For Release: November 24, 2009
Contact: David Corriveau, Media Relations Officer, Dartmouth Medical School, 603-653-0771
PTSD professionals laud DMS's Friedman, Schnurr
The International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) recently honored Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) faculty members Matthew J. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., and Paula P. Schnurr, Ph.D., for their work as co-founders of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Friedman, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology & toxicology and executive director of the national center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in White River Junction, Vt., received the society's Public Advocacy Award for outstanding and fundamental contributions to advancing social understanding of trauma.
The ISTSS honored Schnurr, a research professor of psychiatry and the center's deputy executive director, with its Robert S. Laufer Award for outstanding scientific achievement. The society presented the awards during its recent annual conference in Atlanta.
In 2008, Schnurr had won a Health Breakthrough Award from the Ladies Home Journal for leading the VA's first psychotherapy trial of prolonged exposure focusing exclusively on female veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The Health Breakthrough Award was not so much about me, but more about the national recognition of the problem of PTSD," Schnurr says. "The Laufer Award means a lot because it is the recognition of my work by my peers."
All of whom, in turn, look up to Friedman as "one of the most significant positive influences on the entire field," Schnurr adds. "He has been recognized in various ways before, but this award for public advocacy speaks not merely to his influence or fame but rather his accomplishments in changing things for trauma survivors."
And not just patients back from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Once a person has crossed that clinical threshold - war, abuse, terrorist attacks - they look pretty much the same," says Friedman, pointing to "psychobiological mechanisms that humans and other species have evolved. ... PTSD is an extreme example of those mechanisms."
The VA founded the PTSD center in 1989, to advance the clinical care and social welfare of American veterans through research, and education and training in the science, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. Under Friedman's leadership, it has evolved to seven national divisions - and seen the raising of its profile since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Recalling the few tools available to him as a young VA psychiatrist working in the mid- and late 1970s with veterans of the Vietnam war, Friedman says, "With the work that Paula and others have done, we have some very excellent treatments."
Sharing those treatments with practitioners, and removing the stigma of mental-health treatment for PTSD sufferers in general and veterans in particular, are the next steps, Friedman adds. "The more we educate people, help them over those barriers, there's a good chance we can help them."
Among her colleagues at DMS, Schnurr credits Stanley D. Rosenberg, Ph.D., of DMS's Trauma Interventions Research Center and the New Hampshire Psychiatric Research Center with "focusing attention on the problems of trauma in the seriously mentally ill and in helping clinicians deliver evidence-based care to children throughout the state."
Friedman and Schnurr currently are collaborating with fellow DMS faculty members Thomas E. Oxman, M.D., and Allen J. Dietrich, M.D., on a project that the Department of Veterans Affairs is supporting. The DMS group is working with Army veterans from five of the VA's clinics in Texas, on a clinical model for screening, assessing, and treating veterans with PTSD in the primary-care setting.
For more information on the National Center for PTSD, including its Returning from the War Zone manuals for families of veterans, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.