Director’s Message

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

For nearly a quarter of a century, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) has been on the forefront of translational research on the psychological effects and health consequences of exposure to traumatic events, especially those related to war, disasters, terrorism and public health threats.


Dr. Robert J. Ursano, M.D.

The Center, part of the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine of the Uniformed Services University, has been uniquely attuned and responsive to our nation’s trauma history encompassing events of national and  international impact such as 9/11, the anthrax attacks, major  hurricanes and H1N1. As a component Center of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), the Center brings scholarly and research oriented problem solving to  the mental and behavioral health problems of the Department of Defense and the nation.  In 2010, the Center continued to focus its activities on the effects of the ongoing war in Iraq  and Afghanistan, which have led to high rates of posttraumatic stress, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicide, co-morbid concussions, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and other combat-related mental and behavioral health needs affecting service members, their families and loved ones.

The Center’s advances in neuroscience are aimed at improving the psychological health, resilience and post deployment function of service members through identification of biomarkers and other genetic components involved in PTSD and suicide, as well as discovery of novel pharmacologic interventions to prevent and eradicate PTSD symptoms. The Center works on social and epidemiologic studies to identify modifiable risk and resilience factors of service members and their families. Our work is also focused on improving the psychological health and resilience of military families and children. Through research, education and consultation, we are addressing new areas of need such as the care and communication around special risk groups such as body handlers, training for supervisors in fostering resilience, addressing risks for suicidal behaviors and other health risk behaviors, and better understanding the impact of combat injury and parental loss on military children.

Our Center’s work is characterized by a sustained focus on collaboration from basic to clinical sciences, from laboratory to field research, from direct clinical care to  population level prevention.  We assist the Department of Defense in leading the nation in trauma focused care and  rapidly moving findings from bench to bedside and from war to disaster. In 2010, two Center scientists deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan bringing the Center’s expertise in military and disaster psychiatry to care for those in harm’s  way. Upon their return, these real world experiences further enrich our ongoing trauma research and outreach.

This year our Center has also responded in real time to large-scale disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and the Gulf Oil Spill, and we have been training military and federal responders in the principles of psychological First Aid.

In addition, CSTS scientists and clinicians have been busy disseminating knowledge through presentations at national and international scientific conferences, through participation in professional and academic review boards and by chairing committees that influence the policy and practice of trauma and disaster care. As part of the Forum on national Security and Health, we brought together national and international thought leaders for The Forum’s first conference, Stigma and Barriers to Care: Caring for Those Exposed to War, Disaster and Terrorism.

Our Center also sponsored its prestigious, 5th Annual conference on Amygdala, Stress and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Fear in the Human Mind.

The Center has expanded rapidly and successfully to meet new challenges. At the end of 2010, the Center’s support and professional staff numbered over 75 people representing experienced researchers, scientists and administrators, enabling us to continue to grow and contribute as a world class research facility.

In addition, CSTS scientists continue to be highly productive in publishing important papers, book chapters and books on subjects ranging from the impact of the sniper attacks on the homeless population in Washington, D.C. to knowledge gained from a collection of interviews with world renowned scholars and practitioners on family violence  research, assessment and interventions.

All of these activities and contributions integrate basic science and clinical science to better understand the effects of stress and trauma.  Our research projects are combining psychosocial, epidemiologic and neuroscience methodologies that will lead to a better understanding of the vulnerability, protective factors and treatments for trauma disorders. This approach, from laboratory to bedside to bench, will drive both short-term and long-term objectives for all of our Center projects related to research, education, consultation, and training.

We wish to thank the many individuals, organizations and colleagues who have worked with  us this year to support and advance trauma knowledge and trauma informed care.

Robert J. Ursano, M.D.
Professor and Chairman, Department of
Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University
Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress