her research program focuses on the interaction of traumatic experiences, neurobiology, hormones, and genetics in mental disorders in adults and children. A recent focus has been on developmental studies in school-age children that suggest impaired fear inhibition is an early risk factor for anxiety disorders.
Founder David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace; film and TV director (“Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks,” “The Elephant Man“)
Employs transcendental meditation to ease the suffering of at-risk populations, particularly veterans and the military, women’s groups, and underserved youth, among others. An estimated half-million worldwide have used the technique to reduce stress. The foundation funds organizations to implement its TM programs. Photo: Dean Hurley
CHARLES MARMAR, M.D.
Professor, Chair, Dept. of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center; Director, PTSD Research Program
Marmar’s focus ranges from combat-related conditions in veterans to PTSD in refugees and earthquake victims, serving on multiple committees and advisory groups for the VA and the National Institute of Mental Health and as counsel to the VA Medical Centers, fire and police departments, and disaster response teams.
MOHAMMED MILAD, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Director, Behavioral Neuroscience Lab
His research is focused on a fundamental question: How do we learn not to fear? He studies how the human brain acquires fear and is trying to develop new approaches to treat patients with PTSD. He also examines how men and women may differ in their ability to regulate fear.
BRUCE PERRY, M.D., Ph.D.
Founder, senior fellow, The ChildTrauma Academy; co-author of “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog;” former chief of psychiatry for Texas Children’s Hospital.
He is frequently consulted on high-profile cases involving traumatized children such as the Branch Davidian siege, the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings, Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. His clinical practices have been adopted by many organizations serving at-risk children.
KERRY J. RESSLER, M.D.
Chief Scientific Officer at McLean Hospital, chief of the Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Director of the Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory; professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
The lab staff seeks to learn more about how fear works in the brain so new treatments can be developed for psychiatric illnesses such as PTSD, phobic disorders, and panic disorder.
Founder, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Served as an Army 1st Lt. and infantry rifle platoon leader in Iraq and authored Chasing Ghosts, an account of his experiences in Iraq.
IAVA is America’s first and largest organization for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The nonprofit was founded in 2004 and has more than 150,000 members. Among its many other functions, IAVA offers one-on-one support to connect members with mental health resources.
SKIP RIZZO, Ph.D.
Director for Medical Virtual Reality, USC Institute for Creative Technologies
He is an expert in trauma psychology and on using virtual reality technology for training emotional coping skills with the aim of preparing service members for the stresses of combat. He is the creator of the Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan PTSD Exposure Therapy System. Treatment typically involves repeated reliving of the traumatic event with triggers in a software application.
Started Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011; film actor (“Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” “CSI: NY”)
Through programs as diverse as the Lt. Dan Band to Relief & Resiliency Outreach, his foundation has addressed many areas of need for thousands of military members and veterans. Of PTSD, trauma and suicide stats relating to the military, he says, “I’ve always looked at my role . . .was to help boost their mental health and raise their spirits.”
ARIEH SHALEV, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center
His work ranges from acute responses to combat stress, coping with combat stress, frontline interventions, acute and chronic PTSD in civilians, individual and communities’ responses to terror, and other areas. He is the principal investigator of numerous PTSD-related grants funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
MONNICA WILLIAMS, PH.D.
Director of the Laboratory for Culture & Mental Health Disparities; clinical director for the Behavioral Wellness Clinic
She argues persuasively that racism is a cause of PTSD and should be included as such in the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disorders. She has written on PTSD and racial trauma and on issues of mental health for African-Americans in national publications and is frequently a subject matter source for the media.
RACHEL YEHUDA, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience; Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at Mount Sinai School of Medicine
She oversees PTSD clinical research program at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Bronx, N.Y.), is a leader in the field of traumatic stress studies, a prolific author on the subject and is well known for her work on the generational transmission of trauma and PTSD.
SOURCE: University, medical school press releases; news reports