Home » News

Paula Schnurr Named Executive Director of VA’s National Center for PTSD

Paula Schnurr, PhD, Research Professor of Psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, has been named Executive Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Approximately 8,000,000 adult Americans experience PTSD each year. In fiscal year 2014, more than 531,000 of the nearly 6,000,000 veterans who sought care at a VA healthcare facility received treatment for PTSD. The National Center for PTSD advances the clinical care and social welfare of America’s veterans and others who have experienced PTSD and trauma through research, education and training in the science, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and stress-related disorders. The Center’s Executive Division, at which Dr. Schnurr is based, is located on the campus of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont. Many of the Center’s leaders, including Dr. Schnurr, serve as senior faculty in Geisel academic programs.

Paula Schnurr, PhD,
Paula Schnurr, PhD (photo: Jon Gilbert Fox)

Dr. Schnurr has been an integral part of the Center’s leadership since its inception, having served as Deputy Executive Director from 1989 until December 2013, when she became Acting Executive Director upon the retirement of Dr. Matthew Friedman, Professor of Psychiatry and of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Geisel. As Executive Director, Dr. Schnurr is responsible for all professional, management, and administrative aspects of the complex, multi-division Center. She oversees and directs the Center’s research projects, educational programs, strategic planning, and other national programs. Dr. Schnurr also provides oversight and guidance to advance the quality of care for veterans with PTSD or trauma-related mental illness within the VA healthcare system, promotes mental health, and supports prevention programs.

“Over the past 25 years the National Center for PTSD has become one of the world’s leading establishments for research and education on PTSD, and Dr. Schnurr has been instrumental in its growth and success,” said Rajiv Jain, MD, VA’s Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Patient Care Services.  “She has dedicated her career to advancing the clinical care of and finding the most effective treatments for America’s Veterans who are living with PTSD. I know that in the years to come she will lead the Center in making even greater strides in promoting understanding and advancing scientific knowledge of PTSD.”

Dr. Schnurr received her PhD in Experimental Psychology at Dartmouth College in 1984 and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is Past-President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Association for Psychological Science. Among her many career honors and awards, in 2009 Paula received ISTSS’ Robert J. Laufer Award for Scientific Achievement.  She has also served as Editor of the Society’s Journal of Traumatic Stress.

An expert on psychotherapy research, Dr. Schnurr has conducted a number of clinical trials of PTSD treatment, including two of the largest studies of psychotherapy for PTSD ever conducted.  One of these studies was the first study of PTSD treatment for female Veterans and Service Members, and also the first VA Cooperative Study focused specifically on women. She has also investigated risk and resilience factors associated with the long-term physical and mental health outcomes of exposure to traumatic events. Currently, Dr. Schnurr is lead principal investigator in a $10 million groundbreaking study that will compare the two leading evidence-based psychotherapies for PTSD, Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure. The study, which is in its early stages, will involve 900 Veterans at 17 sites across the country.

About the National Center for PTSD

The National Center for PTSD is the center of excellence for research and education on the prevention, understanding, and treatment of PTSD. Although a Department of Veterans Affairs center, its seven divisions across the country provide expertise on all types of trauma - from natural disasters, terrorism, violence and abuse, to combat exposure. Although the Center provides no direct clinical care, its purpose is to improve the well-being and understanding of individuals who have experienced traumatic events, with a focus on American Veterans. The Center conducts cutting edge research and applies the findings to advance the science of traumatic stress and promote its understanding.


Story courtesy of George Decker, Public Affairs Communications Specialist, National Center for PTSD